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Advertising Interviews

Divya Radhakrishnan

President | 11 Jun 2010

Right now most of the media agencies have the same business model, and also the media service brands are facing a perception problem, wherein they have not grown in the last 10 years in terms of how they have been perceived. Media teams need to bring back on-ground learning to their strategic thinking. There is need to make the thinking process more relevant and with an ear to the ground.

Divya Radhakrishnan is President, TME and Rediffusion Y&R Public Relations. Her responsibilities include running the two verticals of Media and Public Relations for the Rediffusion Y&R Group.

Prior to this role, Radhakrishnan was National Head Buying at TME. She had joined the group in 2003 to head the Tata AoR, which was formed to handle media services for 23 companies of the Tata Group. In September 2008, she was elevated to the role of President TME, wherein she has been successfully establishing thought leadership for TME with a new way of delivering message to the consumer. In July 2009, she was assigned the additional responsibility of heading the Public Relations practice of the group due to synergies in the platforms of both the practices.

With over two decades’ experience, Radhakrishnan has worked for brands including Colgate Palmolive, Parle Products, Tata Tea, Hewlett Packard, and Garnier Laboratories, among others.

Radhakrishnan started her career with Dacunha Associates as a media trainee to rise to the position of Media Manager before she left to join her assignment at Publicis, where she spent 12 years, heading the media function of the agency. She has led teams across offices on strategic media directions, integrated media knowledge, and the consumer perspective on all brands and developing international tools to Indian context.

Radhakrishnan has a Diploma in Management Studies and 21 years of work experience – which she believes is an infinite degree tutored by all those who she had worked with. She is also an active member of various industry bodies such as Media Forum in India (part of the Advertising Agencies Association of India), Vice-Chairperson of the Radio Technical Committee of the Media Research Users Council and an executive member of the Indian Newspaper Society - Advertising Agencies Association of India joint committee, and jury member for national and international advertising awards.

In this interview with exchange4media’s Pallavi Goorha Kashyup, Radhakrishnan describes TME’s journey over the years, the emerging trends in the Indian media industry and her dual role of media agency and PR agency head.

Q. How has your journey been with TME? What were the challenges that you faced?

My journey with the Rediffusion Y&R Group, which started seven years ago, began with a challenge to head the prestigious Tata AoR, then I went on to spearhead the buying function at TME. The next move was to head TME a year and a half back and subsequently, Rediffusion Y&R Public Relations.

Every stage in this journey came with its own set of challenges; for the Tata AoR, it was about straddling the media requirements of the 23 diverse set of companies of the Tata Group. In the case of buying, it was about putting in place the science and processes of buying in a complicated multi-vendor scenario. As head of TME, it was about taking on a P&L responsibility and to create a unique slot for TME in the highly competitive media agency scenario, where the belief was all in favour of media might. And in PR, it was about the way our group challenged the eco-system on the belief of putting media and PR under the same leadership.

Q. How was the year 2009 for TME?

To quote Sir Martin Sorel, “Flat is the new high”, TME registered a robust growth of 15 per cent in revenue, hence had a great year. TME’s new products promise ‘Opportunity to Experience (OTX)’ through our process of ‘Market Contact Planning’ that we took to market in 2009 and resulted in nine new business wins. In 2009, we also picked up five metals between the two industry awards.

Q. What is your vision for TME for the next five years? Where do you want to see TME in the next five years?

The Rediffusion Y&R Group has taken cognizance of the fact that consumer fragmentation and convergence of media co-exists in today’s environment. Hence, the offering of one Rediffusion, which is augmented by the strengths of our seven speciality companies offering solutions in a cohesive, collaborative way using a combination of communication tools to address the brand’s specific requirement.

Keeping in line with this philosophy is TME’s offering of delivering Opportunity to Experience through our process of Market Contact Planning. This is based on the simple belief that doing media planning alone will be restricted by the ability of the medium. Hence, we believe in creating conversation neighbourhoods, which is a clear articulation of where and when the brand needs to have a meaningful conversation with the consumer.

Q. How do you handle your media agency and PR agency role together?

The idea of bringing the media and PR companies under my leadership was to leverage the strengths of the two practices to our advantage. This stems from the basic fact that the platform used by both the practices is the same, but what really differs is the mode of delivery. When the target audience is consuming a medium, he receives the advertising/ editorial messaging at the same time. His response to either depends on the message itself.

Q. Do you think mobile marketing and digital marketing will pick up in a fragmented market like India?

With a 584 million mobile subscriber base, no media practitioner would ever want to overlook this massive reach vehicle. However, what needs to be cracked is the model on how this can be used as an advertising tool. Various formats are currently available, but nothing proven to live up to the might of its volume base.

Our take on digital is that digital is now an integral part of mainstream media mix. We did not start a TV agency when TV reach caught up, people just moulded themselves to get savvy on TV. The same holds for digital.

Q. Do clients prefer to work with a digital arm in a media agency or are they more comfortable with a small independent digital shop?

Digital is yet another contact point as far as our philosophy goes, hence, if it forms a part of the overall contact strategy, the media agency itself should have the capabilities to deliver the same. In such a format, clients will be more than happy to have a single contact point responsible for his entire plan.

Q. How does TME measure its success? Do you compare the numbers year-on-year or is the number of awards you win in a year a measure of your success?

Neither! Because both the parameters mentioned here are very internal. We believe that we are there because of the brands that we handle and the success of these brands determines our success. When the brands we handle score high on any measurement scales, it also speaks of our success. Recently, the Brand Derby Report 2009 in Business Standard’s marketing supplement ‘The Strategist’ featured two of the launches we partnered Parle Products on – Parle Hide & Seek Bourbon and Parle Monaco Smart Chips – among the most successful launches of 2009.

Q. What, according to you, are the emerging trends in the Indian media industry for 2010-12? What role will digital media play vis-à-vis traditional media?

Five trends forecast for the media industry will be:
• Focussing more on contact planning, rather than passively buy media that is just available over the counter
• Getting as close as possible to editorial, that is, more of content integration, brand placements, advertiser funded programming, etc.
• Giving preference to dialogue medium and not merely chasing reach
• Augmenting contact capabilities on both ends of the spectrum, that is, rural and digital
• Retail emerging as a critical contact point – The last four yards test

Media teams need to bring back on-ground learning to their strategic thinking. There is need to make the thinking process more relevant and with an ear to the ground.

Q. Are you happy with the kind of budgets being allocated to digital right now, and how do these compare with the scene internationally?

Though as sheer share of the pie the digital budgets seem small, the growth rates have been pretty decent. Given the geographic fragmentation of our country and heterogeneous nature of the population, it is a challenge to stretch the media rupee across all constituents. In this context, the budgets allocated currently are fine.

Q. What are the things that you can do when it comes to the business structure?

Right now most of the media agencies have the same business model, and also the media service brands are facing a perception problem, wherein they have not grown in the last 10 years in terms of how they have been perceived.

Q. Being in the position that you are in, do you think you’ve had the opportunity to address some of these problems at a larger level?

I often say that TME is the only media agency to have in-house capability in creative, public relations, CRM, out of home, retail designing. This gives us the ability to transcend thought processes to arrive at solutions that are beyond the strategic thinking and implementation capabilities of a regular media agency. Once you have positioned yourself on the larger space of contact, then all contact formats come under the purview of this entity. Hence, there is always the scope of expanding.

Also, in our way of thinking at the Rediffusion Y&R Group, our tool-kit – ‘Playdo’ – positions creating of conversation neighbourhoods much ahead in the process and hence, this will determine the content that will be created for communication. End-result being that media companies move up the value chain, and thus, recognition and rewards follow.

Q. So, you are happy with the new business wins in India and the growth percentage?

While 2009 was a great year for us, 2010 has been bit of a challenge. However, with the product and the great team that we have at TME, I am confident that we will re-create the same magic this year too.

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