afaqs! news bureau
The Planner’s Special

"While consumption won‘t decline; price down - trading may occur"

An interview with Anand Chakravarthy, managing director, India, Essence (GroupM). This is part of a special series of conversations with media agency heads - interview 7 of 31.

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

If I have to choose one, I would go with the ‘shoppable television content’ campaign that was created for Flipkart during the Big Billion Days sale. We made content ‘shoppable’ by designing and executing a smart integration for Flipkart on television. With a strong insight and user-friendly participation, the campaign moved beyond brand metrics to drive actual sales, and was the first such innovation on TV.

Consumers who watch content on general entertainment channels are inspired by the clothes worn by the protagonists and the products they use, and would love to buy similar things. In partnership with Zee TV, we curated two special stores on Flipkart, which featured fashion products and smart kitchen appliances, respectively. The products were part of special episodes of Zee TV's leading shows - TujhseHaiRaabta and KundaliBhagya. Scanning the QR code that appeared on their television screens led consumers to the relevant store on Flipkart, where they could purchase the products they saw on screen.

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

The implementation of the new Personal Data Protection Bill will have a significant impact on the way digital campaigns are measured. As data privacy laws come into play, marketers and their agency partners need to thinkabout how they will measure campaigns and managetheir data analytics in a new regulatory ecosystem.

The influence of digital platforms on consumer behaviour is going to accelerate in 2020.Smart TV penetration in India will begin to have real scale this year as prices continue to fall. More services and utilities will go online. The new decade will mark the beginning of true digital adoption across a wider section of India.

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

There is just not enough focus on brand safety, ad fraud and viewability (BAV) in India. This area is largely ignored. Often, cost is cited as the rationale behind the lack of investment in available solutions. The mindset needs to change.

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?

Going by our past experiences, we know that consumers make specific choices across and within product categories in an economic slowdown. There’s down-trading in the consumer packaged goods category, and a shift from premium brands to mass premium brands. Consumption of essential goods will not decline, but a down-trading in price may occur.Lifestyle categoriescould also get affected –especially the replacement segment, as consumers may put off replacing an existing product with a new one. Other sectors that could potentially see a slowdown include white goods, mobile phones and auto.

However, categories that are unlikely to be affected are typically non-negotiable ones like education, pharmaceutical products and religious tourism.

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

It is too early to talk about consumption trends in urban versus rural markets.

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

Prevention, by deploying available technological solutions equipped to detect ad fraud, is important.Secondly, the solution will come from the adoption of basic hygiene practices. For example, ensuring new publishers are whitelisted through a test campaign beforea large amount is spent on them.Lastly, the industry – publishers, agencies and clients – must come together and work towards a solution. We see this kind of collaboration in the West.

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

The agencies of the future will need to have structures that are skewed differently – the bulk of agency talent needs to be in business planning, strategy, digital activation, analytics and measurement.Operations and execution need to be automated as much as possible. This way, more ‘manpower time’ will be given to clients and their business needs.

Agencies will need to add talent such as data scientists, technology engineers, business analysts and consultants, as well as process management experts.

I wish clients would...

... facilitate greater collaboration between their partners, such as creative and media agencies.

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.