Asterii seeks to create new wave in the world of analytics

27 Feb,2012

By Johnson Napier


How often do we come across marketers, media agencies and surprisingly, even research bodies who say the inevitable: ‘due to lack of data… we couldn’t project the right numbers’ or ‘our projections fell short of expectations due to the variation in numbers’ and so on? In fact most marketers are wary of pumping in huge monies behind a project or activity given the lack of availability of accurate data that goes a long way in simplifying trends and analysing customer behaviour across markets – ingredients that play a critical role in the marketing plan of most brands.


While research agencies are the most sought after for mapping such trends, they often fall short in providing a plan that is wholesome; something that could alter the way marketers look at the future. Such shortcomings are turning out to be easy pickings for agencies, which are on an overdrive launching divisions dedicated solely to analytics and data. And the latest to join the bandwagon is ad agency DraftFCB+Ulka that has announced the launch of specialty division, Asterii Analytics in India.


Niteen Bhagwat

In India, the team will be led by Niteen Bhagwat, who has been assigned the post of Executive Director and CEO. Sharing his views on the new launch, Mr Bhagwat admitted that while agencies were waking up to the phenomenon in a heightened manner, there was still a lot that is needed to be done in the space. “The mantra at DraftFCB+Ulka has always been about creating brand wealth and making our clients richer. At one point in time, it was having right strategies and good creatives, which will continue but the marketplace is becoming increasingly competitive for our clients. The same set of tools or decision-making may not be as optimum or efficient as it was earlier. We believe that if our clients have to compete, they have to take decisions that are completely rooted in data. So, if we have to continue delivering on our promise of creating brand wealth with the underpinning of analytics, it is absolutely critical. It also compliments beautifully with our overall approach of being a strategy strong agency group.”


An analytics person with more than two decades of experience in the field, Paula Fedoris, EVP, Chief Analytics Officer – DraftFCB pitched in by giving a global overview on the origins of analytics and the need for the discipline to make it big in India. “In certain markets, the marketing and media analytics trend has been taking place for the past 15 years or so. There are certain agencies, particularly in theUnited StatesandEurope, which have gravitated towards making sure that marketing strategies and media investments are as smart as possible. So we have been applying analytics to these challenges for quite a few years now. This is more so for agencies which are more focussed on one-to-one marketing or database marketing or direct marketing, they have always been very quantitative-oriented.”


Paula Fedoris

According to Ms Fedoris, with some organisations, when the internet came in a big way in 1999-2000, it was then that some of these tools and techniques went on the online space. “Over the years, we have been able to generate a lot of data by our marketing activity. The companies are trying to data-mine insights from this information to draw new insights and conclusion and make better decisions, not only about their current business but also on where they need to go in the future and how this information can help in identifying new and important trends that they need to be mindful of, as they develop a strategic direction and maintain competitiveness in the marketplace.”


Citing statistics, Ms Fedoris said that overall businesses are generating about 40 per cent new data every year and how companies are being able to harness this information and in the marketing arena this has been accelerating even more.


As for the USP that Asterii would bring to the table, Mr Bhagwat stated categorically: “Asterii will bring a far sharper focus on analytics than other offerings from marketing communication companies. That’s majorly because it is a standalone agency, so much of the resources and people in the team will be focussed on Asterii; they won’t get lost in handling other functions within the organisation. As for the other groups that offer analytics, what we understand far better than most is the concept of insights. So we would be far better than the others based on our insights and ideas in the marketplace.”


In fact, Mr Bhagwat was certain that it was the most opportune time to launch in the country as marketers would take a liking to the service given the hostility that’s being faced by them amidst a hostile economic scenario. “When businesses are under pressure, analytics is proven to be able to give you a lift in terms of sales or profitability and by a huge margin, if done properly. If the market conditions are tough, analytics would probably be the answer to find new segments to increase growth or market share or figure out ways to optimise your marketing communication by doing market mix modelling. So, if at all there are budget pressures, analytics will help clients spend their money more effectively. In a sense, now is the best time for us to launch our division.”



Chancing upon the opportunity, Mr Bhagwat admits that the agency has approached at least ten marketers to offer their services. These include clients who are aligned to the advertising agency as well. “We have started speaking to a whole host of people we are associated with and the response has been encouraging. Close to ten marketers have evinced interest and we would be meeting up with them to decide future course of action. What actually materialises, I think only time will tell.”


On the sectors that the solutions would be centred around, Mr Bhagwat said that it would be automotive, packaged goods, financial services and retail. When asked on how they went about shortlisting these sectors, Mr Bhagwat said: “There are certain sectors that are rich in data, so the comfort level in doing analytics in those areas will obviously be very high. Also, at the same time, companies in sectors such as retail, automotive, packaged goods and financial services would be analytics-aware sectors and so the kind of solutions that they would want would be of a different kind versus companies in, say, fashion or food where analytics is not used as much.”


A much more historical and detailed perspective was provided by Ms Fedoris: “Historically, analytics started with the financial sector because they are very quantitatively-focused and this got further momentum with the advent of credit card transactions and the ability to find out what the people were purchasing. In theUnited States, we were able to marry our purchase decision behaviour with the demographic information and so that was always a robust area that people focused on. It seemed to then migrate to the travel industry, as people began to book their airline tickets and have loyalty programmes, both the airline and the hotel industry understood the importance of relationship marketing and began developing databases of their customers. Ultimately it moved on to retail as people used their credit card in the retail establishment and then finally it moved on to the packaged goods area.” According to Ms Fedoris, a lot of people are going on to the internet to find information on how to go about buying packaged goods product and are able to find solutions online. “So these are the core sectors that emit a lot of data on patterns and trends,” she said.


So focussed is the group on the new division that it won’t stop short in going all out as far as investment is concerned. Asserts Mr Bhagwat: “Analytics, for us, is an absolutely critical offering that the agency group is going to have. So investments won’t come in the way of growth as such. We are not looking at this only as a revenue model but more as a capable solutions provider. We have invested in new office space in Mumbai that can seat up to 50 people; we are also investing in fairly expensive software and hardware that goes with it. Also, Paula would be coming toIndiaon an ongoing basis to be able to bring along global best practice tools that are in use around the world. This will enable us to have global scale and capability in our Indian operations.”


As for the growth, Mr Bhagwat feels it is too early to foretell, but that is not of concern as yet. On a stronger note, he feels that the analytics market is still in its infancy and has a lot of potential that’s yet to be explored. “Analytics market inIndiais still in a nascent stage; they do not pay as much money as they do in international markets. So it is an under-served and under-priced market,” quipped Mr Bhagwat. According to him, all this will change once people start understanding the true value of analytics and how one can take advantage over competitors by employing analytics. In his opinion, the tipping point is next couple of years. But what is important is that the availability of good quality data is going to improve dramatically in the future, he concluded.


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