An interview with Sidharth Parashar, president, investments and pricing, GroupM, India. This is part of a special series of conversations with media agency heads - interview 29 of 31.
In 2020, what is the one big trend that will concern or excite media agencies and clients?
Connected television has the potential to become an emerging future trend. A growing section of consumers is adopting smart TVs - essentially, bigger screens for live streaming and to access OTT content. This is becoming a high focus area for a few leading players. The trend is furthered by the easy availability of affordable smart TVs in India.
In the context of media planning/buying, what's the one global practice/trend that India will do well to catch up with fast?
While we have come a long way in data and audience planning, there is still a lot to cover. ROI measurement and full-funnel attribution are still in work-in-progress mode; they will become more important in the years to come, as consumers spend more time online. As this area keeps evolving, more and more importance will be given to media tactics and triggers that enable a quantifiable impact on branding and conversions in the full purchase cycle.
From the perspective of ad-ex, which categories will be most –and least– affected by the economic slowdown?
An economic slowdown impacts most categories. However, depending on the cause of the slowdown, impact varies by category. Typically, in the context of urban consumption, a slowdown impacts discretionary spending, whereas in the case of rural consumption, it impacts the staples. For instance, following the NBFC crisis in 2018, the first sectors to get impacted were the ones with higher reliance on financing, whereas the impact on other categories was witnessed much later.
This is in contrast to what we saw during demonetisation, where the impact was seen across categories with an exception of online/mobile payments, which saw a spike as usage surged. The same principle would apply in any such situation.
What consumption trends do you foresee in rural versus urban markets in 2020?
Rural is likely to continue seeing a shift, as consumers upgrade to premium brands via smaller SKUs. Urban consumers would prefer products and services that offer more convenience, better health/wellbeing, and that advocate environment-friendly practices. Given the current macro-economic condition, consumers would seek more bargains and value for their money. Hence, bundling of products and services is likely to increase.
In the near future, what measures do you think could lead to a solution to the digital ad fraud menace?
Digital ad fraud is a matter of concern for the industry. It requires all stakeholders to collaborate and work towards solving it. This could be done by establishing clear measurement guidelines on brand safety and viewability across digital investments. We need to find ways to make this an important element of compliance between the parties conducting digital marketing.
What kind of specialisation/talent do you think is missing or dwindling from media agencies today?
I would rather look at what we need to do in order to be future-ready and to stay relevant given the rapidly changing landscape around us. There needs to be more willingness and speed. We must be more adaptive and in sync with clients’ needs for end-to-end solutions.
Whether it’s in the area of developing deeper understanding of consumer behaviour through the right dissection of data, or whether it’s about focusing on relevant technology and emerging trends, what’s important is for agencies to invest in and develop the right talent.
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.