afaqs! news bureau
The Planner’s Special

"Spending has not really dropped, but is now rationalised"

An interview with Mamatha Morvankar, Chief Investment Officer, Omnicom Media Group India. This is part of a special series of conversations with media agency heads - interview 13 of 31.

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

On the one hand, we witnessed new, high impact, multimedia product launches. On the other hand, there were several test-and-learn opportunities across brands in digital media, that helped us better understand the business. Creating content to amplify brand stories was an initiative we undertook. We created some unique, compelling content associations too.

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

Today, society and technology are evolving faster than our ability to exploit them, and all businesses are impacted by this. Predicting consumer interest and trends is still a big challenge. Consumers today are impacted by so many touch-points, in so many ways, that it is becoming difficult to understand their triggers and actions! In India, we have consumers in various stages of digital adoption; this can be both exciting and a concern for media agencies.

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

Programmatic buying is the one practice that will gain strong momentum for us in India. With the internet soon reaching a billion users through mobile, targeting the right audience at the right time, with the right creative, will become imperative for marketers.

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?

While almost all segments have been impacted, spends have been rationalised within categories. In FMCG, spends are focused on key mass brands and less on premium brands. In auto, spends have been driven predominantly by new players and around new launches. New model launches in the mobile phone category have seen huge success, especially among the top players. Ecommerce spends continue to accelerate in the festive season! Spending has not really dropped, but is now rationalised, as even in a downturn brands need to spend in order to be remembered.

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

The slowdown has impacted rural India too. Within FMCG, product categories that are most impacted are packaged foods such as atta, refined oil and impulse categories like biscuits, chocolates and personal care products.

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

The digital ad ecosystem has multiple players with diverse connections (DSP, SSP, ad exchanges, publishers, agencies and advertisers) that interact in real time. The connections are not necessarily direct and are potentially anonymous. This creates conditions for lack of visibility and transparency, which can lead to fraud in extreme cases.

The solution is ad and traffic compliance. It’s a prudent strategy to have an always-on approach to combating ad fraud, led by experienced people who are empowered by sophisticated technology. Adding human intervention to machine-led safeguards allows companies to discover, identify and flag misrepresented inventory. It also helps us identify technology that may be exploiting vulnerabilities in newer ways.

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

Structures in the advertising industry are constantly evolving; up-skilling is the new norm. New talent that will be embedded in teams will include digital marketing solution experts, data visualisers, AI specialists, web analytics experts, content developers and consumer analytics experts.

I wish clients would...

Work with us as true partners for their businesses, collaborate more on new ways to drive real business outcomes for their organisations, and push less to deliver against unrealistic timelines.

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.