Embracing the New Consumer

19 Dec,2014


By Shruti Pushkarna


The Advertising Club’s popular annual event, Media Review 2014 was held at the DLF City Club, Gurgaon on Thursday (Dec 18) evening. In its 60th year, the Advertising Club decided to tweak the format of the media review in its latest edition. Unlike the previous editions, there were three eminent speakers speaking on varied topics. CVL Srinivas, CEO South Asia, GroupM spoke on ‘Redefining the role of media agencies in a borderless world’. HT Media CEO, Rajiv Verma also spoke on similar lines, differing only in restricting his topic to redefining the role of ‘print’ media. The third speaker, Shashi Sinha, CEO, IPG Mediabrands spoke on, ‘Separate and Together: The future is about being specialist and holistic’.


There was a lot of talk of redefining and reinventing the roles of media agencies in the new digital era and what to expect of the future trends but Mr Sinha, summed it up in a most appropriate way when he said, “We have to manage our present in order to reinvent our future”. He emphasised on the need to tell stories in a way that they evolve and reinvent the future automatically.


As in any other forum that takes place today, there was talk of integration, the need to align different cultures and different mediums to effectively send out a message. There was also anxiety expressed on whether older mediums like Print will hold value in the growing digital world. But the concluding remarks hit the notes of optimism that rode on the back of realigning and in assimilation of various models present today, to arrive at that ‘magic model’ of communication.


Redefining the role of media agencies in a borderless world

CVL Srinivas, CEO South Asia, GroupM opened his session speaking about the evolution of the media agency and trying to define a ‘borderless world’.


He compared the evolution of man with the evolution of media agency, which he said was presently in its fifth stage. The first stage of media evolution, according to Mr Srinivas, happened in the mid 1990s when media buying shops were being set up in India. The next stage came when media planning business moved out of the creative agencies. After which most media agencies started to diversify, setting up allied businesses, beit outdoor or digital, in order toprovide what they called, 360-degree solutions.


He said, “We started off as a little chimp who is standing right in the back, as being the backroom office and I was one of the chimps when I’d joined the industry in the early 90s, following the client servicing guys wherever they went, hoping to get my five minutes to present my 80-odd slides. From then to now, it’s been quite a journey. But where we are today is at a very interesting stage. Whatever changes have happened in the last four to five years have forced media agencies to take on an entirely new avatar.”


Trying to define a borderless world, Mr Srinivas cited the example of a Facebook map which stands for a connected world. Since the world we live in has all the customers connected and well informed, there is an urgent need for brands to not just stay relevant but also remain meaningful. Mr Srinivas said he sees an opportunity for agencies in this newly connected world, He said, “Today it’s not enough to be a trusted adviser of clients. Agencies can move up the value chain by moving from advising clients to leading clients.”


In the digital era, added Mr Srinivas, a lot of disruption is taking place because of exceedingly available data and technology. He also mentioned some disruptive trends that agencies can take advantage of by designing content strategies around them. One of them was multi-screen viewing, which as a study by Milward Brown on ‘ad reaction in India’ states, is a growing trend in the Indian market. More and more Indian consumers are involved in multi-screen viewing. Milward Brown notes that by 2020, it’s estimated that about 50 to 60% of mobile owning population of India will have smartphones. Mr Srinivas added, “If you put that alongside with the kind of decreasing involvement in TV viewership, the whole ball game completely changes.”


Another disrupter is e-commerce or m-commerce as some would like to call it. Mr Srinivas observed that because now consumers are using a digital gadget to close the loop, agencies have an opportunity to interact with the consumer up to the last mile.


Brands are also getting into publishing and that is turning out to be a disrupter too. They are standing for functional benefits. The more content a brand can keep sending out, the more they can interact with the consumers. “Brands realize that it’s important to become a franchise of content because then a consumer interacts with the brand in so many more ways”, said Mr Srinivas.


Talking of new trends in audience planning, CVL Srinivas said, “We have to move from contextual planning to audience planning with the help of data and the digital. Manual processes will give way to automated processes. We also need to build different communities within the organization.”


CVL Srinivas concluded his session by once again emphasising the importance of reinventing and redefining the role of media agencies and the need to take advantage of every new point where you can touch the consumer directly.


Redefining the role of print media in a borderless world

HT Media CEO Rajiv Verma started his session on a similar note as Mr Srinivas. He also started by talking oh the history of media and how it has shaped up through the centuries. He divided it into three eras, Pre Media, Mass Media and Infinite media. He confessed that all this talk of the ‘cool digital world’ has had him worried about the future of print but since the infinite media we live in is younger than our kids, he still had some hope. He said, “Infinite media is younger than our kids so it’s not even a blink of an eye in the entire chronologue of media evolution. Therefore it’s just the beginning.  And there’s scope for all mediums to coexist.”


He talked about how reporting has changed over the years and yet the essence remains the same, finding out accurate information and putting it out there. “From one half-hour news bulletin in a day to the days of embedded journalism that began with the Iraq war to today’s day and age where the model of reporting has shifted from ‘one to many’ to ‘many to many’, we have come a long way,” he said.


In a borderless world, media is no longer acting as a filter. It has become more ubiquitous.  He reiterated Mr Srinivas’ point of massive amount of disruption that is taking place today, which presents huge opportunities for business.


But Mr Verma wasn’t all that optimistic as Mr Srinivas as he stated that the digital has its own problems. He said, “In the age of digital reporting, before the truth gets known, the virality takes over. The lines between blogs, tweets, photos are blurring; becoming a mish mash of data and information. The war for ad $s is leading more to noise rather than to news. And the pressure of ad $s is leading to trivialization of news.”


He emphasized on the unique characteristics of print media, like, the written word is still the most trusted word. He said print can go beyond straight facts, presenting a range of views and building a sense of community among its readers.


He concluded on an optimistic note stating that print will coexist along with other media given its unique characteristics. He said, “While all these disruptive forces are at play, the real question that comes to mind is that print media will have to go back to basics in figuring out its comparative advantages, what is exactly is the audience it’s trying to serve and try to go more hyper local in serving that audience because that’s the only unique characteristic of print media which differentiates it from others.”


Separate and Together: The future is about being specialist and holistic

The last session saw Shashi Sinha, CEO, IPG Mediabrands, reiterating the points made in the previous two sessions, adding a few new ones.


Shashi Sinha, CEO, IPG Mediabrands, started the session with the word ‘Integration’. He talked of his own career where he started off with advertising and what integration meant in those days, and then talked of the need to integrate not just ideas and processes, but to integrate, mindsets, culture and philosophies, in order to remain relevant.


He also emphasized on the need to embrace the new consumer. He said: “Consumer wants to be the protagonist, he/she wants to be at the center of communication. He/she doesn’t want to be bored with information. Just tell them how it impacts them and how can they participate.So there’s a need for consumers to be constantly engaged and constantly touched.”


He added that what’s important in today’s ever-changing media environment is the need to tell a powerful story. He said, “The success of any model depends on the story and its storyteller. You have to play it together to tell a story. We have to manage the present and as we manage the present, the stories will evolve for us to reinvent the future. And keep your stories simple.”


He concluded by saying that while we live in an increasingly specialist world, without integration we will not be able to remain relevant to the new age consumer. He said, “In this specialist world, where you have Starbucks, Café Coffee Day and Barista, I still have my coffee from the baker.”


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