afaqs! news bureau
The Planner’s Special

"Most brands tend to view ad fraud through the lens of fear"

An interview with Prasanth Kumar, CEO, GroupM South Asia. This is a part of the special series of conversations with media agency heads - interview 1 of 31.

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

There are quite a few trends to watch out for in 2020. Many things are dynamic today, irrespective of the medium. We will see some significant changes. One trend we're seeing for sure is the utility of content. It's interesting to see how brands can co-exist by creating powerful engagement; I believe that's one area where a substantial amount of power lies, if you can crack it. Multiple content creators are available in the market right now, so, we see opportunities there.

This is not exactly a trend, but outcome-based, data-led marketing is also very interesting. It has become the norm for us. Usually, there are multiple sources of data. It comes down to how we marry this data into the entire consumer journey, through the purchase funnel.

Actually, the way the entire digital space is evolving is exciting. There's an e-commerce aspect coming up, a performance aspect coming up, an influencer aspect coming up... it's a very exciting time. The challenge lies in getting the most out of the creative assets that we have for our brands.

It's not about agitation or intimidation… no trend intimidates me as such because we're now used to working this way. Every trend comes with its own learning. Even if it's a speed breaker for a campaign we're working on, it's still a learning experience.

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

We can learn how to ideate and execute strategies better. There's a lot to learn from global examples in that context. The thing with the digital space is, you don't have to wait and experiment and then learn. You can learn from what is happening in other markets... lessons can come from analysing content and technologies, such as AI and analytics.

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?

It depends on the size of the category. Different product groups will be affected differently. Some categories have shown almost 26-28 per cent growth this year, whereas other categories have only grown by two or three per cent.

It also has a lot to do with the context of demand and supply, and aspects of business growth. Each category has got a different demand and supply ecosystem. Even the type of consumers differ across categories. Whenever there is more supply and less demand, we see a slowdown. Even when there's an inflation, creating business growth becomes difficult.

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

Digital ad fraud has become a subject in itself. In the advertising space, it's been evolving with a width and depth greater than anything we've ever seen. It's a perennial topic and we need to keep learning more about the subject. We follow strict guidelines and rules for all of our clients, but it's a constant battle. There's always a new technique, feature that we need to be wary of. Because of this constant evolution, there's a tendency for brands to view ad fraud through a lens of fear. But it's not always about fear, it's about tackling it smartly. We need to figure out a solution collectively.

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.