afaqs! news bureau
The Planner’s Special

“Attention-commanding creative ideas are the lifeblood of brands”

An interview with Divya Karani, chief executive officer, Dentsu X. This is part of a special series of conversations with media agency heads - interview 24 of 31.

What, in your view, was your agency's best campaign of 2019? What about it impressed you?

There are very many that come to mind. The multiple campaigns we have done for Maruti Suzuki bear testimony to insightful, well crafted work. In a significantly depressed market, the brand has held its own. Also, the stupendous work done by Webchutney recently speaks for itself.

In 2020, what is the big trend that ought to concern or excite media agencies?

There is no one big thing alone. Continuous, compressed, faster disruptions herald exciting times. Let us strap ourselves in for an even more exhilarating ride ahead. Today, more than ever before, we can engage in meaningful dialogues with our consumers; we can measure and calibrate the exact impact and value we bring to the table. Technology, furiously evolving digital productivity, and data turbines, combined with our agile, ever-demanding consumers, are holding companies and brands accountable. These are the forces at play today.

In the context of media planning/buying, what's the one global practice/trend India will do well to catch up with fast?

Democratisation of information has decentralised ideas; today, ideas are ‘global’ and don’t necessarily come from any one ‘privileged’ location. When knowledge is everywhere, so are the thinkers. Partnering clients, as they leverage first party data, at scale, holds tremendous opportunities for agencies. We are also focused on serving a customised, curated offering to consumers, as and when they need it, to ensure an optimal outcome.

From a media spend perspective, which product groups do you suppose will be most affected by the economic slowdown that has crept up on us - and least?

Age-old wisdom applies just as well today – during a slowdown, companies need to continue to invest in brands, because brands that invest during slow growth periods tend to extract multiplicative dividend over the long term.

And within that, what consumption trends are you seeing in rural versus urban markets?

India’s urban-rural consumer divide is an illusion of the past. Sometimes the difference between segments of urban consumers may well be starker than the difference between urban and rural consumers. In fact, given media and market proliferation, there is an increasing similarity in the mindset of urban and rural consumers – both seek value and make choices basis ‘brand connect’.

In the next 12 months, the solution to the digital ad fraud menace will come from...

This is the elephant in the room that needs significant focus and attention. Change needs to come collectively from all stakeholders – clients, agencies and media owners.

What kind of specialisation/talent is missing in media agencies today?

Media agencies need to transform themselves and become business partners to their clients, by having more meaningful conversations with them. The lines between media and creative are blurring. Consumers’ attention is the prize and they are in complete control. Attention-commanding creative ideas are like the lifeblood of brands.

The work done by Data2Decisions (global marketing effectiveness consultancy, part of Dentsu Aegis Network) shows that creative execution is the second highest driving factor behind market size and has 10 times more influence on ROI than flighting and cost!

I wish clients would...

… foster a collaborative, multi-function culture across teams such that everyone has an equal seat at the table, and works towards a common goal. I have had the good fortune of working with such clients who effortlessly orchestrate this and inspire everyone to give their heart and soul to the common enterprise.

Note: This interview was conducted for the mid-March edition of our magazine afaqs!Reporter. It is a special issue dedicated to the top media planning and buying executives, who service some of India's largest advertisers. Market conditions have changed dramatically since this interview was first written and any apparent obsoletion therein must be seen in that context. To read/download all 31 interviews, please click here.