The McCann Time Capsule: Our Long History in India
As India this week marks the 70th anniversary of its national independence, it seems worth noting McCann’s own long history in that country. In fact, some of our earliest international advertising efforts included India. Even before The H.K. McCann Company expanded outside of North America to Europe in 1927, it had run overseas ads in 1921 for Royal Typewriters that included promoting this New York office client’s sales representative in Calcutta.
But it was really in the 1940s, a decade when global client consolidations began, when McCann began its ongoing relationships with Indian agencies. It started working sequentially with aseries of affiliates, including Adarts Ltd., then Bombay Advertising Agency, and then in 1951, Everest Advertising, in Mumbai.
In 1956, McCann began an affiliation with Clarion Advertising Services, an agency whose roots went back to a British agency formed two decades earlier. When that British agency closed its Calcutta headquarters in 1956, the Indian executives and staff formed Clarion, which grew from 58 employees to 318 by 1968 when there were also branch offices in Mumbai, Delhi, and Madras.
In 1964, the Government of India granted permission to Clarion to collaborate on an equity basis with McCann, which was allowed under new government policies to acquire a 49% interest. The agency was renamed Clarion-McCann Advertising Services, Ltd. Clarion-McCann was evidently prominent enough in the market that when Edward Grey, a U.S. based McCann vice chairman, visited India in 1966 to celebrate the partnership’s 10th anniversary, he was greeted by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, with significant coverage in the New York Times (see photo, where they are also shown with other top Indian ad agency executives).
In 1985, Tara Sinha, a Clarion executive, left to start her own agency, Tara Sinha Associates, which formed a non-equity affiliation with McCann. McCann acquired a minority stake in 1989 and changed the name of the agency to Tara Sinha McCann-Erickson. This eventually became just McCann Erickson India after McCann’s stake grew to a majority basis in early 1995. The 1996 client list showed a mix of major multinational and Indian clients, as the agency moved significantly up in the rankings.
Today, with industry creative star Prasoon Joshi having joined in 2002, the agency is a major player creatively as well as in size. By 2005 it moved up to a top three position in creative and perception rankings, having not even been in the top dozen in 2001. By 2008, it would become the most creatively awarded Indian agency at Cannes with six Lions. This year, McCann Health India and McCann Worldgroup India won the Grand Prix for Good at Cannes.
And while McCann’s history in India started out as a foreign international company gradually increasing its position over time, McCann’s today is very much a national insider. Just this week, Prasoon Joshi, who is an award-winning screenwriter and lyricist in addition to being our India CEO and APAC Chairman, was appointed by the government to an additional post as Chairperson of India’s Central Board of Film Certification. That means he’s now chief of Bollywood’s movie censorship panel.