Anand Chakravarthy

Dig­i­tal is about a busi­ness edge too, believes Essence’s MD.

The Brand Reporter - - EDITORIAL / CONTENTS - shweta.mulki@afaqs.com

Dig­i­tal isn’t just about a mar­ket­ing edge but a busi­ness edge too,” says Anand Chakravarthy, MD at Essence In­dia. He ex­plains that agen­cies need to en­sure that clients are look­ing at the ef­fi­cacy of what this is do­ing to their busi­ness and see where the ROI is.

In 2015, WPP ac­quired Essence, a global agency that first ex­panded across APAC (Sin­ga­pore, Aus­tralia and Ja­pan) be­tween 2013 and 2016, largely to ser­vice a high pro­file client - Google. Be­sides Google, it has Bri­tan­nia, Flip­kart, Honda Mo­tor­cy­cles, Zee, and Nokia SCN as clients. Chakravarthy, who was manag­ing part­ner at Wave­maker (ear­lier Maxus In­dia) since 2014, be­gan his ca­reer in re­search with the Kan­tar Group then moved to plan­ning at Lowe, post which he was EVP - mar­ket­ing at Re­liance Broad­cast.

“Quan­ti­ta­tive re­search gave me a great un­der­stand­ing of sta­tis­ti­cal mod­els. Plan­ning at Lowe was about rigour, strat­egy and the chance to work on Unilever brands. At Re­liance, we launched the largest ra­dio net­work and tele­vi­sion chan­nels - it was about im­ple­men­ta­tion, speed-to-mar­ket and bias-for-ex­e­cu­tion,” he re­counts.

It’s been a year since Chakravarthy was ap­pointed MD at Essence In­dia. Shweta Mulki catches up with him to find out more. Edited Ex­cerpts:

You’ve said ear­lier that P&G pulling out of dig­i­tal is purely brand spe­cific. But is there still some hes­i­ta­tion in the mar­ket when in­vest­ing in dig­i­tal?

Mar­ket­ing bud­gets are not re­ally in­creas­ing, so be­fore you take out the money from your me­dia mix which has been work­ing for you and put it some­where else, you need to be sure. How­ever, in dig­i­tal, if you don’t in­vest to thresh­old level you’ll never see the im­pact, and vice versa! So it’s the chicken and the egg. That’s where the agency needs to come in and guide clients on how to in­vest in a mean­ing­ful, mea­sured way lead­ing to busi­ness ROI.

There have been cat­e­gories which have quickly em­braced dig­i­tal - whether it’s e-comm (at 45 per cent), Telco, Auto, or BFSI that have gone up to 20-25 per cent. CPG (pack­aged goods) brands have gone from 8-10 per cent to dou­ble dig­its now. But there are enough play­ers who haven’t aligned to it yet - as they’ve no clear un­der­stand­ing of what it can do for busi­ness.

Bots and in­ap­pro­pri­ate con­tent also un­der­mine the dig­i­tal process...

The truth is that in the tril­lions of im­pres­sions on­line, there will be a cer­tain per­cent­age of IVT (in­valid traf­fic). Us­ing plat­forms like a DBM, AdWords or Face­book - all who now ap­ply strin­gent mea­sures to see what in­ven­tory flows through their plat­forms - pro­tects you. Plus, in tools, plat­forms like Moat An­a­lyt­ics al­low you to look at your BAV (Brand safety, Avoid­ing ad fraud and Viewa­bil­ity). At Essence, we have BAV stan­dards via a process that vets ev­ery sin­gle plat­form and new pub­lisher. It’s a fairly ro­bust tool to iden­tify im­pres­sions that are real.

For evolved play­ers, how does pro­gram­matic ad­ver­tis­ing pan out now?

The pro­gram­matic land­scape here is still evolv­ing. It’s de­fined as be­ing able to tar­get the au­di­ence at the right time, in the right con­text and it’s au­to­mated. A lot of times the first two alone are con­sid­ered pro­gram­matic. But au­tomat­ing those cam­paigns is ‘true pro­gram­matic’. For in­stance, DBM (Google’s Dou­bleClick Bid Man­ager) al­lows you to marry your first party data and cre­ate co­horts of your own au­di­ences and even ex­port those onto an­other plat­form for tar­get­ing and so on - so there’s huge flex­i­bil­ity, but that’s only the first step. You also need to Ad Serve so that you are able to track ev­ery step in the dig­i­tal path­way and see where the con­sumer is ac­tu­ally con­vert­ing.

So why isn’t Ad Serve be­ing adapted that en­thu­si­as­ti­cally?

That’s be­cause Ad­serv­ing cost is typ­i­cally a per­cent­age of your spends. But un­less you do that, you aren’t re­ally able to cal­cu­late true ROI. Let’s say I’m run­ning a cam­paign through DBM (us­ing both Google and non-Google in­ven­tory) and talk­ing to five pub­lish­ers; now if I’m not Ad­serv­ing, I don’t know where the con­ver­sions are com­ing from. You can also iden­tify be­hav­iour at a gran­u­lar level - know­ing things like how long they stayed, can help you make clus­ters that be­have dif­fer­ently and tar­get sweet-spots ac­cord­ingly. It’s about at­tri­bu­tion to the last link.

And the at­tri­bu­tion jour­ney varies from on­line to off­line...

While it’s used to drive foot­falls into stores and auto deal­er­ships, the at­tri­bu­tion jour­ney is tougher for off­line ac­tion. How­ever, as dig­i­tal be­comes more cen­tre-of-plate in the me­dia mix, agen­cies and brands are ask­ing for more prod­ucts that pro­vide gran­u­lar­ity. And pub­lish­ers are also im­prov­ing their prod­ucts. Also, e-com brands have emerged as me­dia plat­forms them­selves - while Flip­kart and Ama­zon use Google to pro­mote them­selves, they sell their in­ven­tory and com­pete too. So Google in In­dia now also has Shop­ping for­mats - ads which (through search or dis­play) give you one-click pur­chase links of the prod­uct you’re search­ing.

Does In­dia have enough pre­mium on­line in­ven­tory for things like pri­vate mar­ket­places?

In the US, dig­i­tal is 42-odd per cent, and in China it’s 60-odd per cent of to­tal Adex. But the size of US spends is 3-4 times of China (which is 10 times of In­dia). As the dig­i­tal foot­print in In­dia grows, that scale will en­able pre­mium in­ven­tory and pri­vate mar­ket­places. Brands who are sit­ting on data will even­tu­ally see op­por­tu­ni­ties to mon­e­tise it.

What edge does Google give you, how does that shape your ap­proach?

We’ve been able to re­ally un­der­stand how the Google stack works and build solid best­prac­tices and tools that max­imise the value of the Google cent. We are also de­vel­op­ing tools that look at an in­te­grated view - how do off­line and on­line me­dia work to­gether, what are the best touch-points, how much to in­vest on each, and mea­sure the con­tri­bu­tion of each.

In dig­i­tal, many say the gap be­tween me­dia and the creative needs to re­duce...

The mar­ket­ing jour­ney is mov­ing from just ‘start with com­mu­ni­ca­tion’ to first see­ing where is this con­sumer and ac­cord­ingly com­mu­ni­cat­ing to them, so the mar­riage of creative and me­dia is even more es­sen­tial to­day than ever.

Big con­sult­ing firms are get­ting into me­dia... any con­cerns?

Con­sul­tan­cies have the ad­van­tage of mak­ing some­thing process driven and they work closely with top man­age­ment for that. But, this is not their area of ex­per­tise. You can build a team but you can’t build a unique or­gan­i­sa­tional mind­set that is de­signed to de­liver mar­ket­ing so­lu­tions.

“Agen­cies and brands are now ask­ing for more prod­ucts that pro­vide gran­u­lar­ity.”

ANAND CHAKRAVARTHY

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