For Mindshare, it has been an extraordinary year, both in India and globally. The year commenced in India with a momentous achievement, winning one of the country’s largest advertisers, Maruti Suzuki, as a client.
As the year progressed, the global team at Mindshare continued to make waves, culminating in a remarkable triumph. The agency also clinched the highly coveted ‘Network of the Year’ award at the prestigious Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. This achievement solidified their position as an industry leader, garnering recognition for their creativity and innovation on a global stage.
In India, the agency claims to have won accounts worth over Rs 2000cr. between January and June 2023.
Asked about their recipe for success, Adam Gerhart, CEO of Mindshare Global, and Amin Lakhani, CEO, Mindshare South Asia, attributed their achievements to the ‘Good Growth’ approach. Also, being part of a network like WPP immensely contributes to their success story.
“Clients don’t want media agencies to just plan and buy media. They expect them to do that brilliantly, but they want so much more – commerce, experiences, data, technology – the path to growth requires so many capabilities that it is beyond one single agency of any description to be able to deliver that on their own. This is where being part of GroupM and WPP really sets us apart, especially in a market like India where GroupM has more than 40% share,” says Gerhart.
He believes the wealth of tools, talent, and resources is unparalleled, further stating, “Our job is to help bring it all together, being more open, inclusive, and agnostic to build the best team together for the challenge – wherever it sits within the wider group and delivering it for the clients to make an impact on their businesses. It is about being integrated, seamless, and effective.”
Gerhart, who was in India recently, believes that in the country, rapid and scaled Digital adoption (often mobile first) has enabled people to spend more time on more platforms – breaking down the sales funnel. “Accelerating this is the prevalence of lower-priced handsets and cheaper data plans, meaning that the payment ecosystem has been democratized. You just have to look around to see the countless street vendors who won’t take cash anymore. For us, embracing these changes presents new opportunities for full funnel approaches,” he adds.
To make the most of this Digital growth, Mindshare claims to be investing heavily in building these capabilities. “From integrating the digital-first capabilities of NEO to building our influencer practice, creating bespoke products and tools like mSampling, which allows us to take advantage of the long-tail of commerce/sampling, and predictive analytics. These new areas not only allow us to respond to the evolution taking place, but also to shape it for the next era of growth for our clients,” says Gerhart.
Talking more about India, Lakhani highlights that the company is building massive capabilities across Data Consulting & Analytics, and performance marketing, with a special focus on Ecommerce expertise, and building an influencer marketing COE.
“All of this is happening through the deep integration of NEO, a digital-first full-funnel solutions company into Mindshare, and WPP’s global acquisition of Goat, an influencer marketing company. We are dialling up talent in these areas significantly. Mindshare is also investing heavily in upskilling capabilities to ensure future readiness by our teams across clients and geographies,” says Lakhani.
He further explains his idea of good growth as the one that focuses on sustainable and responsible growth from an ecosystem perspective. “For us, for our clients and partners, we are laying special focus on the purpose-led work that we are doing for them. For e.g., Dove, Britannia. With ever-evolving expectations, the stakeholders are now focused on growth, and good growth acknowledges the power of consumer, demands authenticity, and acts with the purpose to benefit society, and our business,” says Lakhani.
Across the world, media and advertising agencies are grappling with the formidable challenge of retaining top talent. In the service industry, the role of talent is undeniably crucial, driving innovation, creativity, and delivering exceptional results for clients. Lakhani claims that at Mindshare, the agency has taken several steps to curtail the issue.
“With focus on building Mindshare of the future, we nurture diverse talent, and at the same time build in exclusive level of retention strategies – infusing teams to understand the culture and have a long-lasting relationship as a proud Purple (Mindshare) family member,” he adds.
The agency does initiatives like Connect with Leaders- where in-house sessions are held with teams through Purple connect as they celebrate and appreciate career journeys. Rendezvous with the CEO- an open house session where some of the youngest team members exchange ideas with the CEO.
“Besides, we run many capability building programmes for our team members to help them grow. Our efforts are towards promoting an inclusive environment, by building more human connections and creating employee experiences,” Lakhani added.
Talking about the future plans of Mindshare in India, both Gerhart and Lakhani spoke about organic and inorganic expansion. “We will leverage our existing strengths and relationships to solidify our position, while actively exploring partnerships and acquisitions to broaden our reach,” adds Lakhani.
The agency is also focussed on expanding its investment in the Indian advertising business. “It aligns perfectly with the rising market expectations, reflecting the growing confidence in our capabilities. Our focus on portfolio diversification through new mandates ensures that we remain agile and adaptable, and meet evolving client needs,” says Lakhani.
Gerhart adds how India as a market is becoming more important for the group globally. “Our India team has always been one of the most inventive and innovative markets in the world, you can tell by how many awards they win. And this year they won on the global stage at Cannes with their work on the ‘Dove Thumbstopping Beauty Bias’ campaign, which I take as the first of many more to come.”
Meanwhile, for Lakhani, the next milestone is to elevate Mindshare India to become one of the two pivotal markets for Mindshare Global. Reflecting on their current accomplishments. “As we celebrate our position among the top 10 markets for Mindshare worldwide, our aspiration is to ascend to the top two markets in the forthcoming years,” concludes a determined Lakhani.
‘India will see AdEx growth of 2-3x the global average’
Adam Gerhart, Global CEO of Mindshare talks about India as a key market, his idea of ‘Good Growth.’ and the good year that Mindshare has had in 2023
Q] What brings Mindshare Global CEO to India?
I’ve been fortunate to visit India numerous times in my career. It’s a critical market for us and the world, and it is only growing. The last time I was here was before COVID, and this is the first time here in my new role as the Global CEO.
India’s role in the coming days will become more pronounced, and for me it is about two things – Opportunity and Velocity. The scale of opportunity is boundless, and the velocity of growth and potential is accelerating at a rate that we haven’t seen before. The combination of those two means it’s on the brink of something amazing, and being here, there’s an energy and optimism I haven’t seen before that’s inspiring.
Q] It’s been a good year for Mindshare. You won the Network of the Year title at Cannes and a few key accounts in India. What worked for you as a media agency?
This year we had 99 shortlists and 33 metals shared across 13 countries at Cannes, so a good breadth of work from integrated teams. It has a combination of great talent, with strong clients who are prepared to take bold decisions. Overall, it is also about being able to spot trends faster than the competition – both in terms of landscape changes and consumer needs. Client capabilities are born from that early insight, and our job is to be out in front of our clients, seeing what is next.
There is a huge change taking place in the industry, the move from scale to precision, from permission to predictive media, and from campaigns to experiences. You also have new trends and capabilities, from retail media to Generative AI. By thinking about media as more than a channel, as a means to transform or address critical business challenges, we can always stay where our clients need us – ahead of the curve, seeing what they need next to drive their growth.
Q] How would you assess Mindshare India’s performance compared to other markets? What unique strategies differentiate it from other markets?
India is one of our top markets with immense potential, so as a result, we have high expectations from here. It is not only about investing for business growth, but also about building new capabilities and scaling what works.
The country has an incredible talent pool, and in many ways it is ahead of the curve in areas such as mobile adoption, influencer, and commerce. We need to harness that knowledge and accelerate growth. The dynamism of the market makes it exciting and allows us to experiment and innovate faster than we might be able to elsewhere. So, we need to keep winning and growing and also encouraging investments in more diverse services that allow us to grow and outpace expected growth.
Q] When it comes to Mindshare India, what are some of the capabilities that you think should be developed or strengthened further?
When we look at India specifically, we see more than 400 million active social media users and 650 million mobile gamers. Both are well above the population of most major countries. Or look at the rise of influencers, growing at more than 25% in India. While these norms aren’t unique to India, the scale and pace make it unique.
As these trends accelerate, the services we offer have to become more diverse. Yet, at the same time, the convergence of these trends (how things like social sentiment can be used to inform user experience on-site or define commerce strategies) mean they need to be more connected than ever.
Clients today want simplification and confidence in decision making. Our ambition to drive ‘Good Growth’ is fundamentally rooted in architecting the best routes for growth for our clients and delivering on those two things. That means offering more diverse services across a range of areas – from MarTech deployment to commerce, from analytics to influencers, and everything in between.
Q] From a global perspective, where would you rank India in terms of priority for you?
India is an incredibly important market. As I have said before, it’s growing faster than any other market in the Top 10 mentioned in GroupM’s ‘This Year Next Year’ ad spend report. So yes, India is a massively important market, for not only Mindshare, GroupM, and WPP, but also the world. The country continues its journey of development, becoming an even bigger economic powerhouse, inventing and innovating – making an impact on the world stage.
Our India team has always been one of the most inventive and innovative markets in the world. You can tell by how many awards they win. This year, they have won on the global stage at Cannes with the ‘Dove Thumbstopping Beauty Bias’ campaign, which I take as the first of many more to come.
Q] You have expressed a strong stance on the concept of ‘Good Growth.’ What’s your definition of this term?
The short answer is that the nature of growth is changing, and expectations are evolving because all stakeholders are now involved in defining growth. There are shareholders, stakeholders, society/planet, partners, and the list goes on.
Even within an organization, some might define growth agendas through the classic lens of the short term while others long term. Some could view it through the lens of brand vs sales. But, even within that, it’s becoming more complex as some might prioritize DTC growth over retail because of the data you get from DTC and the ability to build lifetime value. This is just scratching the surface.
From a consumer lens, people have more power to demand more authenticity and action from brands as they are better connected through global platforms. Look at how quickly a brand misstep can now escalate through global platforms, compared to the past, and how quickly brands must react. ‘Good Growth’ accounts for this new consumer power and tries to harness it for the betterment of all stakeholders – society, planet, and business – by using media with intention.
The longer answer is that we live in a Platform Age, with multiple stakeholders, and this is the catalyst for the rise of Good Growth. Platforms are not just another media channel where people see ads like TV or Print. They are the new countries where people live their lives, with more users than most countries.
They are places where people share their opinions about life and brands, where they form views, transact, and find entertainment. They’ve enabled consumers to demand more from brands – more value, more authenticity, and more action. Platforms have collapsed the sales funnel, putting people, media, experience, and purchase all in one platform – so geographical expansion is no longer the biggest driver of growth; your ability to harness the platform age, its ecosystems, and its impact are the real drivers of growth today.
Q] You recently mentioned that ad spend continues to increase despite a challenging environment. Could you elaborate on the specific challenges faced in this context? Also, what has been the growth rate?
GroupM’s ‘This Year Next Year’ ad spend report, from mid-year, is forecasting 5.8% global growth for the year, with India on pace to be around 12%. In other words, India will potentially see AdEx growth of 2-3x the global average.
With more than 70% of the new growth coming from Digital channels, compared to Digital’s current share of the overall ad spend, the market is being reshaped. So, while the rebound from COVID is still playing out, and India is a strong growth market, in many markets around the world, consumers are feeling the pinch due to a unique set of macro-economic circumstances.
It is fairly dynamic environment at the moment, with brands navigating the consumer sentiment in markets whilst still looking for their ad spend to drive growth.
Q] You have advised your clients about approaching AI with caution. Could you give us some perspective, perhaps with an example?
A lot has been said about AI and machine learning, everything from the belief that it will render most humans redundant in the workplace to the belief that it will gain consciousness and destroy us all. The reality of AI and ML is that they have the potential to be critical tools to make ourselves more efficient, and more importantly, liberate us from mundane tasks to better use our time and add more value by focusing on higher-value strategic tasks.
Rather than only focusing on media, AI and ML have enabled us to build better predictive models and respond more rapidly to the changes around us.
For example, we work with many partners in AI/ML, one of which is Datarobot that recently helped an auto brand forecast sales given the supply chain and chip shortage issues. Not so they understand how much money to spend in media, but to understand how much rubber to buy for tires. This illustrates how we’re using these tools to tackle bigger issues and solve genuine business problems for clients.
AI can also be a powerful ally to help us deliver better media and better experiences for consumers. In the US, we worked with our client Tyson, to develop the ‘Impact Index’ – a tool using AI to understand how harmful certain editorial content is for the black community in the US, and then optimised media spend to non-harmful content.
But it does need to be used carefully. The ability for things like bias to creep in is present. Take, for example, the fact that according to one global software survey in 2022, 90% of computer programmers are men. Whether conscious or not, gender bias has a larger potential to show up when we’re not representing people equally.
Q] In the media business, what is your view on the emerging segment opportunities in influencer marketing, retail media, gaming, etc.?
Change is a constant in our industry, so we expect new platforms, new channels, and new approaches. Influencer marketing is a result of the rise of the platform age that I mentioned previously. The consolidation of people all in one platform collapses the sales funnel. That puts enormous power into the hands of a small number of people who can connect with consumers across the world through one platform – platforms couldn’t have been built any better for the rise of influencer marketing.
GroupM recently invested in Goat, the data-driven influencer marketing agency, so I feel we are well-positioned to help our clients get the best out of influencer marketing.
Other areas have also taken off, such as retail media. It is the result of a similar ‘platform’ approach, albeit they have risen from a different angle. Retail media has become more important as retail itself has become more platform orientated – whether Amazon, TMall, or Flipkart. These commerce giants have a unique ability to reach consumers within their platforms and their retail media offerings are becoming more developed.
In many ways, there is a parallel with the early days of search, with media and sales/commerce teams both moving into the same space and spending, sometimes against each other. So there is a need for some unification on the client side so that retail media can be efficient and effective. Our role is to help our clients get the best out of that synergy, as well as help them to understand the overall ecosystem and how best to use it. This includes, how and where they should be working with platforms, using their platforms, and also working with more traditional retailers, depending on their product and brand portfolio.
Q] As a global leader of one of the largest media agencies, what are your thoughts about the overall media domain? How have things changed in the last two years, and what are some of the key growth areas that we need to watch out for?
‘Good Growth’ is the future. I know I’m biased, but I firmly believe that we are only at the start of the journey with ‘Good Growth.’
The issues facing the world will not be solved quickly, many will only compound and get more pronounced. As the impact is felt by a range of constituents, agendas will change and often compete. As the prominence of platforms grows, the impact on society and individuals means consumers will increasingly take control to put pressure on regulators and governments to make changes to improve the world, and champion brands that they feel are trusted, delivering on their promises, and calling out those brands they think are not.
‘Good Growth’ is driving client growth in a variety of shapes, by understanding and harnessing this new consumer power, for the betterment of all stakeholders – society, planet, and business – by using media with intention. I hope that more brands use media with intention, aligning with their consumer’s values and passions, delivering better outcomes for society and the planet, and improving their own bottom line in the process.