afaqs! news bureau
The Planner’s Special

"We need to focus on outcome, rather than output"

An interview with Dinesh Singh Rathod, CEO, Madison Media Omega. This is part of a special series of conversations with media agency heads - interview 11 of 31.

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

It was a campaign for Sporto, an active-wear brand. Cricket was an obvious choice, but there is a cost attached to being on the biggest show on Indian television. We did this, within the budget. With 'Closer to Live', we managed a continuous presence for the brand throughout the IPL. Across 60 matches, we delivered an equal number of GRPs and three times the reach as compared to brands that invested twice as much as us.

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

Content, for sure. Given the affordability of data, on-demand content is on the rise; consumers are inundated with content, which they want to view at their convenience. Marketers are always looking for those extra 10 seconds to tell their product story. Media agencies and clients are yet to exploit the opportunity this brings. As long as viewers find the content relevant, brands will be able to put their proposition forward. The lack of third party measurement, that could bring more accountability to digital platforms, is a concern.

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

An emerging trend is an increased focus on business outcomes, as opposed to mere media output. Our group CEO Vikram Sakhuja has championed the ‘Outcomes Planning Framework’, which delivers measurable business results, by enabling us to allocate media investments across various touch-points in the consumer journey.

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?

Product groups which usually see high demand from rural markets will continue to feel the pinch, whereas new-age businesses, fueled by the digital explosion, will continue to invest.

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

Time-strapped consumers in urban markets are increasingly getting into the ‘convenience economy’, fueled by apps for every need. People are stepping out of their homes less frequently, because a lot of their needs are met through apps, for instance, food delivery apps. Small towns and rural markets are seeing huge growth in data consumption on the back of regional language content and apps like TikTok. The aspirations of consumers across markets are the same, and this is reflected in the growth of categories like beauty parlours, English-medium schools, automobiles, packaged food, etc., across non-urban markets.

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

We need to focus on outcome, rather than output. The metrics for evaluation will need to move beyond impressions and CTRs to actual engagement across the consumer journey. Analytics will be instrumental in judging the effectiveness of platforms and ad formats. Even in the world of ‘influencer marketing’, brands will have to turn to analytics to distinguish between real influencers and those who artificially increase their social media presence.

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

To leverage the opportunities in the content space, media agencies need specialists – including talent that will add value to the brand, and not just plug or slot a product. Excessive focus on data can sometimes become a barrier to innovative strategy. We need more ‘strategic thinking’ experts in media agencies.

I wish clients would...

…focus more on outcomes and not be overly obsessed with efficiency. I also wish they would be more willing to take some calculated risks, step out of their comfort zones, and look at agencies as true business partners – not vendors.

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.

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