Sanjeev Kotnala: Will The New Decade Be Any Different?

02 Jan,2020



By Sanjeev Kotnala


Welcome, 2020. Two decades of the century are over. The next one starts. Will it be different? The industry shifts and changes are like climate change. We know they are happening. However, seeing the real impact takes time.



The brands continue to work hard experimenting with new approaches in the era of information. Brands are busy finding an original purpose to create positive perceptions in the consumer’s mind.

Till date the record is dismal. Most brands with purpose have failed to align the whole organisation with the purpose. The result: they have been unable to deliver the same language across every touchpoint or experience. Many brand purposes are non-strategic and have a short life. The consumer quickly sees through the brand’s opportunistic behaviour. It leads to dissonance. The consumer continues to expect the brands to speak to them in a simple language. Be aligned and in-sync through the experience while delivering the best solution for the covert or overt need.

Today, information access and placement is easy. And the audience is unable to separate the true from the false. The information available on the internet is questionable. Consumers continue to react with limited or misinterpreted information. In real terms, perception is adulterated with reality.

The herd mentality is a reality. The audiences tend to hook on to a leader, subject or even information and blindly follow it. There is a churn within the influencers. They are being questioned for their impact and intent. The consumer is no longer sure if they can trust the peer and consumer reviews, which are simply polarised. The review industry is course-correcting by making them more genuine sounding.

The product margin continues to drop, and service expectations continue to rise. The efficiency of templated SOP continues to be tweaked. The products and services keep getting threatened with new technology and business models.



The fight between Traditional and Digital continues. Agencies, CMOs and Media owners continue to have a non-polarised point-of-view.

The life of a CMO is getting more marginalised. The CMO’s tenure is further shortened by complexities of the environment and misplaced expectations. The CMO’s vision has been narrowed down from annual to QSQT and in many places restricted to the next project or the next month. Some CMOs gamble with bold, innovative experimentative consumer connect, some remain risk-averse. No one knows what the best practice is.

Innovation and insight continue to be mismanaged and ill-defined. Communication and Marketing seem to be teamwork run by the idea and budget dictators. People fail to understand that marketing is not always about what you are doing but equally important is what you sacrifice, what you decide not to do.



The role of the agencies and advertising business continues to evolve and redesigned under newer threats. The blame game continues. Neither is the idea plagiarism dead, nor is the idea shopping.

ASCI seem to be gaining strength. Ad Club and AAAI continue on a template path. Regional Ad Clubs keep to their turf. IAA keeps surprising with multiple high impact programmes. The media covering the advertising and marketing industry keeps finding enough content to fill spaces.

The awards, across media, business and creativity, keep multiplying. The issue of scam advertising remains unresolved. There is no unanimous celebration of excellence. The new breed only complains, and most remains uninterested in taking a position of responsibility within Industry associations. The camps within the industry keep their amniotic behaviour.



People who sold their privacy to the devil we know as social media now want protection. They still continue to take on apps and services, carelessly signing un-read contracts and saying ‘I Agree’. The charm of free-of-cost service or membership to a loyalty circus continues to come at a hidden cost. The trap is already shut.

The social platforms are unable to secure user data. Everything is threatened and watched. The CCTV cameras that give you a false sense of security and confidence comes at the cost of privacy at private and public places.

The trolls continue to troll and cribbers continue to crib. The audience remains confused.



The grey between the black and white is slowly but surely getting erased. The need to take a polarised stance is forcing people to make comments and statements they may later regret. There is a cost associated with all this, but that can wait.



The traditional media keeps on fighting for its share of the pie. New OTT platforms continue to surprise and entertain. The discount model at e-commerce continues in its aim to get the loyalty of buyers. The digital media continues to be under a cloud of non-transparency and issues that no one has any solutions. The measurement matrices keep getting finer but remain under scrutiny. New buzzwords are coming and exiting faster than winter fashion.

Arnab Goswami continues to make up his mind and be the judge in his debates. Every channel on the set-top-box breaks breaking news. Newspapers try holding to their credibility and trust. Digital still gets quotes as emerging and new media. Entertainment TV keeps dishing the similar content of Saas-Bahu, Naagin, reality shows and contests.

BARC keeps evolving and promising new edge data and insights. IRS continues to walk on the edge, trying to find balance by keeping everyone happy. It continually improves the research methodology and implementation. Yet, they failed to promise a date calendar for the release. The industry willing accepts it.

Radio and OOH is lost in the way keep chugging without any real measurement matrices. Big players try surrogate measurement, but a syndicated study remains elusive.



The new digital native population is questioning education. There is a muted response to national pride, its rich history and culture. Consumers are talking heath, patriotism and social issues. They find fault with everything they experience. The voice is of crib and disappointment is overpowering the limited view of appreciation and joys. The politicians are busy serving the vote bank policy. The parliamentarians keep abstaining from essential debates. The will of the voters is crushed under political alliance and greed.



Women empowerment continues to remains on the agenda. There is no social revolution, but only strategic trending hashtags. Safety of women continues to come under strict ‘Terms and conditions apply’.

Regionalism, languages and religionist keep fragmenting the nation. Law and order remain an issue. The economy remains questionable, and frauds keep happening. The protectors of law and order are threatened to the extent they need protection.



Big Data remains under a cloud of mystery. Agencies are doing a lot of work in this area. Digital remains the centre of attraction and the new toy and tool for the industry. Bitcoins keep finding new buyers. Blockchain promises a few solutions. AR and VR wait for full exploitation continues. Research and research methodologies are argued while the sample sizes keep shrinking with the rising cost. Intrinsic research continues to wait for scaling up.

It is becoming easier to create a TVC or DVC. The creative dependent on edit and effect machines for changes, corrections and enhancement. Everything seems possible. The distances are being curbed, but the value of face-to-face interaction remains unchallenged.



No, it will be wrong to say the change has not happened. Like everyone else, the industry cannot afford to not-be-impacted with the changes happening in its surrounding business and social environment. Yet, the difference is unrecognisable.

There is a hope and a firm belief that in the new era, we might see more changes that we will immediately identify. They will be more innovative and disruptive. Their impact will be sharper and more pronounced.

People may take a stance only after knowing the fact. They may be equally gracious in appreciations as aggressive they are in their complaints. People may finally use their judgement and share or forward things only after deliberation. People definitely will be more inclusive in their opinion and lives. However, whatever you may do, the WhatsApp group will time to time surprise you with your popularity and the size of your well-wishers. They will be full of wishes, motivational quotes and season greetings.



There is no point in continuing the discussion. Each one of us in the position of responsibility and accountability must take a stance and correct our behaviour. Things will change, and I believe they will. And by the next year, this may be seen as total gibberish.



Sanjeev Kotnala is a senior marketing and strategy advisor and educator. He writes for MxMIndia every Wednesday. His views here are personal


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