Ashish Bhasin, Chairman, India & CEO SE Asia, Aegis Group, highlights the seven landmarks of the Indian media agencies…
Advent of media independence - Traditionally, media always used to be an adjunct function of a creative agency. The first landmark, in the mid to late 90s, was media independence. Hindustan Lever was probably the first company which started this as a client. Initially, they used to buy through Lintas and then subsequently Fulcrum was set up by Group M for them. Shortly after that, various agencies came in and the whole process of media independence started. Of course, Madison became the first large independent media company. This was something new in India.
The people process - The second landmark was on the people front. There was a complete change in the type of people the media used to attract. This probably happened as a result of media independence. Until then, media always used to be a back-end function. But then on, media had to be dealing with the client. No longer was it the domain of a specialist media planner or buyer, suddenly there was a demand for client-servicing executives. I’m happy to be part of the first breed of client-servicing professionals who actually came into this business. Some of the biggest industry leaders in the domain today are people of client-servicing or marketing origin.
Saddam Hussein and the TV explosion - Then happened the entire TV explosion, which I attribute to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Until that time, we only had government channels and they gave fairly doctored news. But when Saddam walked into Kuwait, for the first time, CNN and other channels started covering it like a live war feed. To see the coverage, people started checking in to hotels like Taj and Oberoi, which were the only places where cable TV was available then. That’s when they realized that there was a huge market for news and content. That in a sense started the whole explosion of TV. From one television channel, i.e., Doordarshan, today we have 400 or 450 channels available to every consumer for Rs 300-350 a month. With that TV boom, the entire look and feel of content changed, as did the urgency of news coverage in print, which became analytical.
Subtle shift of power – By then, power was subtly shifting from creative agencies to media agencies. Until then, relationships were managed by creative agencies, who understood consumer insights. But the media industry was evolving so rapidly and investing so much in research – studying both readership and viewership with the help of IRS and TAM respectively - that they started getting a better insight into consumer psyche. Better quality media people were also joining the sector, and these were people who had business perspectives. So a slow but subtle shift of power happened towards the media industry. This process will continue, and at some stage 5 or 10 years down the line, power will probably shift from media agencies to digital agencies.
Growing importance of non-traditional media – We only had the print and TV market, when all of a sudden emerged the out of home (OOH) media. It started being more and more professionalised. From hand-painted hoardings, we progressed to vinyl, and now we have digital hoardings. Street furniture became important, as did activation and events. Rural marketing started taking shape.
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