afaqs! news bureau
The Planner’s Special

"On TV we're still planning on the basis of extrapolated data"

An interview with Rajni Menon, CEO, Carat India. This is part of a special series of conversations with media agency heads - interview 8 of 31.

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

It was the one we did for Philips Air Purifier. It was contextual, relevant, and we delivered it in a very short span of time. It was not a ‘single media touch-point’ based campaign; we used real-time data, out-of-home…and print, at a time when it is considered a medium that does not deliver anymore. The campaign fetched business results, something I was thrilled about.

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

Something we have to start preparing foris a time when Google – and everybody else – stops all third-party cookie data. Digital has always been about measurement and being able to track audiences across all the environments, except a few walled gardens. The third-party cookie is obviously one way to do it. Without cookies, advertisers will be forced to re-think their digital strategies, and so will we.

Hence, first-party data will become all the more critical. If clients have not invested in first-party data, tracking the consumer and her journey is going to be difficult. At the same time, agencies need to have the capabilities to consult with their clients on how they can get this first-party data pool together.

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

Non-digital programmatic planning - it is already in place with out-of-home, there is an ongoing discussion around TV... that is the next stage in theprocess of evolution. About 50 to 60 per cent of the ad investment is going on TV, a mediumyou still plan demographically. But there is no authenticity about whether your audience has really seen it. On digital, we’re tracking whether someone hasactually clicked on an ad, but on television we’re still planning on the basis of extrapolated data, passive or semi-passive viewing. Programmatic on TV is something I would like to see very fast.

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?

Realestate and auto (because of economic indicators as well as the rise of Ola, Uber) have slowed down. Necessities like food, eating out and FMCG are still seeing a steady rate of growth. Financial products that offer long-term security are something that people are spending on. Any purchase which is not a necessity is impacted by the slowdown.

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

We have all been battling this for the last couple of years and I don't see a huge new solution coming in. A lot of us already have ad-fraud tracking solutions, like IAS (Integral Ad Science) or DoubleVerify, in place. Also, publishers today are a lot more stringent because now they know that clients are willing to stop investments when faced with fraud of any kind – fraudulent impressions, wrong geography, bot traffic, unsafe content, etc.

To fight ad fraud, advertisers need to realise that they too must have security protocols in place, such as having the right tags, etc. We all talk about how AI and blockchain will help us make inventory safer, but it is still far away. Theoretically, there are many things we can do, but for the immediate future, it’s best if we work closely with publishers and put pressure on them to create a safer environment.

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

The ‘media agency’ - a standalone entity that delivers what a client needs- does not really exist anymore. It is more about network solutions and network strengths that come into play whenever you are looking at a client. No agency as a single entity can deliver everything that a client needs, and that is very difficult in a converging world. That’s how it is in the context of media, data and technology. Smart advertisers are not looking at buying and deploying media; instead, they are looking at smart marketing plans that deliver business results.

I wish clients would...

I hope advertisers don’t start moving to very short-term marketing strategies. While discounts, vouchers, and other sales oriented initiativesmight deliver some up-lift in sales in the short-term, theycan erode brand equity in the long-term. Advertisers must balance their long-term and short-term spends and avoid putting all their eggs in one basket.

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.