Venkata Susmita Biswas

Mindshare is modelled to function like a start-up: Amin Lakhani, CEO, Mindshare South Asia

The media agency has won a bronze metal at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for the Thumbstopping Beauty Biases campaign for Dove.

Mindshare India has added one more Lion to its kitty. This year it is a bronze Lion in the media category for Thumb Stopping Beauty Biases campaign for Dove. For this campaign, Mindshare along with Bobble AI, a keyboard application, worked on identifying text messages intended to body shame people and suggested alternatives. 

The campaign was part of the digital leg of the Dove Stop the Beauty Test campaign. It was conceptualised by Mindshare’s Content Plus team which has been behind some iconic content integrations including — Brooke Bond Red Label’s Six Pack Band, McDowell's No1 Yaari, a co-owned IP (a TV talk show), LUX Golden Rose Awards and many others. 

The 6-Pack Band campaign was just the beginning. Back in 2016, Mindshare’s content team took an unconventional idea of putting together a music band of transgender people for Brooke Bond Red Label and gave it wings. The 6-Pack Band went on to win a Glass Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity that year. 

Seven years later, branded content is now an integral part of the work that Mindshare does for its clients. Mindshare’s Content Plus team carries out more than 200 content projects in a year, says Amin Lakhani, chief executive officer, Mindshare South Asia. 

“There is power in content. Therefore, Mindshare is keen to bridge the gap between the consumer and the content they watch — because that’s where the magic takes place,” he says. 

He says that while the agency’s purpose is not to make a 30-seconder, often the brand upgrades the content piece into a campaign purely because of the uniqueness of the idea and its execution. 

There is power in content. Therefore, Mindshare is keen to bridge the gap between the consumer and the content they watch — because that’s where the magic takes place.
Amin Lakhani, CEO, Mindshare South Asia
Thumbstopping Beauty Biases won a bronze Lion in the Media category
Thumbstopping Beauty Biases won a bronze Lion in the Media category

Being a media agency, Mindshare is burdened with the responsibility of demonstrating the success of a content campaign more than its creative agency counterparts. Media agencies possibly resent this, yet Lakhani explains how Mindshare assesses success. “Every piece of branded content is born out of brand need. Therefore, we go back and measure if the needle has moved on specific mind measures, if it has, then it is a success.” 

He says the brand and the agency repeat the content-led campaign as long as necessary and stop when it is no longer needed. 

Keeping up with the times

The complicated nature of the marketing landscape is challenging several organisations to dig deep and rethink what the marketing communications business is meant to provide to a brand. 

Mindshare, the media agency from WPP’s media-buying network GroupM, is on this journey too.  The agency which is constantly evolving to suit the needs of the marketer finds that the best way to service brands is to sprint ahead with a start-up mindset. 

Describing this mindset, Lakhani, says, “I have always said that Mindshare was one of the first startups of WPP. And we continue to build on that mindset. We don't want to let go of our hunger and agility. Therefore, the agency is modeled to function like a startup. We have made speed to market a very important pillar of our work.” 

About 1,000 people work across Mindshare and its group agencies — mSix and Neo — in India. About 50% of Mindshare’s talent works on data analytics, digital, and content. 

The media agency that counts conglomerates like Hindustan Unilever, Maruti Suzuki, Disney+ Hotstar, as its clients, is widening its talent pool at the entry-level. As the agency grooms talent, it also helps them upskill and acquire expertise in areas that are in most demand. Lakhani says that the bulk of a team that services a client is made up of specialists and those individuals who anchor the relationship with the client are generalists. 

Mindshare is modeled to function like a startup. We have made speed to market a very important pillar of our work.
Amin Lakhani, CEO, Mindshare South Asia

Serving the marketer is becoming a complex task for agencies. Marketers work with close to 10 different agencies for all their requirements across martech, creative, media, etc. “It is not easy for the client ecosystem to run behind multiple partners,” Lakhani points out.

If the media agency could help manage the chaos, it could not just be future-ready but future-proof too. “Stitching together a single window view for marketers is where the opportunity lies. That is clearly an area where clients are asking us to do more work with them,” he says. 

In addition, Lakhani says Mindshare is prioritising and accelerating its digital transformation journey. “For example, we have turbo-charged our offering on data analytics, performance marketing, and e-commerce.”

In the first six months of 2023, Mindshare India has won several new businesses including — Aditya Birla Fashion Retail Limited (performance business), Casio, Kipper Pipes, Unity Small Finance Bank, Qatar Tourism, Campus, Maruti Suzuki, and Nearby Technologies.

But these are also tough times to grow. GroupM recently reduced the growth forecast for India’s ad-ex in its mid-year This Year Next Year report. The media buying network initially projected a 16.8% y-o-y growth in adex in 2023, but given macroeconomic conditions, it has trimmed expectations for India and now expects a 12% growth over 2022. 

Full-funnel or nothing 

The recessionary environment is also a reason for the agency to pursue a full-funnel approach. Brands, especially, D2C brands are looking at RoAS (return on ad spend) and want every penny to result in a purchase. In the bargain, it is performance marketing that’s become the hero.  

In his previous avatar, Lakhani led the Mindshare Fulcrum team for HUL and oversaw the integration of the digital arm of HUL’s media account with the traditional arm. Digital and tech-led solutions could seem enticing, but he believes that prioritising short-term goals and specific mediums could be “myopic” and instead says the agency always tries to find the best full-funnel solution for a brand. Mindshare’s senior leadership is pondering ways to “strengthen its product offering as a full-funnel company.” 

Increasingly, the DNA at Mindshare is performance-oriented.
Amin Lakhani, CEO, Mindshare South Asia

Lakhani explains why this is important to both the agency and the brands it works with. “Clients who invested across the funnel consistently seem to perform better than clients who perhaps focused only on the short term or only on the lower part of the funnel.”

Focus Areas

The proliferation of the digital medium and online transactions are defining newer areas where Mindshare can assist brands today. Lakhani says the agency is on one hand helping brands like Meesho build confidence among consumers to transact online for the first time, and on the other helping the bulk of its CPG clients reach audiences who can begin their premiumisation journey through media options like Connected TV (C-TV). 

Cheap data, affordable OTT subscription fees, and a large screen experience make Lakhani bullish about C-TVs from a media buying standpoint. “Big trends always start with small bases and high growth rates,” says Lakhani acknowledging that C-TVs are still very much in their nascence in the country right now. 

“Mobile consumption was mainly solo consumption. TV on the other hand reaches an entire household and that increases access. It opens up a lot of opportunities to avoid wastage and target consumers.”

A seat at the table 

The oft-repeated woe among ad agencies is that agencies don’t get an audience with the CEO. This has led to advertising agencies, media agencies, all working towards one goal alone — drive business results. 

Has Mindshare been able to impress its clients and change their views? “Media is the second or the third biggest cost that clients incur if not the biggest — therefore it has the CEOs' and CFOs' attention,” says Lakhani. 

He says that Mindshare believes that media is not just a means for creative deployment but that it can drive business. “Therefore, increasingly, the DNA at Mindshare is performance-oriented.”

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