Dialogue Max Hegerman
Max Hegerman
Senior VP & Digital Head, JWT India Group
'Social media is still growing rapidly in India and Facebook and Twitter are the growth drivers. In India, my hope is to start getting into content development and content sharing. In India, people are not creating enough user-generated content because we aren’t giving people the right opportunity to engage. It will be fun to see how this takes off and changes the way people interact and engage in a country that is so focused on TVCs.'
Spending the past 11 years integrating digital capabilities into traditional advertising agencies and known for award winning campaigns like Nike Skateboarding, Max Hegerman is charged with creating a stand-alone digital unit for JWT in India. Hegerman was instrumental in a number of memorable marketing projects, including the creation of the Saturn Cycling Team in 1991, the launch of Nike Apparel in 1994 and Nike Skateboarding in 1998. He has recently been appointed as CEO of Hungama Digital Services and is leading the transition of the new organisation to WPP/ JWT standards and policies.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Twishy, Hegerman speaks at length about how to attract marketers to digital, the category of advertisers using digital, key emerging trends and much more...

Q. How has the journey been in JWT?


Digital is a global mandate for JWT, but the agency is perceived as a very large and successful traditional creative agency. So, for us to say now that it’s a digital agency on top of that is going to take some time. We have a nice operation in Mumbai with 17 people and we are doing aggressive business in our Delhi’s office as well. Delhi can create an impact because of a large number of MNCs and the nature of our clients.

We have also created a core team of senior technologists, strategists and creative heads, who are focused on this market and also look at other offices in the country. We are brand new to digital and we need to demonstrate the fact that we have got credibility, coupled with capability, and Hungama’s acquisition has helped us a lot with instant production capabilities.

Q. Has JWT roped in digital in its strategy?


It is really about ideas and that is what Bobby (Pawar, Chief Creative Officer & Managing Partner, JWT India), others and I push within the agency. We are trying to avoid the situation of traditional versus digital. It is about an idea first and then we figure out the tactics in media that support them.

Q. What kind of campaigns has been done on digital by JWT?


We are at a very nascent stage of digital. We are just getting started, so we haven’t done a lot of work. We did a massive ‘friends’ campaign with Airtel on Friendship Day. We partnered with the offline team to come up with an interesting idea of the friendship band that was seen on Facebook and 12 million people were essentially involved in it. We are also working with Pepsi, Lay’s and Hero for their digital campaigns.

Some of the brilliant campaigns done on digital include the one done by Ogilvy One for Fox Crime. We need to do more of those and figure out how all the elements come together and then create energy around the brand, activity, service or the product.

Q. We have seen that marketers abstain from spending on digital. How can you attract marketers to digital?


I think we can monetise the challenge. For me, it is also important to look at the challenge not from a monetary perspective, but also look at how we can educate and inform clients because they are not aware of what all can be done on digital. When brands think about digital, they are thinking about social media (Facebook and little bit of Twitter). When we have a conversation with clients, it’s only about Facebook, which is very small in the whole digital universe. People aren’t aware of the digital tools.

It is important to bring back ideas from across the world and work on them, given the infrastructure. We should really start building awareness and put together an interesting, compelling and successful integrated digital campaign.

It’s a matter of convincing the clients and coming back to them with ideas that can work. It is also important to communicate to the marketers about the simplicity of an idea. If an idea is simple and logical, it cuts through technology. However, it is a challenge to have team members who can talk to clients about technical things in a simple manner and package different elements of digital to make it work together.

Q. What is the category of advertisers that use digital aggressively?


Right now it’s the telcos, because they are pushing 3G, VAS and it is in their best interest to have good campaigns in the digital space. Automotive category also uses digital medium because technology can get people excited about big products like what Mahindra had done at the Auto Expo. Entertainment industry is also using digital in creating energy around movies and stars.

Q. How do you measure the success of a digital campaign?


It is not about having millions of fans on Facebook. Unfortunately, Facebook is one star in the constellation and that one star has one metric and for many people that one metric is fans, but it goes far deeper. Brands can buy fans very easily so that metric is useless. It is all about conversations, engaging fans on a daily basis, reacting, liking, commenting, sharing and posting images. A brand can have millions of fans with relatively less activity, but that is meaningless. We don’t discourage increasing numbers because that is what clients want. We should try to talk about everything in a very visual manner on Facebook. It is a very high metric of engagement.

Q. What is the current state of augmented reality in India?


It is also at a nascent stage, however, Hungama has done a number of things in this space. They are creating the idea and implementing it in the right way by understanding the technology. It needs to have an appropriate type of an activity – like in the case of F1 you can take driving or racing experiences through the augmented reality platform. As we move further into the technology that surrounds us, it will definitely take off.

Q. Do you think mobile is becoming the primary screen?


It is where India is moving rapidly. India looks to become the first country that literally leapfrogs the desktop/ laptop. Mobile is the next way forward and it will have much more impact in India than anywhere else in the world. Digital technology is moving so quickly and the infrastructure is not keeping pace with the desktop; even the digital team faces difficulty because of the speed and the bandwidth. As 3G gets popular and as 4G launches, I think people in India will be sharing mobile devices or tablets to educate and inform. We are aligning ourselves with key mobile developers and telcos that can help us implement our ideas. It is one of my focus areas. It is, however, important to understand how we create platforms that allow web-like experience.

Q. What are the trends seen in digital in the near future?


Social media is still growing rapidly in India and Facebook and Twitter are the growth drivers. In India, my hope is to start getting into content development and content sharing. If we look around the world, people are creating a lot of content online, taking lots of pictures and creating music clips and uploading it. In India, people are not creating enough user-generated content because we aren’t giving people the right opportunity to engage. It will be fun to see how this takes off and changes the way people interact and engage in a country that is so focused on TVCs. I think TVCs will be far more engaging and can have a multiplier effect if it is supported by a digital campaign. However, the challenge is to get the concepts and ideas sold in an environment that still gives significant attention to traditional advertising.

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