Betting big on India with data analytics & search

29 May,2015

 

By Ravi Balakrishnan

 

Starcom MediaVest Group’s CEO Laura Desmond in conversation about building a media and content company that is future-ready:

 

This is something we’ve always wanted to ask a media agency CEO. What are your media consumption habits like?

I am a daily online newspaper reader: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist and then the newspaper of my city, The Chicago Tribune. I spend a decent amount of time with Twitter and Facebook keeping up with friends, getting news and information. When I am home, I watch a lot of sports. That’s what gets my attention, if I’m watching something live. Everything else is time shifted. I saw the first couple of seasons of Mad Men on my iPad in planes. I also watch Breaking Bad, Homeland and Jimmy Kimmel.

 

Maurice Levy has spoken about how he’d like Publicis to be a hybrid between an internet and an advertising holding company. Where does SMG fit into those plans?

SMG is not only at the centre of those plans, in some respects, it has led some of the thinking. Agencies and companies that have made a commitment to data and ad tech will drive the business and have a bright future. Those who do not risk losing scale and becoming irrelevant. Over the last three years, we’ve been working on Playbook 2017. It’s about moving on from a world where we have driven digital billings as a source of our business to about 55 per cent. We’ve jumped the analogue-divide. We are more of a digital, data and content company

 

You’ve bagged a lot of trophies at the creative awards of late. Did that require a different approach?

In 2014, we were global network of the year at Cannes, the Effies and Festival of Media — that’s never been done before. We wanted to commit to them since we saw those platforms as a way to elevate the craft of our work. Our view is that media not only should be the distributor of big ideas but can create them via partnerships as well as understanding how people live and what they need.

 

We created a global product committee about 5 years ago. 25 leaders around the world meet four times a year to review our work, develop strategic initiatives for some of our focus clients looking for breakthroughs and guide entries at all award shows. A lot of media companies just want to be about scale. And that’s selling what media can and should do, so short. Effective media and communication is really creativity, scale and technology all coming together.

 

You’d made a video on five do’s and don’ts for agencies sending entries to Cannes. How well are they followed at SMG?

(Laughs) We are a lot better than we used to be. Like everyone, we are guilty of falling in love with work too much, not editing enough and using tech insider language. We really need to work hard on trying to make our work and how we talk about it simple. Sometimes there’s too much sausage making going on.

 

How satisfied are you with the Indian operations?

It’s a very important emerging market. And very important when it comes to strategic developments with data analytics and search. As you know, we acquired Convonix two years ago and it’s more than doubled in size. It’s working for Tata and Lodha, two of the largest clients in the country, and doing global search work for nine of our global network clients across the UK, the US, Europe and Latin America.

 

15 per cent of the workforce in SMG lives and works in a market outside of their home country. I met the team at Convonix and issued a challenge that I’d like to see 10 per cent to 15 per cent of them go across the global network.

 

The future leaders of SMG and other media companies will be global citizens who work and live abroad. They don’t have to be from the UK or the US at all. But no matter where you come from, you need to have a global outlook.

 

Has the nature of what your clients expect from an agency like yours changed?

We are trying to understand where the future dynamics are going and building capability around it. We bring the ideas to our clients many of whom are very supportive. Some of the things we have been building is a suite around data and analytics. We are working on understanding paths to purchase. Incredibly important tools for clients who need to understand what’s working and why. We’ve also developed our content practice. We are not interested being in the 30 second ad business; that’s for others. But content that can live inside a show or associated with a program that has a halo effect on the brand’s equity and vice versa.

 

Are there any acquisitions on the anvil in India?

Quite possibly yes but we never give anything away too soon. We have zeroed in on the digital business, performance and content.

 

Source:The Economic Times

Copyright © 2015, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd.

All Rights Reserved, Licensed to republish

 

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