"TV data, measured by a third party, is granular": Shashi Sinha

By Anirban Roy Choudhury, afaqs!, Mumbai | January 30, 2018
The IPG Mediabrands India CEO spoke to Janine Stein in a face to face.
Shashi Sinha

Shashi Sinha

CEO, IPG Mediabrands India

A veteran in the media and entertainment industry, Shashi Sinha is known for speaking his heart out without twisting words and dodging questions. He lived up to his reputation when he sat face-to-face with Janine Stein, editorial director Content Asia, at vdonxt asia 2018. She threw question after question and the IPG Mediabrands India CEO answered them all in succession without hesitation.

Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India's digital arm, EKAM, is one of the most talked about factors in the digital ecosystem today. In the two-day digital video convention (vdonxt asia 2018) several speakers came up on stage and spoke about the importance of a third party measurement body tracking digital video and how it can bring positive changes.

The fact is, Facebook and Google today are the two big boys in the ecosystem with walled gardens around them who enjoy about 85 per cent of the digital advertising spends. They also pose an immense threat to the smaller players because of the numbers they garner or rather, those that they claim to garner.

Smaller players in the digital video ecosystem are inclined towards a third-party measurement body tracking digital video data; marketers are also on the same plane. Stein spoke to Sinha to find out where he stands and what he hears from his (IPG Mediabrands') clients...

Edited Excerpts

Janine: Which platform provides more granular data at the moment, TV or Digital?

Shashi: TV! Because the data you get is verified by an independent third party.

Janine: And is that why TV is more premium, more expensive?

Shashi: There are many other reasons too, but yes, this is one of the reasons why TV is more expensive.

Janine: Would you like to see more transparency in digital?

Shashi: Absolutely!

Janine: So you are backing EKAM?

Shashi: 100 per cent, actually more than that...

Janine: Do you believe that what EKAM is trying to achieve is possible?

Shashi: Yes, not only possible but it's imminent too. I think every stakeholder wants it, including the big boys with the walled gardens. One of the biggest things that my clients (brands) want today is measurement. BARC has been doing TV for the last 3 years now and digital guys have seen merit in this; you won't believe the biggest boys in the ecosystem, who you think are apprehensive, are actually pushing us to start. It is just that we need to find a common framework.

Janine: We have read headlines like "Time over for the rest, only the big boys will survive" and 85 per cent and all, do you think initiatives like EKAM will help smaller guys?

Shashi: The best content will win, irrespective of the platform. It is happening on television today; it's the program that gets you the ratings and not the platform (channel). I see the same thing happening on digital too, viewers will chase content and advertisers will chase eyeballs. Now if it will be the bigger players or if quality content resides somewhere else, we don't know.

Janine: Apart from measurement, what are the other things that your clients want?

Shashi: Apart from measurement, there are a couple of other challenges. There are a lot of clients; so far their whole psyche was video for TV, your TV ads and all that. Digital video is dramatically different from TV and not all understand it and those who understand it, actually do not have the talent to execute it. The other day one of my biggest clients came to me and asked - "... could you make 200 digital videos for us at a certain price?" -200 videos is a hell of a lot!

Janine: How do you view content marketing and what according to you, is the biggest challenge in a client's understanding of content marketing versus advertising?

Shashi: I think advertising is a bit linear; what trigger to press at what stage of the consumer journey is the first challenge and I must say a lot of evolved clients get that. Having said that, I think the problem in this country is you need huge volumes; there are different markets, different geographies, in TVCs you simply do a language dub and go on, in this case, the sensibilities are different. So, while there are some clients who are not present on the learning turf, we have others who are, but the problem is execution. Also, there are some clients who have disaggregated at their end, so they have a fresh digital team and in that team, there are different people in different roles, so it's more of a structure than a lack of an execution issue.

Janine: What about data and analytics? People today have more data than they know what to do with; how have you had to change your business and your mindset?

Shashi: My feeling is that you need specialists and the industry is not attracting specialist's talent for data. The talent is lying outside; so let me admit that our media agency business has quality data people. We are very good at putting out what we believe is the right thing to say, so I think that is one problem. Also, what many people forget is that you need soft-skills when you are converting data to application; for data scientists, it becomes very difficult because they are very left brained.

Janine: Do you have a timeframe for why the talent gap exists which holds back the entire industry?

Shashi: I don't think the talent gap can be covered very easily; it's also linked to compensation so it's easy to add value, but at the same time, it's very difficult. So what we speak of is quality data, but our job is volumes...

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