How have things changed with the lockdown and pandemic ?
Look, everything changed the world over with Covid 19. The impact was so strong that Trump lost elections in the US, that is how significant the pandemic is. It impacted economies worldwide, put countries into recession and took away a lot of lives.
India was no different and several industries were impacted since March upto the festive season. Whether auto, retail, hospitality including airlines were impacted tremendously and that automatically had a direct impact to advertising. Nobody knew how to battle this situation and so it was quite a task for the first 4 months since March.
We learnt with clients and we were absolutely clear that we will hold hands and let them know that we are in this together. That helped to begin with. There were non stop meetings, discussions and progressive thinking that helped us build strategies to combat the situation. Lot of things changed for the good too, while initial days were difficult acclimatising to work from home, it soon dawned on everyone that this is the new normal. Social distancing is going to be way of life for sometime to come, work from home is going to be norm and getting everyone to realise that we got to look ahead was not an easy task.
But to my surprise, teams rallied around each other and in time the human resilience was peaking to its best graph. We were there for each other to begin with and that reflected in our efforts and the hunger to win because businesses were not spending given the issues the country was addressing collectively. This meant we had to look for businesses outside of our comfort zone categories and we went after them and we kept winning pitches.
DDB Mudra Group is an integrated one of its kind agency which puts us in a unique position of strength which we were now capitalizing. As a group the teams across units won over a 100 clients and the leadership is the best in the business enabling us to continuously pick ourselves to keep moving forward.
So there have been a lot of plusses than minuses for us simply because of the great leadership we have at DDB in India led by Aditya Kanthy.
What has been your experience of pitching during the lockdown?
It was different! While I have been used to physical pitches, we had to now perform like an orchestra on video calls so it was lights, camera and action. At times I felt like an actor facing the camera but that has how we all tuned ourselves so that the client literally feels our passion for the business and sees the value we bring on the table even when we were working remotely.
Some of them were brilliant and some had operational issues post wins but that’s part of life so if I had to compare real world to the virtual world specifically for pitches then let me tell you that I am more comfortable with virtual pitches now simply because of the number of wins we have had in our businesses across the group. As a media head of the agency, I wondered how it would all pan out but after seeing how we have delivered my confidence is on a different plane pitching virtually during the lockdown.
I believe this is going to stay because why do we need to waste money on travel and spend a lot of unproductive time going from one place to another when the output is better than before doing it virtually. Large organizations have seen the benefits of working from home and hence I think this is also going to stay for sometime to come.
With clients inclined to spend less going forward, do you think advertising will have to work doubly hard to get results for marketers? What is your view?
I don’t think that is correct. 2021 will be consolidation where we are looking at continuing with our good work but the opportunity ahead is very exciting. India is poised for the fastest recovery and growth in decades, IMF has projected that India will grow to 8.5% in GDP and will be the fastest growing market in world overtaking China.
Now this is simply because of the sheer size of our country and a super young population where we have over 65% of our people falling under the age group of 35 and a very progressive one at that. See what data is doing to our lives across categories such as education, healthcare, video content consumption, eCommerce et all..we sold over 15M million phones a minute during the festive sale period on Amazon and Flipkart as per RedSeer’s report and our tier 2 towns are leading the race clearly indicating that while the economy has slowed down it has not slowed down purchase intent.
Look at the GST collection in the last two months, it has been the highest ever crossing 1L Crore with a YTD of 10% growth. This is an indication on how things are coming to normal with regular businesses and SMEs.
So 2021 might be a grind but our golden period is sure to begin in 2022 and hence I believe that spends will increase on marketing efforts beginning 2022 while 2021 will continue to be on levels we have seen before March 2020.
In the last few months, there has been a specific trend build up in the mobile marketing space? Your thoughts?
Look, the media consumption is largely shifted onto mobile, thanks to the massive 4G penetration of Jio and people consume a whole lot of video, buy products online etc on mobile phones. Naturally the focus then becomes mobile and hence the build up. This will continue to soar.
How is digital transformation changing the digital marketing industry?
We all have seen memes of Covid 19 being your Chief Digital Officer and that is exactly what is happening post the pandemic. Most businesses are building a strong business. It’s the connected story that is making the transformation process so important. What I mean by this is that digitization had happened in departments of organization but a connected story wasn’t as prevalent, which is what is leading the charge.
Secondly, there are a lot of consumer brands who are seeing big shifts in purchase patterns and we have seen that happening with some of the brands we work with where eCommerce has taken precedence and become the largest distribution channel for brands beating their offline sales, this therefore becomes a natural progression for brands where they now are looking at building their owned and operated distribution channels making the transformation process critical which is connected not just for eCommerce transactions but automating the entire manufacturing process, supply chain, distribution and final last mile to consumers. Supply and Demand are totally connected where marketing transformation is helping organizations plan their investments across functions within their organization and this connected story is what I was referring to.
Once this is done, naturally investments in digital marketing will focus towards eCommerce as a practice within agencies, which is why DDB in India has a completely new product offering in its digital media business with Video, eCommerce and ORM as the mainstay going into 2021.
Which is the next big technology that could disrupt the video-on-demand business?
Technology is ever evolving and I cannot predict what is going to disrupt VOD in specific. The key for VOD is content and to consume that content you will need great streaming capabilities. While we are experiencing 4G at its best, I believe 5G roll out will have a huge impact on experience and this as technology could be a big disrupter. We are reading the tests of Jio and others in this regard and I am sure we will have more information in the next year or so the moment TRAI decides to open up more airwaves for the same purpose.
The Best Businesses Are Built Around Passion. What are your views on this?
I don’t agree. Passion is one component for success and you get passionate when you know you have a winner or you are looking to solve a problem in a business passionately. So I believe product, user experience and convenience are the key and if you have an offering which has these three ingredients then passion is a subset that follows through automatically.
Likewise if you are solving a problem around the three points I have mentioned, you need to have the passion to go through the distance till you land up building an offering. So passion is important but its not the only reason why businesses get built.
What trends do you observe, going forward into 2021?
Video and eCommerce are going to dominate our lives and therefore you will have tremendous growth in these areas going into 2021.
What will it take for the advertising and media industry to come back to normal? What are the suggestions you would like to make?
Look, Advertising and Media are always considered costs, the moment you start seeing that as investments which progressive brands do then your entire approach towards those investments changes because now you are looking at ensuring your immediate future is secured. That thought in itself changes the way a marketer now starts to plan his/her campaigns.
KPIs change dramatically when your mindset changes from costs to investments when it comes to marketing and that is one suggestion I would like to make to the industry at large.
On a personal note, what have been the highlights of your career so far? Your key learnings?
There have been many highlights but 2020 has been the best year for me in terms of learnings and understanding human behaviour. This year has brought a lot of people together and helped them understand that there is always an opportunity in adversity and that is something I have always believed in therefore validating my approach to life.