Aishwarya Ramesh

Marketers, creative professionals get together to decode digital

13 dynamic speakers took centre stage at The Advertising Club’s annual digital review, D-Code at Taj Lands End, Bandra on August 7. The theme of the event was ‘Cracking the digital code’ and the speakers shared the marketing idea that appealed to them the most.

The speakers of the evening were Partha Sinha, managing director, McCann Worldgroup, Sumeet Narang, vice president, Probiking, Bajaj Auto, Amarjit Singh Batra, managing director, Spotify, Karan Bedi, chief executive officer, MX Player, Jignesh Lulla, co-founder, Cornerstone Entertainment, Rashi Goel, vice president, marketing and communications Nestle, Sachin Sharma, director, ByteDance (TikTok), Siddharth Rao, co-founder and chief executive officer, Dentsu Webchutney, Nirmal Pulickal, head - creative shop, Facebook India, Srivats TS, marketing head, Swiggy, Vikas Agnihotri, country director, Google India and stand-up comic Kenny Sebastian.

Sachin Sharma
Sachin Sharma
Marketers, creative professionals get together to decode digital
Marketers, creative professionals get together to decode digital

Google’s Vikas Agnihotri showed examples from Star Trek and The Jetsons and talked about how technology imagined in these shows was finally coming to life. Talking about work he liked, he mentioned Flipkart’s Hagglebot campaign. The campaign played on the cultural nuances of shopping and the element of ‘haggling’ in online shopping and thus helped increase engagement rates with all the brands involved, he pointed out.

When asked about a campaign he admired, he mentioned Alia Bhatt’s campaign for Garnier Micellar Water. “L’Oreal went big with this campaign - with a star cast and a jingle. Even though it was a digital led-campaign, it had significant production value,” he shared.

Speaking about Spotify’s recent playlist campaign, Amarjit Singh Batra of Spotify said, “The challenge of entering a market like India is that someone is doing what you are doing and sometimes, they’re doing it better than you. When it came to Spotify, we realised that playlists are a differentiator and created a campaign around it.”

Batra mentioned that the campaign resulted in 72,000 unique engagements with the Indian audience tweeting to Spotify’s official account and even going a step further and creating memes around the tagline, ‘There’s a playlist for that.’

Batra told the audience that a campaign he admired was Swiggy’s ‘Voice of Hunger challenge’.

Next up on stage was Karan Bedi, the CEO of MX Player. A campaign close to his heart was the promotional campaign they ran for their show Thinkistan. “To promote the show, we went after the Hindi vs English divide that exists in India. We did this because we felt the show has the potential to appeal to audiences in Tier II cities as well as metros,” he told us. Bedi mentioned that the campaign reached over 60 million users on social media.

A campaign close to his heart was the promotional campaign they ran for their show Thinkistan. “To promote the show, we went after the Hindi vs English divide that exists in India. We did this because we felt the show has the potential to appeal to audiences in Tier II cities as well as metros,” he told us. Bedi mentioned that the campaign reached over 60 million users on social media.

A campaign that inspired him was when Pepsi took an 87-year-old granny to turn on the swag for Pepsi. “A brand like Pepsi has been known for decades for being young and hip. They took a chance and rode the wave and it paid off big time on social media,” he offered.

“Nestle as a nutrition company has the capability to demystify nutrition knowledge and make it pragmatic, personalised, and actionable,” said Rashi Goel. The campaign Goel was referring to was the creation of and India’s first AI assistant- NINA (Nestle India Nutrition Assistant) built in association with Google.

“We created a closed loop information system to provide parents with help and timely information. The platform also has custom meal plans, recipes and growth trackers. Typically, internet usage by mothers is 30 per cent but on Nestle’s platform, it was around 70 per cent,” she said.

The journalists in the audience were keen to hear what Sachin Sharma, director of ByteDance (TikTok) India, would have to say, given that the brand has been in the news recently. “There’s an obscure law in marketing. The market share growth is driven substantially by growth in share of customer base of the brand. This also applies today because mass marketing is essential for brand maintenance and growth,” he said.

Brands that depend on trends tend to talk to a younger target group, he said. Sharma mentioned that one of his own favourite campaigns was the one done in collaboration with Pepsi - ‘Har Ghoont Main Swag.’

Karan Bedi on a campaign he admires
Karan Bedi on a campaign he admires

Partha Sinha began the session with an insight that many speakers referenced during the course of the evening. “It’s not the output, but the outcome that matters, and this is the biggest truth about the communications world,” he said. Another interesting insight he left us with was - “'Let’s do something cool' is the death of digital advertising – it’s a trap we need to get out of,” Sinha told the audience.

Sumeet Narang took to the stage to talk about the campaign that Bajaj worked on in 2016. The campaign was to launch a product called Bajaj V and the bike’s speciality was that it was made from the melted metal of INS Vikrant. INS Vikrant is the warship that played an important role in the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971 and Narang referred to the warship as the chief 'ingredient' of the bike.

Sumeet Narang at D-Code 2019
Sumeet Narang at D-Code 2019

“People who were passionate about the bike’s ingredients wanted to buy it. We decided that if we are doing a story around it, we are responsible for making sure people know about the ingredient,” he mentioned. He said they were unsure if people were aware of INS Vikrant and hence, set out to create awareness before Republic day that year. Narang’s favourite campaign from recent times is the barbershop girl’s campaign that Gillette did when the company turned 15, and the #MeToo themed ad.

“Pepsi established that Swag is a word that celebrates the generation. We had to ask ourselves how to partner with the youth and get them to relate to it. So, we used the language of dance and music. We had users co-create content for a hashtag campaign on TikTok and the results were studio quality user-generated content that could be consumed on mobile…” The challenge had 19 billion hashtag views in the last 30 days.

A campaign that Sharma said he admired was a prank campaign that Kingfisher had come up with for April Fools’ Day 2019.

Siddharth Rao, co-founder and chief executive officer of Dentsu Webchutney, took to the stage next. The focus, he said, would be on analogue ideas with a digital execution. He reminded that the audience remains the same and that it’s important to alter the message according to the medium being used. “Digital medium allows for amplification, reach and interactivity at a scale that has never been seen before. This was a limitation in the analogue world,” admits Rao. When it came to work from India that he liked, he named Netflix’s campaign with Radhika Apte starring a fake film called ‘Omnipresent’.

“Feels weird to see myself on the screen,” joked the next speaker, Srivats TS, vice president of marketing at Swiggy. He began by telling the audience that the depth and breadth of engagement opportunities available on the digital medium are amazing and spoke about Swiggy’s email appraisal campaign to make a point about using customer data in marketing. “Since March and April are appraisal months, we sent out emails using customer data in a mock appraisal format. The campaign had zero production and media cost. You can engage with consumers with the power of a really strong idea…” he explained.

Srivats mentioned that his own favourite campaign was Swiggy’s ‘What’s in a name’ campaign and the one he admired was the initiative by Samsonite in association with Kerala Tourism – ‘Kerala Is Open.’

The speakers’ quick take on cracking the digital code:

Sumeet Narang:

- There is no code! Creating a brand presence online is no different from creating an offline brand presence.

Srivats TS:

- The future of marketing is one-on-one personalisation.

- Ideas can come from anywhere. It’s all about the content itself, not the format or length or spends.

Vikas Agnihotri:

- People engage differently with different screen sizes – keep that in mind and do the right thing to get results.

Amarjit Singh Batra:

- Connect with and use consumer data across touch points to effectively engage with the audience.

- Different customers can consume the same message differently. Bring customers into your brand’s journey, irrespective of how they react to it – either with bouquets or with brickbats!

Karan Bedi:

- There are different set of audiences out there so targeting is key. Use all the data being collected and go after the target audience.

- Brands matter a lot in a low trust ecosystem like India.

Rashi Goel:

- Digital enables us to solve offline problems, online at scale.

Sachin Sharma:

- Users trust influencer generated content more than brand related content, so allow users to co-create content for you (brands).

Siddharth Rao:

- The consumer is analogue – he/she is a human being.

- Ideas are based on analogue insights and truth. Digital is neither insight nor truth.

Nirmal Pulickal:

- Think outside the rectangle – best practices aren’t applicable across mediums; you need to create content according to the grammar of the medium.

- Target creatively – you can use age, location, and even weather data to do this.

Kenny Sebastian

- Technology changes, but people don’t.

- Make fun of yourself, don’t take yourself too seriously.

Have news to share? Write to us