afaqs! news bureau
The Planner’s Special

"I call it 'economic correction', not a slowdown"

An interview with Sathyamurthy Namakkal, Executive Director, DDB Mudra Group and President, OMD Mudramax. This is part of a special series of conversations with media agency heads - interview 15 of 31.

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

Any investment to reach out to or engage with customers should impact the client’s business directly. While I can give you a long list of impressive campaigns, one recent example is our work for Gulf Lubricants – a campaign called ‘Suraksha Bandhan’. The delivery of an emotional advantage to a low involvement, functional, engine oil brand gives joy to all stakeholders.

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

Agencies should be concerned about the extent of data fraud, in terms of measurement, that exists today. From audience impressions to social engagement to customer reviews, the loss of honesty is a massive area of concern. What’s exciting is new-age fraud control, and emerging elimination technology that uses AI, blockchain and newer encryption algorithms.

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

They include integrated planning and delivery of solutions, and the adoption of one, unified view of the consumer from a media delivery lens. We should have been there already. Operating in silos is history. Clients need to integrate their mandate with one or two agency partners and not flirt with multiple relationships. This will help minimise silos. Agencies need to demonstrate value for money, delivered through a high caliber talent pool.

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?

I call it ‘economic correction’, not a slowdown. You can’t generalise anything. Some categories, which are not necessities, will get deferred in terms of purchase. Few things were ballooned and projected, but now we are seeing real numbers. As in the past, we will find smarter solutions to this temporary phase, which will pass soon. Only one word of caution – clients and agencies should not panic and adopt short term, tactical, sales-led activities at the cost of long term brand equities.

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

Video content is becoming the next big thing across the country, including smaller towns and rural regions. Meanwhile, urban audiences are getting into interactivity. Gaming will take off again in a newer, fresher avatar, especially in urban/semi-urban markets.

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

The solution will always be work-in-progress. Ad fraud intelligence will always be creating the next big fraud and the good guys will be working on the antidote. It’s not going to end anytime soon. In fact, it will spawn a whole new industry.

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

An ‘ears to the ground’ approach is missing in the industry at large. Ironically, most agencies are happy being ‘implementation partners’ of clients and not strategic solution providers. But efficiency and effectiveness begin at the strategic planning level and end with smart implementation solutions.

I wish clients would… us more… and pay for performance, that is, pay us more when we surpass expectations, and penalise us when we don’t – it’s only fair. Also, clients should resist the temptation to conduct frequent reviews and pitches, and resist the pressure applied by the ‘procurement team’ to do so.

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.

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