A place like Mindshare which has been extremely successful, had a string of very successful leaders and successful approaches. Over time, I always feel it’s both a challenge and an opportunity. And the great thing is that there are a lot of set practices in place, there are some great products, tools, people already in place. The challenge is how to take it further to the next stage. Some of the things that have always been there, will continue. What I hope to bring in is the emphasis on building a better product and getting diverse talent into the company. I don’t think we need to change as much as we need to evolve because of the changes that are happening around us… more of new technology, trying to bring in things like artificial intelligence, etc., to ensure smoother processes. Otherwise, there is no need for radical transformation because things are going well.
Q] What is the synergy between the South Asia markets that are under you? How do you compare the different markets in terms of growth, talent and ease of doing business?
There is incredible talent across all these markets. The size and scale is different. The kind of data availability in some of those markets is very different because you don’t have as much access to data in some of those markets as we have in India. Very often, we see synergies when it comes to a client. So, if you look at teams working on Unilever, let’s say across Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan, there is a lot of information sharing and a lot of best practices. At a client level, there are significant synergies. We work closely on things like regional pitches and training programmes. Increasingly, we are seeing our teams in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh win at global and regional forums with some really good work. We are pretty happy about it.
Q] The business of media and advertising is moving to an entirely new plane, with the emergence of new media and new formats. What are you doing to meet the demands of this new ecosystem? Can you talk of some of Mindshare’s specialist units and unique partnerships in this regard?
The way we define content itself has changed so much in the last four to five years. Today everything comprises content whether it’s a GIF or infographic or a video, whether short format or long format. So, we are creating what we call a Content AOR (Agency on Record) with quite a few clients where our lead engagement with them will be from the content space, and not from the media space. A large number of them would be a pure social mandate, or a social plus content creation mandate. One of our landmark cases has been the kind of work we achieved with brands like Diageo, from producing a movie for them two years back to producing the highest-rated talk show, the ‘No. 1 Yaari’ show, to a whole host of other spaces. With Unilever too, we are deeply invested in content creation across platforms. So, our content space is huge and we are constantly trying to get different and diverse talent into that space from native content writing backgrounds. As GroupM we have access to a lot more of content production capabilities and all of that with agencies like The Glitch. So, we have huge access to talent, facilities, capabilities, and the ability to do dynamic content. Our approach called ‘planning for agility’ or ‘P for A’ requires the ability to produce high quality content at a very rapid pace and huge scale. Then there is partnerships in areas like data, technology, analytics. We use technology to enhance our own productivity, to create tools and platforms which are able to really speed up the process, free up time of people from doing very mundane stuff to be able to do better things.
Q] With so many changes in the current ecosystem and with Digital evolving the way it has, what are some of the challenges Mindshare faces in staying ahead of the curve?
The challenges are really in different buckets. One challenge is the talent challenge. We are not competing for people with other agencies alone. We are competing with the new systems of the online ecosystems, even with content creation companies. So, the ability to attract and create communities where people really engage with each other, where they feel that they are part of a larger community and to retain them is a significant challenge. It’s a good challenge to have because only if you are in those spaces will you have that challenge. The second challenge is keeping pace with the changes and make sure that our clients have first access to or are able to leverage those changes that are happening. It’s also linked to the investments of time, money, etc., to keep pace with those changes, and again it’s a good challenge because it keeps people on their toes. I always say that curiosity is the number one value which everyone needs to have in this day and age. So, that is also a challenge, and for all this, obviously the revenue model has to sustain this kind of staff improvement and skill enhancement and technology investment. You need to invest a lot more in these areas than you used to probably three or four years back.
Q] The industry is increasingly moving towards automation. What has been your experience in the area of programmatic ad buying for clients?
I think the proportion of programmatic is going up pretty exponentially. Across clients we are seeing traction for more and more programmatic coming in. What is enhancing it a lot is the ability to address certain very significant cohorts or significant sets of consumers which is driving up the effectiveness of the entire campaign. We have worked closely to set up the programmatic desk for a number of our clients. So we work with brands like Diageo and Unilever in a strong way. The proportion of the pie which is programmatic is increasing much faster than how digital is increasing. So we know that Digital is growing at a rate of 25% to 30%. Programmatic is growing faster than that.
Q] Looking at Mindshare from the global perspective, what is India’s contribution to the company in terms of learnings, tools and strategy?
Look at the leadership of Mindshare across markets, and you find a whole lot of Indians. Obviously, India is a very critical market for Mindshare. But, what is important is that very key skillsets are being recognised in India. Our approach towards content, for instance. Within South-east Asia, there are markets like us. So, some of our practices on Content+, be it on social or traditional, are being replicated around the globe. For example, the Content Day model which we have done for a number of our clients. Today, there are Content Days being held in seven or eight different markets of Mindshare across the globe. The work which we are doing in terms of data management, visualization and AI layers on that was something which is now being explored and worked upon by other markets, including Europe. The practice of a centralized media planning team was started in Mindshare India, but now is being taken across the region.
Q] What have been some of your most interesting conversations with your clients? What does the advertiser want today?
Clients are very much focused on business growth and productivity, especially in these times when there is a slowdown. Their expectation from us is ownership of their problem, a higher sense of accountability and a higher ability to manage the chaos and to be comfortable with doing things which are not business as usual. They want us to challenge them. I have lost count of the number of times a client has said, “You should challenge us more and help us navigate through the chaos.” Ownership of the business result is the biggest demand.