Advertising Interviews

Rajesh Ghatge

Executive Director & COO | 26 Feb 2010

BTL reaches out to the (targeted) audiences that count. While in ATL, you count the (mass) audiences that you manage to reach. In this characteristic lies the intrinsic value that BTL brings to a marketeer. While BTL has certainly gained ground, brands are far from leveraging its true potential, especially of being able to use all consumer ‘living points’… The biggest learning is to keep believing in your point of view, your product, your clients and your people, and apply harder.

Rajesh Ghatge is the Executive Director and COO of 141Sercon. Having worked for a few years in marketing, in FMCG and pharma companies, Ghatge co-promoted and managed Sercon to become one of India’s largest BTL and marketing services agencies with a footprint across India and South East Asia.

Over the last 13 years, he has had experience in planning, creative and execution of B2B and B2C campaigns for global and Indian brands. Currently, he is part of the co-promoter team developing and managing the operations of 141Sercon in Asia.

Here’s Ghatge in conversation with Tuhina Anand of exchange4media.

Q. How has the slowdown affected BTL and 141Sercon in particular?

There was an overall caution displayed by brands on overall marketing spends, however the spends on BTL have remained steady, if not greater.

Q. Where do you see the BTL business going from here?

The need for BTL and the belief in its efficacy has been growing year on year. I am encouraged by the increasing seriousness of brands to have a comprehensive BTL strategy, too, for their brands. BTL is getting more and more into the mainstream marketing conversation and action.

Q. Compared to other traditional and new media, where do you see BTL today?

BTL reaches out to the (targeted) audiences that count. While in ATL, you count the (mass) audiences that you manage to reach. In this characteristic lies the intrinsic value that BTL brings to a marketeer. While BTL has certainly gained ground, brands are far from leveraging its true potential, especially of being able to use all consumer ‘living points’.

Q. What has been the biggest learning for you in these tough times?

The biggest learning is to keep believing in your point of view, your product, your clients and your people, and apply harder.

Q. What plans do you have ahead for 141Sercon in terms of any innovation or new launch?

As an organisational mandate, we have been launching innovative services regularly. In the past year, we have seen a tremendous traction for our ‘Pulse Tools’. These are sophisticated research based analytical tools to measure the performance of the brand and its communication in the last mile, and in activations. We had launched ‘Market Pulse’ last year, we have launched an upgrade of this tool to enable real time information streams from the market using mobile technology. We will be further launching a new tool, ‘Brand Pulse’, to measure how well is the brand represented across consumer touchpoints. These tools empower the brand owners to take corrective action to get more from their BTL communication and action. Besides these, we are also seeing an increasing acceptance of our point of view on ‘Digital’. Clients are using our ‘Digital Activation’ services to get some real returns.

Q. What are the numbers that you have projected for 141Sercon this year, and are you confident of achieving those?

The numbers are higher than last year and we are quite confident of achieving them.

Q. How do you view competition in India in this segment?

Competition is there, both from similar large agencies who specialise in aspects of BTL, retail and digital. There is competition from traditional agencies, who through collaborations with standalone activation set-ups are packaging themselves as integrated marketing agencies. There is competition from smaller set-ups, who are playing the penetrative pricing game. However, it is reassuring that clients are seeing through the disadvantages of engaging with such agencies in the long run, as the intervention remains tactical at best, and they want to engage with a large agency like ours, which brings strategic, creative and operational capabilities in the BTL domain.

Q. How have your plans to expand your footprint in other parts of the world fared?

Last year was certainly a dampner as we had to cut back on our ambition, though we managed to expand our operations in Vietnam and Bangladesh. This year, we will attempt to start our B2B operations in China.

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