Lookback 2012: Voices from the Top

28 Dec,2012


By Ritu Midha


In the action-packed year that went by, with the political cauldron boiling and the economy on a sliding spree, media and marketing were not spared the impact of events and consequences. Ritu Midha touched base with a few media, marketing and advertising leaders, who shared with MxMIndia their key takeaways/learnings from the year 2012.


Anupriya Acharya, Leader, Client Leadership, South Asia, Mindshare Fulcrum

I was looking to move back to India, and getting an opportunity in Feb 2012 to lead Unilever for South Asia was both exciting and challenging. Coupled with the fact that the year was also one of global review on the account. Successful retaining of the account in South Asia and globally has been a great learning experience and a delightful milestone. On the back of disproportionate effort, it was also a year of record-breaking performance for Unilever media across Goafest, Emvies, Spikes!



Geetanjali Bhattacharji, CEO, SA2, Spatial Access

A single window that delivers trends, benchmarks, consumption and insights across all marketing investments is a must. Over the past seven years of working with marketer data, the volume of data we’ve encountered in the BTL space has been staggering: TVC production costs of hundreds of commercials across animatics, post-production, transfers, talent & royalties; Event & activation deliveries, resources & validation metrics; Print production technical specification standards, logistics, cost & compliance data; Vendor networks, spread, terms of engagement, selection criteria & rates; PR data expressed in terms of media-relevance, tone of content, share of voice & semantics. I’ve come to believe there is a huge opportunity in unbundling and analyzing collectively all these data points. 2012 has been a year of addressing these data integration challenges in marketing services. 2013 will be the year of minting the success of this labour with the launch of SA MINT – Spatial Access’ Marketing INvestment Tracker, an online access tool that will integrate all marketing services data into a single dashboard to deliver trends, benchmarks, consumption and much more!


Conquering the enigma of tracking marketing investments has been my largest challenge in 2012 – one that has been well worth it!



Harish Bijoor, Brand-expert & CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc

My most notable learning in 2012: ‘Get inclusive, or get excluded!’


In everything you do or think, involve every one of the constituents of larger society. Don’t think for yourself. Don’t think only for your client. Think of the end consumer all the while. Think of the non-consumer even. Think exclusive. Or run the risk of getting excluded in the long run.



Hoshiedar Ghaswalla, CEO, Cybermedia

As I moved into a new position at Cybermedia, it has been an year of tremendous unlearning and learning for me. In the B2B space it is very important to deliver value – if you make a difference to your subscribers’/consumers’ life, you move a few notches higher. Aiming for that is exciting and challenging and demands excellence and zero error. We aimed for superlative work – and have attained it in the last quarter – and would like to make it even better.


RoI has become more important than ever before. And for a publisher, more so in B2B space RoI needs to be measured not only in terms of advertising revenue – but also consumer/subscriber involvement.



Ajay Kaul, CEO, Jubilant Foodworks Ltd

When the market is going through a bit of a downturn or sentiment is a bit sluggish, it’s the best time to increase investment on the brand, and also the people brand. It may sound counterintuitive, as one would try to manage costs, but the pay-offs are great in the long run.



Shripad Kulkarni, CEO, Allied Media Network

2012 was our year to get ready to storm in the Top 3 Media AORs of India. This turned out to be a bigger challenge than what we had planned for. The sudden slowdown triggered by the international economic scenario manifested in a unique way for us.


Our market situation: While it was a challenge for the industry, for us it was a unique speedbreaker. For the first five years of existence, Percept’s Allied Media grew @ 40 percent each year. We have been rated in the Top 5 consistently for three years in the Brand Equity Study. That’s because we have matched the best in class in Buying and Implementation and more than matched them in 360 marcom services.


Our planned thrust for 2012: Our thrust was clearly in strategic tools. We had committed to the World Class M3 Model of Pointlogic, Netherlands. M3 is a Simulation tool based on product category specific consumer Research. It Optimses Message and Media Combination for maximum market share preference. M3 meant big investment in time and monies.


The challenge: The challenge for us was to stick to our plan of investing heavily in strategic tool M3 despite the slowdown!


How we overcame the challenge: We dug in our heels and stuck to our investment plan. The third quarter proved especially lucky with a Rs 150 crore win through various accounts like DB Reality, Sahara Q, Just Dial, Italy Tourism, Baskin Robbins and DSK Hyosung.


What 2012 means to us: It means we are now ready for a full-throttle storming into the big league of Top 3 AORs in India !



Rohit Ohri, Chairman, Dentsu India

“Trying times will not drag you down if you treat them as doorways to new beginnings.”


2012 has been a challenging time for me professionally. Rebuilding an organization is always a hard task. Fortunately, thanks to all the hard work put in by my great team and the support of our fantastic clients, 2012 has become a rock-solid foundation for the Dentsu India Group. 2013 will be the year in which we will walk through those new doorways and show the world the Dentsu Way.



MG Parmeswaran, ED & CEO, Draft FCB Ulka

We have been hearing that digital age is coming, digital will destroy television, print, magazines, and so on, for the last five years. Due to poor broadband and poor 3G this has not yet happened. But we did see a strong signal of digital emerging out of the woodwork in 2012. Television is still very powerful, but digital is becoming more important and the likes of Google, Facebook and YouTube are straining at their leash to push their agenda. I think marketers today have an opportunity of using the cost-effective, humungous power of television to build brands in India. This window will disappear in the next five years, as the SEC A / B consumer start consuming content on their mobiles and tablets. So in a sense this is the diluted era of Chitrahaar, Chhayageet and Ramayan once again. Brands like Nirma and Vicco got built during that era. Today you don’t get 25 percent GRP, but you can get to 4 to 6 percent of C&S homes through several GEC channel programmes, and importantly television advertising rates in India are among the lowest, if we are to look at a CPT metric. Instead of paying for brands astronomical multiples, I would spend the money building brand salience using television. That is a big learning from 2012.



Josy Paul, Chairman and National Creative Director, BBDO India

This was the year of celebrity deaths. Lots of well known personalities died in 2012. The news, nostalgia and content of these deaths may have overpowered the sound of advertising.


Ideas that integrate with society and social issues seem to have gained greater connect with consumers. Brands are going beyond just selling and are now building something. We are in the business of ideas for life, not just advertising.


The buzz of Facebook and YouTube is one way to measure the popularity of a campaign or film. Our touching film for Visa Debit – showing a teacher creating light for his village in the upper reaches of Kashmir – was an instant hit on YouTube. More than a million hits in less than two weeks. Looks like, if it’s shareable it’s air-able.



Mayank Shah, Parle Products

The year taught us to look at value from the consumers’ perspective and not from marketers’ perspective as we did till date. It is true of all the marketers involved in food marketing in some way or the other. To give you a simple example, earlier in case of an increase in product cost for marketers due to reasons like raw material going expensive or increased taxes etc, a part of the price increase was passed to the consumer. As marketers we thought, we were sharing only a part of the increased cost, and the consumer should be happy. But if you look at it from the consumers’ perspective, it is a price rise anyway. True value to the consumer is when there is no price hike despite increased input cost. Of course, marketers have to find out alternate strategies to take care of their top line and bottom line. And that has been the key challenge for the marketers this year.



Arunabh Das Sharma, President, BCCL

My key learning from 2012 is that the overall advertising pie is just not growing fast enough. Everybody is fighting for a share of the same pie and I do not think that many people are looking for ways to increase the pie. My second big learning is that the traditional ways of selling advertising space is going to get tougher and tougher. And I think media houses, owners, media agencies and advertisers will have to come together to see a model that puts the way forward for greater investment in the industry. Because that is the biggest challenge that the industry is facing.



Jaideep Shergill, CEO at Hanmer MSL

Learnings from 2012: The key takeaways from the year this year are:


  • Unidirectional messaging is passé. It’s the age of dialogue with your stakeholders – multiple conversations on multiple platforms.
  • Public relations is now a strategic service, critical to the brand and not restricted to media relations.
  • Asia – with China and India leading the charge – will provide virtually all the growth for the global public relations industry.
  • Tough economic times underscore the value of public relations. It is more cost effective and delivers better results than advertising.
  • Talent is a make or break issue. Talented people no longer want to know what they are doing in their jobs, but why they are doing it. Hence, businesses’ social objectives will play a key role in attracting talent.
  • Social media is no longer an either/or option for your communications strategy; it’s a must.
  • Clients are increasingly demanding integrated communications services from their agencies.


Harish Shriyan, COO, OMD

A noteworthy observation from 2012 is the manner in which technology has infiltrated our lives. Technology is seeping into our lives by the minute, and today it is a multifaceted engagement. The impact of technology in media, marketing and entire world around it is manifold. Whether it is in terms of creating content, offering value to the viewers through HD technology, providing news and entertainment across platforms ie mobile, iPads along with addictive apps, etc. or marketers reaching out to their customers through better distribution mode etc.


This explosion of these relatively new media platforms is changing the rules of engagement. The perks of this engagement is it allows specific targeting, and leveraging the medium as an interactive platform. Once a critical mass is reached via mass media, the business of specialization comes into play. Agencies too have improvised and are offering specialized services. More advertisers are seeking new platforms, alternate mediums, new ideas & insights, fresh thinking on their brands to reach out to their customers.


Tier 2 and 3 cities have gained significant importance and will become the next big consumption hub. As the rules of engagement change and evolve, advertisers need to talk to these consumers on more 1-on-1 platforms in both local language and nuance; and media agencies need to provide customized and tailor made solutions.



Man Jit Singh, President, Indian Broadcasting Foundation and CEO, Multi Screen Media

The biggest set of takeaways is that when the industry comes together and when the ministry (MIB) comes together with the industry, we can achieve significant things. Digitization has been a collective effort of four stakeholders: broadcasters, MSOs, LCOs, and certainly, MIB. The Ministry has been instrumental in bringing about digitization, which is a huge achievement. And this is a big takeaway – when we all work together and make compromises to make something successful, we will succeed.


The second thing that governed this year is the whole issue of self-regulation. By setting up an independent commission by Justice Shah, I think we proved that the industry can take an initiative and can actually regulate itself successfully by addressing complaints and resolving them.


Jasmin Sohrabji, CEO, Omnicom Media Group

Another year done and dusted! And while many of us will reminisce the new opportunities 2012 brought us, the new platforms, the distribution changes etcetera and so forth, some age old questions still remain a challenge. How do we divvy up the pie? We live in evolving times, and I am just as excited as the next planner about the multiple ways to not just reach out but engage with our customers. Two decades ago we asked ourselves how much TV do I introduce to my primarily print plan? Later, it was how much C&S to my TV plan? The questions were not so deep with regard to some of the lesser used mediums. Then came digital. Not satisfied with its insignificant presence among the ‘other’ media, the medium is proliferating and taking over our lives like never before. So now the obvious question…how much digital? As the ad pie threatens to remain stubbornly flat, or with more realistic single digit growth in the years to come, it will be both challenging and interesting to see a third medium demanding not just our attention in engaging the consumer, but finding critical budgets. Like we often ask ourselves is there room for another GEC or news channel, we will be looking at our media budgets and say the same – is there room for another significant medium in the pie or do we de-prioritise another? If yes, who? How much? Why?


As we spend our holidays enjoying pies of another kind, see you in 2013 with some answers and directions. Happy Holidays!


Ajit Varghese, Managing Director, South Asia, Maxus

The year 2012 has been clearly a year of uncertainty in real sense. Even in 2009, we all knew that we were heading for recession. But 2012 did not live up to any predicted trends – up or down! Ever-changing economy, changing expectations almost every month, nothing going as per predictions. These kind of times brings out the best in managing business top line and bottom line, and how investing in fundamentals helps sustain the crests and troughs. Investing in good products managed by a set of good people, investing in building process and organization and ability to command a good price for quality service is fundamental to our business.


The challenge of course has been to keep the spirits and ambitions of teams up when outcomes may not be as desired and fast as we all want to.


One of the key learnings has been that tried and tested formulas will give us the same results as anybody else in the market. Brands which are willing to think a bit different and put their conviction and monies behind it are able to stand out and get unexpected results. The key is to invest more and more on understanding the consumer better and developing insights which can be leveraged upon.


Balu.V, Rainman Consulting

The most noteworthy learning: Given the many talks of “new age media” across various forums by many, and many brands in the process of embracing it and using it many forms for a better consumer connect, in Asia, TV still rules in terms of response. “New age media” here refers to all forms of “digital” media. TV not only plays a crucial role in driving the business metrics of brands, it also play a pivotal role in driving the consumers to digital media. Maybe because of low digital penetration in this market, but what one expected was of a different degree of influence by this medium – “the new age media”. It seems not wise to take resources from traditional media and re-plough it on new age media in the current context in the Asia market, but to sustain traditional media investment and bring in additional resources to back “new age” media. This may be a short-term effect, and surely as in the US as the market evolves may be future years could witness a totally reverse picture, but from the current time point of view this was a great insight I personally got. This came from various projects implemented by RainMan for various Asia markets. To add, the scene was totally different for brands in the US!


Challenge: The hype about “Big Data”. It has become a fashion these days amongst industry circles to utter this word. The challenge is to put this in the right perspective by any marketer in this market. It looks like it’s going to take some time for this to really take off for Indian clients.


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