Somewhat Seriously: Martin beats Arnab 7-4 in Shadow Boxing

19 Aug,2014


By Sanjeev Kotnala


Thank you IAA for making it possible. One can see why the IAA India Chapter won the most active IAA Chapter award recently.


Sir Martin Sorrell (SMS) gave a basic course in TACKLING Arnab Goswami (AG). From the world GO, SMS opened with Cricket stating that it seems MSD seems to be a captain with fixed thinking. Then he fired His question. How have the elections been for you? An open-ended conversation that followed with: why was there a gap between the Rahul and Modi interviews?  It forced AG to go in a detailed explanation. It was half-way through his comment that AG realized it was he who was supposed to be asking the questions.


The election discussion closed with SMS probing. When the Congress says the media is to blame for their debacle, were they referring to media as media or you? AG in self-congratulating mode pointed out the Rahul English media exposure was limited to Times Now.


I wish that Indian politicians should not watch this show when it’s telecast or is on Youtube. They may learn how a tactfully well-prepared person, with smile and humour can enjoy the discussion. How to be precise in your answer, not allow AG to corner you or allow him to put words in your mouth. SMS seem to have taken the advice in yesterday’s post.


AG started with -‘I am honoured to be interviewing you and I have great regards… ‘ Was turned by SMS into a class for politely being rude. SMS said ‘you can be sure it’s going to be tough one and dam sure if the guy says ‘Personally I have nothing against you’.


AG – there is respect in your well-preparedness and being very focused in your approach and questions. You as always were well-prepared with your data, quote and historical references. But today, you did meet someone who betters in it.


SMS ON MEDIA: There is a mismatch between, the amount of time the consumer devotes or by the way the consumer consumes media and the investment (read advertising revenues) by agencies and client in it. Pointed out that this will find its balance. Fragmented media is a challenge and it will get more challenging with time.


SMS ON TAM:  AG half-volley  ‘Your comment on TAM’ was met with a nice cover drive ‘Nice Company’.  Keeping the Indian scenario out of discussion, SMS pointed out that in most  (I did hear him say all) of the companies there is only one TV audience measurement currency. Can there be 1-2 or 3 measurement currencies is something that the market will decide.  AG doosara on does TAM (read SMS) need to wait for government directive for enhancing TV Meter numbers was hit hard. SMS pointed out that additional meters means additional cost and it must be shared by the agencies, client and the channels must share the burden.  Reiterating that WPP is committed to provide the most accurate measurement, he made a point that it’s not meters alone but a willingness to shift measurement process with change in consumer habits is required. Giving an example he cited the use of C+3 and C+7 meters that track not only on-air but deferred viewing.


SMS ON INDIA AND CHANGES: The Independence Week made AG continuously probe SMS outside the off-stump. Is India at the Vortex of change? Can India- made media be global?  SMS showed a straight bat. He was optimistic that the new strong leadership in government is coupled with strong commercial leadership, then India which has been in the wrong side of the history for so long would definitely see a change.  And that it is advisable for the businesses to first exhaust the local opportunities before looking out.


SMS ON FURTHER INVESTMENT BUYOUTS IN INDIA: He rattled off that WWP business in India is about 499 Million. And growing @ 10%. Talking to Sam (Balsara), he said: ‘If there is a business opportunity that is 50 million worth, he would consider it and is willing to write a blank cheque.” SMS thinks that his competitors in recent past have made some ill-advised low-leveraged investments and that is starting to reflect in their figures.


SAM AND SMS: Sam raised a probing question that in the Indian situation where TV and Print (the legacy media) dominants. The foreigners (like you) come and talk just digital-digital. Are you not missing the bus?  In SMS’s view: “This is true as of now but all businesses have to look future-ready. I am not sure when the tipping point will come and change the dynamics. But it will come surely, with the speed of change speeding up’.


SMS ON THREAT.  The biggest threat is not competition but Complacency, Arrogance, Satisfaction and lack of energy. He said he is a disruption freak. All his life the growth has come from disruption.


SMS ON BALANCE. He referred to his divorce as an example. His lawyers had two possible solution and they asked: what was more important – business or family.  Not surprising, the answer is both.  This was when AG tried creating a 2×2 matrix between King and God on one side and Data and Analysis on another. SMS went to the extent of drilling the point home in more ways then one. As per him, creative and data, science and art, gut feel and analysis are such a pair where balance is more important.  Balance is not something that’s 50-50, but the right mix. Whenever the pendulum would swing to one side creating a biased skew: correction will be needed.


MY SPECIAL:  (1) SAM, can we raise the same question on legacy v/s new media for all the discussion that happens in Indian forums? And many such places you are one of the guiding force? (2) I am surprised at the limited attendance to the event. At any stage, there were not more than 120 people in hall set for 150-plus. IAA could start planned invitation push (even paid) public beyond their members for such an event.  (3) Liked SMS referring to AG as a fly buzzing. (2) Liked AG comparing SMS to a Smart Politician and we would know where that feeling was coming from.


Disclaimer: The above personal interpretation of the discussion.


Aside: In a fraternity meet like this, with most being media or IAA invitees or senior people- this long introduction of SMS and AG- was that required?  I personally felt it went too long.


Sanjeev Kotnala is Head Catalyst, P1P2Solutions. The views expressed here are his own


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