Benita Chacko

“We are sitting on the cusp of a paradigm shift on how content is distributed in India”: Wavemaker’s Shekhar Banerjee

The chief client officer and office head at the media agency shares his perspective on media trends in the country.

Wavemaker, a WPP media investment agency, has been working with its clients to help them build their tech capabilities and consumer data pipelines, post-pandemic. It has built a cookie dependency audit to acquire first-party data.

It recently rolled out the Amazon Audience Galaxy. Said to be a one-of-its-kind service, it will help Wavemaker leverage its access to Amazon audiences for its clients, in terms of targeting.

Wavemaker was recognised as ‘The Media Agency of the Year’ at the recently held 22nd edition of the EMVIEs for its work for its client Mondelēz India Food. It also won the Grand Prix at the Festival of Media Global, Grand Prix and Ruby at the YouTube Media Works awards. The Wavemaker West office ranked number five in the WARC top 100 global rankings in the effectiveness category.

Shekhar Banerjee, chief client officer, Wavemaker, says during that the COVID pandemic, the agency did close to Rs 1,500 crore of new billing over the last two years, between retentions and new businesses.

In an interview with afaqs!, he shares his perspectives on various media trends, ranging from the growth of connected TVs to digital advertising overtaking television and the dropping television rating points (TRPs).

Edited excerpts:

The country has gone through one of its most challenging periods over the last two years. As the country now gets back to normalcy, what do you see as the emerging trends in the media space?

Our focus right now will be towards delivering real-time cross-channel attributions and building tech capabilities to address web 3.0, metaverse and NFTs. These are the new emerging platforms on which you need to build a lot of tech capabilities. We want to leverage the growing base of connected TVs in the country.

GroupM’s ‘This Year Next Year’ 2022 report predicts that the share of advertising expenditure on digital media will overtake TV advertising this year. Digital advertising will surge to capture 45 per cent share, while TV will remain lower, at 39 per cent. According to you, what needs to be fixed in the digital space to reach this point?

Digital has a lot of measurement capabilities. You need to know how to navigate through the data and process it. It involves tech and talent capabilities. Second is building infrastructure on your consumer data, which helps you to plan your campaigns and reach consumers better.

The third is shaping your creative ecosystem because not all the strategies are designed for digital. They are designed for TV. So, you have to start thinking of consumer experiences or how the brand is talking to the consumer across different touchpoints within digital. Clients need to come up with a better consumer experience team within their organisations.

Connected TV sets have increased to 10 million and are set to exceed 40 million by 2025. The EY-FICCI report predicts this to end the monopoly of broadcasters on the large screen and lead to around 30 per cent of content consumed on large screens to be social, gaming and digital. How do you see media planning trends changing?

I think 10 million is a major underestimation, going by the number of campaigns we are executing at Wavemaker in recent times. We are already seeing close to 25-30 million active user base on connected TVs. Every new TV sold in the country today is a smart TV, with embedded OTT buttons on remotes. The base of OTT users in the country is roughly around 350 million users.

We are sitting on the cusp of a paradigm shift on how content is distributed in India. And, it's not a debate of TV versus OTT. It's about how content is distributed in India. It doesn't mean that people will stop watching TV content. They will consume it through OTT. The distribution ecosystem is going through a change. The big networks of broadcasters are likely to be the largest producers and distributors of content in future too.

The only big challenger to this growing base are the gaming users in the country. There are close to 400 million in the country now and they are the next generation of content consumers. This is a high involvement space and gaming takes a serious amount of hours in a day, which will take away from video content.

Indian Premier League (IPL) advertising requires high investments. It's 15 years old now and reports suggest that the TRPs are dropping. Does it give brands the same return as it did initially?

We don't know how this IPL will shape up. The opening ratings are definitely lower, but it's too early to say. Going by current ratings, ROI from IPL is likely to be a little less than the previous years. However, IPL is a very mature platform. We see a way higher ROI of IPL compared to prime time TV.

The fluctuations are not so much that it will erode all the advantages that IPL brings in. Moreover, this is also a longer season compared to previous years. So, when you calculate the reach, it may net out over time. There may not be a loss in reach by the end of the IPL.

During the pandemic, we saw a drop in account pitches. Are clients looking for fresh agencies now and are we seeing a movement of clients, post-pandemic?

The movement we are witnessing now is natural. During COVID-induced lockdowns, the clients had many more challenges to manage. At that point in time, they had other priorities. A lot of pitch movements are cyclical. Many of them were postponed and now they're doing it as things are coming back to normalcy. So, I wouldn’t say there was a drop during the pandemic. It was business as usual.

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