Ajay Gupte, CEO - South Asia, Wavemaker, says the five-year-old agency is on track to add Rs 700 crore worth of new business in areas like performance marketing, e-commerce, first-party data management, etc.
Wavemaker, the GroupM-owned media agency is turning five in 2022. The agency which boasts clients like Mondelez, L’Oreal, Myntra, Netflix, Perfetti van Melle, Tata Consumer Products, and Policy Bazaar added 10% in new billings from inorganic business wins this year.
In 2022 alone the agency won business from TrueCaller, KreditBee, Sharekhan, VIP Industries, Kisna Jewellers, CoinDCX, PayTM First Games, Danone, and Audible.
The company gained business worth Rs 1,500 crore in the last two years and is on track to maintain the Rs 700 crore run rate in new billings, says Ajay Gupte, CEO - South Asia, Wavemaker.
In an interview with afaqs!, Gupte speaks about the agency’s innovative work, the evolving needs of marketers, and more.
Wavemaker has been creating work that goes beyond the plain mandate of a media-buying agency. Some of it has won you accolades and awards. What is the direction that Wavemaker is headed in now?
What you see is the result of a path we set out on five years ago - there is a method to the madness. Wavemaker has the DNA of both MEC and Maxus. Maxus was known for being innovative, being ahead of its time and doing things differently. That DNA has carried on and we have built on our capabilities.
Our client base also gives us a lot of opportunities to work on creative ideas. And once we create something on one plan, it opens up our minds to other opportunities with other clients. It's a virtuous cycle that we are enjoying and have been able to build on.
We have also recognised that engaging with the consumer is important for our clients. Earlier, clients used to look at us for their top-funnel needs - creating awareness and brand love, etc. But today we are supporting clients throughout the marketing funnel.
We have built capabilities in brand advocacy (influencer marketing), content writing, and film production by hiring talent from those industries to help us create opportunities. We are combining these practices with data.
You will be surprised to know that 83% of the new hires we made in the last year were for new areas. Audience scientists, data scientists, e-commerce specialists, content experts, performance marketing executives, web 3.0 experts, etc. Further, about 25% of our staff is in areas beyond core media (TV, print, radio, and digital).
How large is the team does the allied work that supports the core business of media buying and planning at Wavemaker India?
You will be surprised to know that 83% of the new hires we made in the last year were for new areas. Audience scientists, data scientists, e-commerce specialists, content experts, performance marketing executives, web 3.0 experts, etc.
Further, about 25% of our staff is in areas beyond core media (TV, print, radio, and digital). Digital media buying is now a core business. This is showing very clearly in the work that we are doing right now.
Since 2020, what have been the big changes in the requirements brand marketers have from their media agency?
Clients have recognised that the full funnel is important. For example, e-commerce was mainly used by non-FMCG brands, but that is no more the case. Clients are now looking at us to not only support them with awareness, but also in consideration, and down the funnel to making the purchase.
We are in the best position to support them because we are already managing the top funnel. We are in the communication business with strong ties in the entertainment business so we are able to create opportunities for brands in the middle funnel and with e-commerce, we manage purchase too. E-commerce here does not refer to media buying on these platforms but other aspects such as the right choice of delivery partner, SKUs to sell online, the images to display, which markets to target, etc.
The impending cookieless future makes it extremely important for clients to build their own customer base and target them. We are helping clients create their first-party data ecosystem. We started doing this with a couple of banks. Now we work with 25 clients for whom we manage the entire first-party data ecosystem.
Earlier, clients used to look at us for their top-funnel needs - creating awareness and brand love, etc. But today we are supporting clients throughout the marketing funnel.
Has 2022 been a good year from a business standpoint? Are you maintaining the same run rate as the last two years - Rs 700 crore in new billings?
We have had a fairly good year. We have been able to add about 10% more in billing from new businesses which is inorganic growth. That apart I am really thrilled about the kind of new business that we have won - performance marketing, e-commerce clients (not media buying), data science and analytics, etc.
The 10% in new billings does translate to approximately Rs 700 crore. Because we are winning a lot of businesses in these new areas we can further strengthen our capabilities and expertise in these verticals.
You also lost the Rs 600 crore-worth ITC business this year. What has been your key takeaway from this loss?
It has undoubtedly been a big loss and is one of the few losses that we had in a very long time. We have been regularly retaining businesses like L’Oreal, Mondelez, Tata Consumer Business (expanded the mandate) and Vodafone.
A loss of this kind hits hard, not just as a business but also from a reputation and calibre standpoint. There are some things beyond our control that we cannot do anything about.
We need to focus on the positives. We had started doing some innovative work for ITC. One such was the metaverse store for ITC’s Fabelle chocolate in the first metaverse wedding to take place in India. Although the numbers were not big, it was the ability to have done something different.
I am very hopeful that we will be missed and be able to generate the kind of pull needed to get ITC back.
We have just seen an advertising blitzkrieg for the festive season. Are advertisers now turning cautious because of macroeconomic factors? When can we expect advertisers to loosen purse strings?
The caution among advertisers is driven by three main reasons: input costs going up and margins getting squeezed, start-ups practising a lot of austerities, and the third factor is that a lot of companies have global roots; global pessimism is rubbing off on us.
However, the consumer is optimistic and there is a lot of spending taking place. Provided nothing goes wrong globally, India will certainly bounce back somewhere towards the end of the first quarter.