The sun has just risen on Goafest 2010! On the opening day of the extravaganza, the Discovery Channel India Leadership Conclave, titled '2010: Time to Grow', witnessed experts debating over various issues before the Indian advertising industry.
In the second session of the day, titled 'Time to Grow: Brand and Creativity', Piyush Mathur, managing director, Nielsen South Asia; Shiv Moulee, chief client officer and director, global solutions board, Millward Brown; Rajaram Narayan, vice-president (hair care and Lakme event), Hindustan Unilever; Piyush Pandey, executive chairperson and creative director, Ogilvy South Asia; and Arun Tadanki, chief executive officer, Yahoo discussed if brands are growing fast enough in the Indian market and has creativity risen to the occasion to drive and grow brands.
Mathur was the first speaker who began his discourse by lauding the Indian creative agencies.
"The kind of creativity I see here is world class. As I came back to India, I began loving my name all the more," he quipped, hinting at his namesake Pandey being the celebrated personality in Indian advertising.
Mathur, through relevant data, said that while the fast moving consumer goods and durables categories have shown double digit growth even amidst the slowdown in 2009, media expenditure declined in comparison.
"2009 was like a pit stop in a car race. It was a time when tyres were changed, the car was refuelled and bolts were changed for the growth ahead," he said.
Mathur suggested looking at states as a country, recognising the rural opportunities and an interesting concept called 'Indovation' as growth drivers for the future.
Indovation, he said, was a word coined by an academician from Cambridge University and refers to the innovation emanating from India.
Moulee followed Mathur and spoke on 'Attention Economy and the Challenge of Choice'. He talked about how creativity in context with the brand is of prime significance. Emphasising that consumer engagement is the "reality of today", he suggested that engagement with brands is showing a declining trend.
"Challenge for advertising begins at the starting point - cutting through the clutter," he said.
While reiterating that India is equal to any other country when it came to effective advertising, he observed that effectiveness came more from the money spent than the creative impact.
"People remember our ads. Where we fail is how people cannot link those ads to brands. Branding has declined over the past few years," he remarked. "We may be telling better stories but are we telling better brand stories? We are not meeting the challenge of branding," he added.
Hindustan Unilever's Narayan put forward his views on what holds back big Indian brands - lack of creativity or lack of media support. Like Mathur, he, too, observed that the spends have come down.
"Advertising spend is one lever for growth. However, it is not seen as important enough. In times of uncertainty, advertising spend is the first casualty," he said. He noted that as brands grow, advertising competes with other levers for growth and that the right kind of capabilities needs to be developed to push brand growth.
He ended his presentation with the remark that when creativity delivers, investment will follow.
The stage was well set with Narayan's remark for Pandey to present his perspective. He spoke on what needs to be done to make advertising sell better.
Pandey, being his usual crisp self, asked, "Are we serious about advertising helping sell more?"
"No," he answered himself.
Already facing a time crunch, he kept his speech brief as he pointed out the large amount of time spent on researching as clients are serviced. He cited the example of Vodafone Zoozoos as a successful campaign that was not researched beforehand.
"The client community is playing it safe and making it difficult for advertising. They are blowing up a lot of money," he sharply noted.
Pandey was no less severe on the creative side, either. "The other problem is us. We are busy blowing a lot of money on irrelevant things," he said.
The final speaker for the session, Tadanki, spoke on how digital is the missing link in the advertiser's arsenal. He said that digital advertising is an "unknown animal" because of the many pre-conceived notions held by advertisers about the Internet. He refuted the misconceptions of an advertiser that the Internet is not a niche medium anymore or that it only has a young and urban reach with substantial data.
Tadanki also added that advertisers continue to do what has already worked earlier and are hesitant to try newer things. He cited the example of how cars are advertised in print while advertisers forget that a potential buyer will surely look for more details on any particular car on the Internet.
According to Tadanki, insufficient allocation to digital would not work and the Internet media is wrongly measured by advertisers.
"We must unlearn the measure of 'clicks'. Just measuring clicks to conclude the effectiveness of advertising is incorrect," he said. He also suggested that creative agencies do not assign the best of resources to digital projects and said that serious attention is not being paid to creative development.
He concluded by saying that very few brands have leveraged the digital medium when the Internet can be used just like any other medium to build brands.
As Kamath summed up the discussion, Pandey, in his closing remark, said, "The classic dilemma is that one side wants to see advertising as a science while the other sees it as an art. Advertising is not science; everybody would be doing it otherwise."