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Talking exclusively to IMPACT during her recent India visit, Ruth Stubbs, Global President of iProspect, highlights the importance of India and APAC markets to the agency’s global operations, betting big on the ‘phenomenal’ growth and market investments in India and China


By Allan DSouza


When Ruth Stubbs, Global President of iProspect, the Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN)-owned digital performance marketing agency, assumed her current role in October 2016, the ongoing debate at DAN was on the judiciousness of having iProspect’s president housed at the agency’s London headquarters. It was the resolute persistence of Stubbs to stay in Singapore and the presentation she made to the DAN board that convinced them to have a global head operating from APAC. In India recently to take stock of the ever-growing and dynamic digital marketing ecosystem in the country, Stubbs’ agenda was to discuss the strategy for the way forward for iProspect, taking into account the changing shape of the industry.



Expressing her passion for working in Asia, Stubbs says, “Ideally, the decision-makers of global agencies are in the West and they do not have a lot of experience or insights about Asia. I had to literally pitch to them how working out of Singapore would be beneficial to the network’s growth in APAC where the future of digital marketing lies. The overall growth and market investment that’s happening in China and India is phenomenal and that’s why you see so many acquisitions happening in these markets. It’s very important to have skin in the game to grow a business in a particular region.”

Emphasizing the progress made by emerging Asian markets in mobile and e-commerce, Stubbs adds, “We are learning how to manage Amazon from the success model of Alibaba and that’s an interesting evidence that now even the West is emulating the East.”



Recent industry projections on advertising spends show that Digital advertising is all set to grow at the fastest rate, yet it hasn’t really threatened the dominance of traditional mediums of advertising such as TV and Print in India. For optimum results, marketers need to focus more on getting the right mix of strategy and medium, rather than treading on a one-track approach. Explaining how Digital can leverage from the reach of TV, Stubbs says, “The conversation isn’t about TV versus Digital. It’s about consumers and their changing preferences. Any smart marketer or organization understands that consumers have started using multiple channels to get information, and only by cross-advertising will their message reach the right consumer with optimum effect. For instance, we are with Google on TV and search as we have observed that people share their intent on Google after having watched something on TV. That allows us to help clients refine their TV message and also catch their attention on the effectiveness that Digital brings to the overall performance of their marketing.”



Making sense of the data churned out through digital activities of consumers has been the most arduous task for marketers, considering the fragmented nature of data itself. Says Stubbs, “In some sectors, the data collected is really convoluted and joining that data to create a compelling story for the client is the biggest challenge. Cost is another important factor as we need to show the client how advertising spends are being put to productive use. While we discuss what is needed, getting stuck in the rut of a hamster wheel to deconstruct the complexities of data happens all the time. What can be done differently is to focus on delivering the solution rather than relying heavily on data. A hospitality client just wants to get more occupancy and asks me what is the most effective way of doing it. The solution we will offer at such a time is most likely to be intelligent content, which is not necessarily search or display, but an entirely new revenue stream that allows us to develop SEO to search-optimized content that drives our client’s business, leaving a credible trail to track effectiveness. Therefore, it’s not just about search, display or programmatic solutions; it’s about what solution works best at a given point in the client’s business journey.” 



Whether it is to seek a way out of the data conundrum or acquire deep-rooted industry insights of regional markets, DAN has forged some formidable associations that have contributed to its claim of being the second biggest agency group in India. Adding context to DAN’s capabilities in the East and West, Stubbs says, “We are a big enough network to manage both sides of the hill. Dentsu is an Eastern business, whereas Aegis was predominantly a European business, yet the synergy of ‘East meets West’ has worked beautifully for us in winning big clients from either side of the horizon. We have leaders who understand marketers’ psyche and that’s the very reason Jerry Buhlmann, Ashish Bhasin and all other Dentsu heads are able to do a cracking job at building the business in different parts of the world.”



iProspect offers performance marketing for some of the world’s biggest MNCs such as Adidas, General Motors and Mondelez across multiple regions. While it’s a given that retaining an agency across the globe is beneficial for both the client and agency’s business, Stubbs stresses on the necessity for agencies to always be a step ahead of their clients. “If we are servicing clients and want them to stay with us, we have to know their business and understand the challenges that they have today and are about to face in the future. We have executives working on an automobile client who possess knowledge to the extent of how much steel goes into making a single car. That’s the level of brand understanding I’m talking about. When we understand our client’s business inside out, it means we have worked hard to win their trust,” says Stubbs.



Upholding the philosophy of meeting power with responsibility, Stubbs believes that data is power and how brands seek to use this power is what defines the client-agency relationship to a considerable extent. Saying that agencies should refrain from taking unlimited liabilities of their clients, she adds, “Just as there are obnoxious people in this world, there are obnoxious brands too and as representatives of those brands, we are equally responsible for the communication that sometimes reaches consumers. If a brand wants to misuse data, it’s our responsibility to advise them otherwise. Clients can be demanding and to avoid friction, we have a robust legal team and firm guidelines that protect us from taking unlimited liabilities from the client. Agencies that are in for the long haul know where to be flexible and where to draw the line.” 


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