afaqs! news bureau
The Planner’s Special

“Thinking is completely missing today; everyone is driven by numbers”

An interview with Sandeep Sharma, president, RK Swamy Media Group. This is part of a special series of conversations with media agency heads - interview 25 of 31.

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

That would definitely be our campaign for Polycab wires, which ran during the IPL, and across high impact properties on leading GECs. We also had prime-time sponsorship and logo visibility on leading news channels through the year.

The media team that strategised this pan-India campaign did impressively well by buying and implementing everything within the stipulated budget. We had a clear-cut mass focus, and our regional emphasis helped us cover a large volume of our TG. Further, brand integrations and reality TV shows helped boost reach and recall. The proposition 'savings in electricity' was distinct and well enacted by a talented cast, including Paresh Rawal.

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

The advent of OTT, and the possibilities it has opened up for advertisers, is a big trend that ought to excite media agencies. Once more and more people start consuming video content and TV through OTT, the revenue formats will increase.

With 5G coming in, these OTT platforms will reach a tipping point. This will probably affect both TV as well as experiential entertainment. Among the younger audience, there is a clear shift towards OTT.

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

Measurement of video across TV and digital, recorded through impressions, is a much awaited practice in the context of media planning, as is programmatic buying. Also, measurement should be more focused on our rural audience, as a lot of TV viewing comes from semi-urban and rural areas. In fact, brands from categories like FMCG and consumer durables would love to allocate more to these areas, but there isn’t enough data to corroborate this media consumption. Also, India needs to match international standards when it comes to measuring radio and outdoor.

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 an economic slowdown affects all product categories, auto and BFSI are among the most affected ones. Even real estate and commodities are affected. Least affected categories include insurance, mobile handsets, consumer durables, online shopping sites, food delivery apps, to name a few.

The slowdown has affected all mediums, especially print, which was already reeling.

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

In rural India, there is huge proliferation of mobile handsets due to the easy availability of data. Thanks to the increasing income in the hands of the rural consumer, FMCG, tractors, crop enhancement-related products, and certain low-end consumer durables are likely to do well in rural markets.

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

BARC or Comscore could, perhaps, work out a solution for this, but (I) don’t see it happening in the next 12 months.

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

People well-versed in mar-tech and those who can work out holistic, tech-led marketing solutions are missing in media agencies. 'Thinking' is completely missing today; everybody is driven by numbers.

I wish clients would...

... continue to invest in brand building, and not look at rates specifically, as rates do not buy quality. Clients should continue to invest in media campaigns, as it has been proven, time and again, that those who invest during depressed times are usually the first to benefit when the tide turns.

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.