afaqs! news bureau
The Planner’s Special

“People are increasingly creating their own ‘media menus’”

An interview with Girish Upadhyay, Chief Operating Officer, Madison Media Infinity. This is part of a special series of conversations with media agency heads - interview 23 of 31.

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

The ‘Missing i’ campaign we did for Tata Salt is something to be proud of. While iodine has always been a key highlight of all communication by Tata Salt, we spotted just the right media opportunities to engage with our consumers and thus created a multi-platform, ‘i-deficient’ campaign across networks. It not only delivered numbers but also shed light on an issue which requires attention.

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

We can see the shift to personalised experiences all around us. Behaviour towards entertainment is changing fast. People are increasingly creating their own media menus and are rejecting the bundles of channels their cable operators are selling to them. Instead, they’re constructing their own ad-hoc bundles comprising various OTT players and are consuming it at their own pace. This great unbundling is happening at a pace much faster than anyone expected. This will definitely excite media agencies in the year to come.

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

It definitely has to be around cross-media audience measurement. Being able to identify and measure audiences’ media consumption, as a ‘single view’ across media, is a much needed breakthrough for the Indian media planning and buying industry.

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?

Through many of us would tend to name the auto category as the most affected one, I will differ on this. With new launches and the roll out of BS VI, the category will see a new sense of excitement in the next financial year. Real estate, telecom and e-commerce might go slow whereas FMCG, education and retail should be least affected.

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

Consumption in rural India has hit a seven-year low and this trend might continue next year. Demand is being eroded by falling crop prices, stagnant incomes, farm distress and erratic rainfall patterns. Urban growth might still be a little better, but not significantly better. We will need to adjust to the new norms of growth, across urban and rural.

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

The solution has to come from publishers themselves. They need to work with high-end, reputable ad exchanges and invest in the technology required to detect and manage fraud. Agencies and brands need to ensure their programmatic advertising is delivered to humans in brand safe environments and not fall for unrealistic traffic numbers.

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

The kind that understands marketing, not just media. The outcome for a planner has to go beyond reach, frequency and CTR to sales, revenue, customer satisfaction and customer lifetime value.

I wish clients would…

...understand that agencies need capital to attract good talent, and that effectiveness is far more important than efficiency.

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.