afaqs! news bureau
The Planner’s Special

"Programmatic is growing fast in India, but not fast enough"

An interview with Ajay Gupte, CEO - South Asia, Wavemaker. This is part of a special series of conversations with media agency heads - interview 26 of 31.

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

The work we did for Pernod Ricard stands out; we executed 100 music gigs across 27 cities simultaneously, and each gig was tied to a cause. I’m also proud of the work we did on Myntra – titled ‘Fashion Superstar’, it was a talent hunt based contest among influencers, which was aired on the Myntra app. Our Cadbury Fuse campaign is special to me as well; we had multiple topical creatives which were personalised and delivered to customers based on their profile. It showcased our digital capabilities.

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

One major trend is that media is being held accountable. This will directly impact both, the business and the brand side of things. Balancing the two is where the challenge lies and it’s an exciting trend. Another huge trend that's coming up in India is the one around the 3 Vs - vernacular, video and voice.

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

Programmatic is growing very fast in India, but not fast enough. We need to build capabilities in that space. There are some areas in which India can emerge as a leader, like video and mobile.

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?

As stated in the GroupM report, we are forecasting about 10.7 per cent growth for media in 2020. This makes India the fastest growing large media market in the world. Obviously, this will be impacted by factors like the corona virus which came up after we published our data.

Real estate is one sector that has definitely slowed down. As far as auto is concerned, well, though it has been in the news for being down, I think it will certainly grow again, given the emphasis on electric vehicles. In fact, automobile companies that have come up with electrical vehicles will be advertising a lot more. Another factor that will help the sector grow is related to the BS-VI pollution certificate.

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

We’ve noticed that rural consumption rates have come down, as have growth rates. Urban growth rates are now ahead of rural growth rates. So, the expectation that growth will come from rural is now changing – focus has shifted to urban markets. The other thing that is clearly ‘trending’ is the consumption of premium products, which is growing faster than the consumption of base products. This means the lower strata is curtailing consumption whereas the upper strata is consuming a little bit more. While that is good news, it’s the mass market where real growth comes from.

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

Ad fraud has been tackled to a very large extent, with the help of technology. We recommend that brands utilise this technology to avoid ad fraud, improve viewability and increase brand safety.

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

There are a lot of new fields that are growing, like digital programmatic and content. We are looking for skills in these areas; not all of them are available in the ecosystem. Also, the amount of data available today is insane. We need people skilled to analyse it and make it meaningful. Data science is an area we’re investing it.

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.