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IMPACT Annv Spl: Vikram Sakhuja on 7 big media bets

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IMPACT Annv Spl: Vikram Sakhuja on 7 big media bets

Seven years ago, I had just about taken independent charge of Mindshare. Our headlines then were around how media independents had taken full control of their destiny by having direct relationships with clients (rather than through ‘full service agencies’); indeed media agencies then were still not admitted as members of AAAI. We had started talking about advertising moving from interruption to engagement. This essentially made a case for communication planning over media planning, and the increasing role of expanding the media mix beyond TV, Print and OOH into FM radio, cinema, content, sponsorship and activation. And we used to talk in despair about the non-sustainability of a sub-3.5% planning and buying commission.

Seven years later, media independents are an integral part of the AAAI, there is an increasing move towards adopting activation ideas, and consequently the share of “non-conventional” media has burgeoned. The one big change, of course, has been the consciousness and momentum behind Digital. And of course in these seven years, we saw the surge in profligate spending, punctuated by a global downturn and now a more circumspect mood. The one lament that continues perhaps even more stridently is the non-sustainability of the sub-3.5% commission.

With this backdrop, I am with some trepidation making my seven big media bets about the future. In my eternal optimism, all bets are geared towards making media money working harder to grow brands.
1. Industry will move to integrated media agnostic planning
2. All media will trade on audiences with Cost Per Thousand (CPT or CPM) as the common currency
3. Planning will move from only National plans to National + micro-market plans
4. Digital will become 10% of the Media AdEx
5. Data ownership and addressability will allow us to target a billion one at a time
6. Media value will increasingly get a quantitative edge with more use of ROI tools
7. Media agencies will be valued at more than 3% of the investment they manage

For starters, I believe that marketers will be forced to get back to basics. I am seeing too much of unquestioned media guidelines based on SOV and one-off campaign/activity salience rather than 365 days of brand building. Marketers will realise that three loud bursts for 24 weeks/year are in many cases less effective than always-on timely reminders. Further, even as brands believe they are embracing integrated planning, the truth is that they are merely doing multi-media planning. A TV plan forms the base, with dailies, radio, OOH, magazine, internet and search plan added on. We have been talking about data fusion for a decade without anything meaningful to show for it. I believe database integration notwithstanding, there is a need to conceive a plan that seamlessly covers reach and frequency across media. This will dramatically re-optimise the excessive, often sickeningly wasteful way in which TV is being used, and re-balance inventory across other media. Advertisers look at Reach, Outlay, Impressions and Efficiency while evaluating any media buy. Today, weirdly enough, there are different metrics used for different media. TV has R/F/GRP/CPRP. Dailies have Reach/ Cost per sq cm/ number of inserts; radio has cost per spots and number of spots/day, outdoor has number of sites with each site being valued differently. Internet has impressions and CPM. Isn’t this a case of overcomplicating something essentially simple? The bottomline is that a brand needs to reach its TG (in millions) a certain number of times, resulting in impressions for a certain outlay at a certain Cost per Thousand (CPT/CPM). This can be done today across all media that can then be compared apple to apple.

My first big bet is that marketers will see the profound simplicity and impact of moving to media agnostic planning.

The second related bet is that they will employ impressions and CPT as the means to do it.
A corollary of that is that we will increasingly move from mass media broadcast plans to more city specific micro-market plans. India is a large country and increasingly, a one-size-fits-all plan will not work. Today, there are a significant chunk of brands being targeted only to metros/ large cities but employing mass media options that cover irrelevant markets. From a time 15 years ago, when the four southern states were the only ones that were media isolatable, we today have the means of reaching most markets with sufficient reach employing both conventional (TV, Print, etc) options as well as the non-conventional (ambient, key accounts, mobile, activation, cinema, etc). The quantification of these non-conventional elements and making them part of a media plan will pave the way for micro-market plans.

My third bet is that there will be far more micro-market plans (at metro/ SCR levels) as a top-up to the base mass broadcast plan.

With internet usage in India reaching a 100 million, it is obviously a medium that cannot be ignored. Marketers are still figuring out ways they can use Display, Search, Mobile and Social to build their brands. The sheer marketer and agency momentum behind this medium means that everyone wants it to grow and it will. Key enablers to Digital explosion will be integrated media planning, better creative in Digital, and unlocking the true potential of the contextual, on-the-move, interactive and social capabilities of the ‘medium’.

My fourth bet is that in less than five years, Digital will grow from 3-4% of our AdEx to 10% (and well over Rs 4,500 crore).

The more profound impact of digitisation will be the harnessing of data and capability to target beyond demographics to behavioural. Once digitisation extends to TV, Mobile, Internet, OOH, Retail, “Print” (same content but on screens), the return path becomes a reality and opt-in norms on privacy are clear, marketers have the potential to reach a billion one at a time.
The fifth bet is that we will see the emergence of increasingly more customised and targeted plans.

The next one is about media value. Advertisers spend big bucks on “paid media” behind getting their ads seen, breaking clutter, building salience, gaining associative imagery from the media environment and indeed building brand values by sponsoring high passion properties. Add to that the increasing move from just paid media to also owned and earned media, where brands build their own content properties, as well as proactively channel conversation (and advocacy) about their brand. What is not very clear today is the basis employed to justify the premiums paid for different inventory/ content. From wetting a finger and holding it up to check direction of wind, the way forward for justifying premiums will be linked to achievement of communication objective; and moving from an entirely qualitative basis to one influenced by quantitative ROI means.

My sixth bet is that we will see true emergence of Return on Marketing Investment tools including media mix modelling, live dashboards that link input with output. Yes, I see some more science coming into marketing.

Finally, I’ll let you in on some internal discussions we do in media agencies. We all aspire to become lead business partner to our clients. We feel we have the source credibility to make this claim because we understand consumers, research, data, statistics, the increasingly complex media landscape and our ability to use it, and not the least our ability to link marketing inputs with Brand P&L. We feel that we could add value in client boardrooms. We also know that we are not quite there. Today, for a media buyer to be seen as a marketing investment manager seems like a delusion of grandeur. However, that is my seventh bet (and resolve). Media agencies will increasingly help take the conversation from media price to media value, and the treatment of marketing budgets from a cost to an investment. When that happens, clients will value media agencies not just as implementers, but also advisors and consequently seven years from now, the sub-3.5% lament will no longer be on the list.



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