‘World’s largest independent network’ Local Planet launches APAC operations with nine agencies

Local Planet, a London-based network composed entirely of independent agencies has formally launched its Asia-Pacific hub.

The nine agencies representing the region include The Media Shop (Singapore), Entropia (Malaysia), BlueFocus International (China), Percept Media (India), The Huddle Room (the Philippines), Ad-comm Group (Japan), Media Muscle (Indonesia), Nasmedia (South Korea) and Nunn Media (Australia).

The network’s regional headquarters will be located in Singapore and Local Planet will service 21 markets across the Asia-Pacific region.

Globally, Local Planet has 117 offices in 67 markets. It started operations in 2016 with a skew towards media planning and buying. Among its services offered are strategy, performance marketing, brand consultancy, e-commerce, content creation, mobile and social media.

Its major shareholders in the Asia-Pacific region include BlueFocus International in China, Nunn Media in Australia and Percept in India. It’s largest shareholder is the US-based Horizon with a 20% stake. Local Planet claims a combined turnover of US$16 billion.

Speaking to Mumbrella, Local Planet global CEO Martyn Rattle said: “We are the largest and fastest growing independent agency network. We are like a holding company with shareholders and cross shareholding in all the agencies.”

Asked about the network’s first clients in the region, Rattle said: “We are in the final stages of a pitch that we should have some news on.

“But in the coming weeks and months, we will grow our client base not just by pitching, but by sharing clients we have in the region already.” Local Planet currently counts Tencent and among its clients. It was appointed the lead content agency for the Huawei for Western Europe and Australia in January this year.

When asked if Local Planet had any preferences when it came to the marketers it was gunning for, Rattle said: “We feel we are a natural partner for clients who don’t get the best people, services or conditions from the large networks, since they are not among their biggest clients.

“Maybe clients who are not the biggest in the world or in their home country will benefit from us. We will prioritise them, give them senior attention and best in class services.

“Having said that we are going to try to work for the largest client in the world. We already manage some enormous clients.”

Local Planet began operations in 2016, set up by Rattle whose previous experience included a long innings at Aegis across agencies like Carat and Vizeum.

He claimed that his motivation was a desire to: “right the wrongs and give marketers what they deserved.”

Asked to elaborate on the ‘wrongs’, Rattle said: “The lack of transparency, top down models which were not nuanced enough to take local culture into account, being forced on markets,  getting focused not on clients but on external shareholders, senior people looking after the machine and not looking after clients, a model that was self-serving and not client serving.”

The network had established a presence in China, Japan and India at the time of its inception and spent the next few years forging a few more partnerships with Asian independents.

But according to Rattle, it took a while before Local Planet could claim it had a regional network for Asia-Pacific. He said: “It’s been a process of picking the right agencies. We were not really operating as a regional network.

“When we started, I focused on the top 20 ad markets that represented 80% of global advertising. We had global capability but there were a lot of gaps.”

Lonely Planet runs on a different model to the one followed by other agglomerations of independent agencies. Rattle said: “If it was just a directory or a ‘phone a friend’ club, we could have done it in 10 minutes.”

“Networks like that work quite well in certain circumstances, but what they don’t do is manage or pitch for international clients or have an ownership structure.”  

Elaborating on Local Planet’s model, Rattle said: “Agencies come on board as shareholders. We have created separate legal entities for Local Planet in China, India, Singapore etc. They operate under one P&L.

“This means we can sign regional or global contracts, put staff into those entities and service clients.”Any potential partner went through several rounds of due diligence. Rattle said that the network had a score card of 300 points. To become a part of Local Planet, an agency had to score at least 80%.

He said: “We look at three years worth of financial history, to make sure the balance sheet is in good health and at the client list to see if there are long standing relationships.

“We examine the profile and breadth of services – agencies that are digital and forward thinking are very attractive.

“We consider speed of growth and market share. Then we negotiate the arrangement and contract, decide the size of shareholding and nature of the relationship we want to have and the joint venture process.

“It takes six months for each agency. It is quite thorough and it has to be because we are looking after the business of international clients. We’ve had challenges in some countries – it is good that we have a process in place.”

Once in, however, agencies were safe from the threat of having to compete within the network with a newer, shinier partner. According to Rattle, Local Planet was not going to opt for multiple agencies with similar skill sets in the same market.

Asked if any of the agencies has opted out so far, Rattle said this was yet to happen. A few agencies had been let go off for what he called “bad behaviour: lack of transparency and breach of contract.”

Local Planet also had a gameplan in place should one of its tentpole agencies become an acquisition target. Rattle said: “We have preferred rights to buy the company should it be on sale, for the same price. If we choose not to do that, then we will invite another agency to be a shareholder.”

The agency’s partners claimed to have had only positive experiences so far. Asked about how the agency became part of Local Planet, Jessica Toh the CEO of the decade-old Singapore-based agency The Media Shop said: “We were invited in 2015 to attend the launch of Local Planet and found it very impressive.

“Ever since, we’ve been asking Martyn to bring this to Asia-Pacific. It is the fastest rising region with China, India and Indonesia offering a large consumer base.

“Independent agencies here tend to be very small. And so working with the best from different countries will provide our clients with lots of insight and help them expand media buying skills.

“In Singapore, where many Asia-Pacific headquarters are located, we often get requests for capabilities in Indonesia, India or Europe.”

Ad-Comm Group’s president and CEO Andreas Dannenberg said: “As you are aware, there are a few very big agencies in Japan. They are not so international-minded. They have global operations but it is sort of a closed circuit.

“Having spent a couple of decades in Japan, we at Ad-Comm thrive on having global outreach via Local Planet. With all the agency partners here, you feel there is a very different energy that is inspiring new ideas.”

Independent collectives in the region have been subject to significant boom and bust cycles, for instance the Marketing Group (now RYVL) and Photon (now Enero) in Australia.


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