Advertising Interviews

Andrew Swinand

President | 22 Oct 2010

I have been meeting a lot of CMO's and CEO's, in the past year, I have been to 27 countries and visited about 35 plus offices- the thing which I find is the universal truth- it is complexities. Clients have more choices for media, more and more of data and information, digital is more, everything is more. And what we see as an over emerging need in the market place is basically someone to make sense of it all. Someone who can basically tell me what matters and what I should do about it, what is important, how should I respond

Though the nature of media and communications changes drastically every day, Andrew Swinand has proven his ability to stay five steps ahead of the competition on behalf of marketers inventing new solutions for the industry by reinventing his role within the advertising media business. These days, as president of global operations for worldwide media agency network Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG), he applies his passion for innovation across continents, product categories and cultures creating unprecedented service and results by reexamining the question of what an agency can and should do for its clients and for people. Swinand's SMG role adopted in August 2008 entails a focus on building stronger connection infrastructures that continue to advance the company's presence within critical growth markets across the globe. Specifically, Swinand works with the network's regional CEOs across Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Europe/Middle East/Africa to fortify SMG offerings and strengthen its client proposition, leveraging assets and building on the strong momentum of these regions.

Along with regional management responsibilities, his role includes the creation of new client-facing service models across the network and the expansion of its successful technology practice. Further, he is charged with working alongside SMG Global CEO Laura Desmond to align and position the network to take advantage of the digital resources that the Publicis Groupe media brands now have access to as part of the recently launched VivaKi operating model including its Talent Operation and digital Nerve Center resources.

Most recently, Swinand was at Denuo, the media futures consultancy within Publicis Groupe. Prior to his role at Denuo, he was a president at Starcom Worldwide, where he helped secure the Samsung business as well as build a global technology practice. He was also responsible for developing proprietary accountability metrics to measure Return-on-Objective (ROO) across all client investments, supported by Starcom's extensive media research team, and he pioneered the service models Starcom delivers to Sun Microsystems and Oracle. Swinand will continue to oversee the Nintendo business across Starcom Worldwide and Leo Burnett.

Q. You have called it the human experience network. Why 'network'?

The thing that we have done is made investments to basically simplify human understanding. The one thing that is to be talked about is the money and we have actually created an online panel. It is there in India as well as Russia, China, US, Mexico and UK and the idea behind it is we talked about it as a attention response network where we actually have people as the part of the paid community who we chose based on their online usage and they basically work with us to test concepts and we can talk about products, advertising concepts, ideas with them. The idea is basically to have a community where they allow us to sense what is going on in the marketplace and we respond to it directly. So I think when we talk about human experience network it's twofold. First is how do we have the ability for the people to be closer to the human experience to understand what is going on; Second is the component of social listening. We basically allow our planners to have access to social listening to see what the key trends are within the product or within the market of a particular category. Also we created an 'Itunes' of insights; we created a human experience portal and within that portal we actually have a network of human experience strategists who actually are publishing key trends, key insights- some within the company some of them externally amongst key demographics, key targets, key categories, key products; and again the whole idea is how do we simplify human understanding for human experience closer to our planning and product so that we have advertising for our clients which is more relevant more effective and more impactful.

Q. Can you give us examples of what may have come across as work for other titles?

Sure, the best example I think is the work we had done for Samsung. Samsung is obviously a huge global firm. We always are looking for ways to differentiate our products, the TV space is a clutter. But we actually found the new daypart and we call it the day after the night before. What they were saying is that the idea of digital photography in taking pictures with your mobile phones is quite huge; there is a whole daypart where we actually found that people are spending 3 to 5 hours on Saturdays and Sundays going out andThursdays and Fridays posting photographs, sharing them, tagging them, talking about them and what we found was that day after the night before was actually a huge daypart where one actually utilizing mobile phones and mobile phone images. And what we found was we could actually create them into media vendors- the yahoos of the world and facebooks. What mattered was how we could basically incorporate product Samsung into this environment and on that daypart. And again I think what we are able to do with clients such as Diageo is interesting because one of the things everyone talks about is social media but there are very few applications for it. The reason I think this is so because it is a big amorphous bubble. Here I think the specific client insights, the specific usage that was valid to the target and basically allowed to incorporate the product was a way to create point of difference.

Q. Mike is active in India, China, Russia, the US and Mexico. Even in the US Otherwise it would have been only in the markets that you had once identified as your growth markets? Has that helped in the last year and a half?

Most definitely. From the business standpoint of SMG, we are having a great year, we are growing globally. Our global business is strong. I can't get into exact numbers but we have had a double digit growth and we have had a great year. Our digital product is approaching a quarter of our total revenues we have done great job in terms of investing in digital, growing digital, we have won awards for digital products and we have really invested in research and a lot of differentiation , we talked about our access on emerging markets. We have had great success in terms of growing the emerging markets, we continue dominate in Russia, Middle East and China this year picked up new businesses.

Q. About Mike again, did you have to educate your clients on what you are doing with this whole HEN way forward?

You know when we talk about Human Experience we kind of have this simplified purpose; we talk about simplified human understanding to deliver meaningful brand experiences in real time. When we are talking about clients we really see there are three components. The first of that being simplicity. I have been meeting a lot of CMO's and CEO's, in the past year, I have been to 27 countries and visited about 35 plus offices- the thing which I find is the universal truth- it is complexities. Clients have more choices for media, more and more of data and information, digital is more, everything is more. And what we see as an over emerging need in the market place is basically someone to make sense of it all. Someone who can basically tell me what matters and what I should do about it, what is important, how should I respond. So the first component is simplified human understanding and I think the Mike and human experience portal all a play into that.

Q. These are all the various things you are doing to put together your HEN?

It is simplified human understanding is where it starts and the second thing is to deliver meaningful brand experiences. The other key point of emphasis is how we measure and optimize our campaigns and our work based on relevance as meaning. So I think that if you look at media as a whole, the industry was basically built on efficiency, the bigger and the cheaper. My belief is while that was great to see and basically drove consolidation, we are now approaching points of diminishing returns. If you look at SMG we are number 2 globally and you know it is coming down to the top 4 players, dividing market shares, I think something like 89 per cent of all media. Point being- we have consolidated, what I think the next phase of our industry is going to be is all about relevance and meaning and how we will use all of that behavioral data how we use and understand human experience to increase the relevance and the effectiveness of advertising as opposed to just what can get the cheaper option. I think cheaper is a good thing but it has a point of diminishing return. I think what we are seeing more and more is how do we simplify human understanding, use that behavioral data to create and understand who are the best prospects, who are the best targets and also then how to send information; to understand what is relevant to them and what is important to them and how to use it to prove our messaging. We have been investing in actual dashboards to track and measure and help us understand how relevant advertising is to consumers so we can optimise based on that context. The last piece is 'real time'. The world is getting cluttered, we have Samsung in 76 markets, we have invested in Yammer and other work portals to help link our global network so that we can share ideas faster. It certainly applies to make the world smaller and have better real time information better real time understanding to allow us to basically improve. We talk about Mike and the human experience portal, how does real time information and inspiration for our planners help. Basically if we have an award winning work in India or another market, how do we share that across the network? In the past a lot of the networks were basically individual countries, much more of a lose confederacy as opposed to unified republic. We are working to become a more unified republic so that we can share a benefactor.

Q. It has been what 6 -7 months since this has been in place?

About a year, we have been working on it for a year and its really last 6 - 7 months that we actually started rolling our products for it.

Q. Does it help in things like new business wins?

The fact that we are growing it should be an indicative of a yes. The thing I found is what we tell our clients, how would you like the work be simplified? How would you like your advertising to be more meaningful and relevant? How would you like your information you are putting feature in real time? There is a very few people who would say no.

Q. You said you have had a double digit growth globally. Where did India stand what was India�s contribution like?

For India we have had a good year. I think we have work to do in terms of accelerating our growth here. I feel for India we are on the cusp of greatness. Actually I am going to be in India 3-4 times by the end of the year. We want to really focus on India in terms of driving the Human Experience and accelerating our growth.

Q. Apart from HEN what are the other areas you want to focus on in the India operations?

I think from the simplicity standpoint there are a lot of best practices in terms of process. I think our market here in India is a market which is basically maturing. I remember the first time I came to Delhi 8 - 9 years ago; it was a small road from the airport, I took the highway when I got here, no traffic till my hotel. I think that analogy applies to our business here and I think we want to bring a lot of atomization of technology here; we want to simplify work processes and basically continue to push and advance the operations to help our clients get better work faster.

Q. Last year Mediavest as a brand became active in India. How has that contributed?

Mediavest has actually done great for us. Last we spoke of Mediavest now in 33 markets; Mediavest is the seventh largest global brand in terms of media. If you look at Mediavest globally it has gone great guns for us. We have done well with it in India so mediavest as a brand continues to thrive. For Starcom Mediavest Group globally, it has been a strong second brand.

Q. Any other brands that you are thinking of bringing in India soon. I think you have enough of media assets but in terms of diversified services?

India has long been a leader in diversified services. We have been exporting more than importing in terms of diversified services.

Q. Does it help to have so many different units to look after everything in that much of a specialized manner? Does that help?

For diversified services I think you need to have specialists for certain areas. If you look at expands in rural marketing in emerging markets I believe it is a special area. If you take markets like India or China, where you don't have the footprint, you need a unique approach. My feeling is that to have an Expanse or a Navia which allows us to get into these markets through theatre, through out of home, through distribution if necessary, because the traditional media approach is not as effective. So I do believe it needs a special skill set.

Q. Last year Vivaki got a lot of importance, IMX got renamed; Vivaki as an umbrella became a little more prominent and also Mr. Shastri was appointed as the country chair for that. Now does a development like that have any bearing on something like media assets?

Huge. Vivaki is the future for Publicis Group and Starcom Mediavest Group. In some respects when I talked earlier about our ability to focus on human experience, what allows us do that is the creation of Vivaki. Through Vivaki by combining ZenithOptimedia, Starcom MediaVest Group and Digitas buying it makes us number 1 or number 2 in almost every market that we are in. So, it creates scale unprecedented. It allows us to basically sit down with the clients and say you are going to get the best rates bar none. So you know for me Vivaki as a strategic initiative, all of our back office, finance, technology and buying, all of those big scale operations become more efficient. Allowing us to pass on more savings to clients, allowing us to do it better faster and cheaper way, which allows Starcom Mediavest to focus on human experience, on insights, on strategy, on relevance and meaning. Vivaki, I think is what really allows us to be competitive in all the markets by continuing to be efficient which allows one to invest money for clients to be more effective.

Q. Not just Vivaki or Publicis Group but every other group is doing a lot of stuff in market such as India. OMD has grown quite well, PHD is expected to launch soon, GroupM has consolidated its operations very well and so has IPG group whether it is Lintas or Lodestar UM. In fact Lodestar Um just got the Coke business with them. Competition is also very active and very awake in India and of course I am more aware about India I don�t know in how many other markets you are getting the same problems but while it is good for competition to be there, more the merrier and all of that. Obviously it brings a challenge on to whatever your growth targets have been? What is the kind of challenge it has posed?

I mean for us with anything we are going to hit competitive pressures but my feeling is that we are still seeing a lot of consolidation where the weaker players fall out. The thing is, I am not going to name individual brands but if you start looking at number 7 no. 8 brands and some of the global brands or some of the smaller local players. I think their reason to exist starts to fall away. In the last few years, you have seen global consolidation a lot of debate on brands, considering pick up market share. Mars, Wrigley consolidating with us, Cadbury consolidating with us, you are going to see more and more of that. I still think there is a lot of global consolidation going on which basically drives growth. The other thing which we are seeing is clients are basically get into diversified services digital, we see markets, if you think about out of home. I still see there is a lot of runway for growth but it is redefining according to what that market place is. You are going to see two things, one, you will see smaller players fall away and two, broader services in more experiential marketing.

Q. Slowdown must have impacted whatever targets you may have tried to reach out in 2009. Did you redo them when 2010 happened, are things looking good after that?

Definitely, as I said, we have had a great year in terms of growth. 2010 would be the best year SMG has ever had.

Q. From an India viewpoint?

Best year we have ever had across the board.

Q. But in India you have not had any big win in 2010?

We have had a lot of organic growth.

Q. You spoke about how clients are consolidating their businesses. But clients are also calling for a lot of pitches, it may be because of the slowdown. 2009 I think it showed the way to everyone or it was an excuse of sorts. But we saw a lot of pitches, India alone had some 3000 crore worth pitches- if you include the Unilever pitch. Is that good?

You know what I think 2009 was financial crisis, 2010 was the innovation crisis. A lot of people kept their heads down, looking at the numbers in 2009, once they put their heads up and looked at the product and basically said- it can get better ...

Q. There have been a lot of conversations about procurement not that procurement is new to media service brands but it is just that since 2009 to now there is a lot of harping on procurement, unlike once upon a time when the marketing functions could decide all of the agency at its pitch. Now probably 80 per cent control of it is procurement. Do media agencies also have a procurement division of their own?

We have actually done work in other markets about procurement people. I will tell you the honest truth it is not the best practice.

Q. You are saying it from the client's side not the best practice to put everything on procurement...?

From an agencies standpoint or from a client's standpoint. I think at the end of the day procurement plays a valuable role in terms of cost comparison but I think you know as a client you want to own the product you buy. What we have seen is clients who have gone the pure procurement way, they pay for it. And I think if you want to race to the bottom you can quickly find it whereas I think these clients involve procurement and make sure that they are at a competitive price to make sure they are getting value. The clients also know that you get what you pay for in terms of people, you get what you pay for in terms of teams. The conversation which I have with clients is that you can buy small numbers of junior talent for not a lot of money but is that really going to give you differentiated product. So I can't speak of India but on a global basis and actually it depends basically on that. There is a fair number of pitches in the developed markets where clients buy cheap and are now they are saying- you know what I need quality and I am still going to have procurement involved. But you know I am not getting the quality products I need.

Q. So procurement pressures are manageable?

I don't see them as an issue

Q. How it would it impact agency relationships with media supplier and vendor relations. Because I remember in a recent interview that was in Valencia a few clients were talking about how they are concerned that agencies are not completely transparent with clients when it comes to their vendor relationship. Recently, three four months back a very renowned respectable client had called for a pitch with some really bizarre terms one of which was we will not pay you commission and you take it from the channel guys and you give it to us. So that was one of the clauses of that overall pitch. So media vendor and media agency relationship over the years it appears to have deteriorated rather than becoming partners, if that is the concern clients are talking about which they are?

You know I think interestingly enough what I see is- we are having deeper relationships with the partners. We have totally transparent relationships with our clients; I think within that when I think of media vendors; If clients want transparency from their agency it is not hard to get. It is based on a structure of every relationship and that is what I see us having. If you look at the Publicis Group, we have done deep deals with Google we have done deep deals with other partners where we are actually sharing more and more assets and research information. So I don't see the core issue so much as being relationships are bad with media vendors. What I feel is the relationship is evolving and what I feel is that the relationship is evolving more, and more currency put on knowledge , value , insights , research, systems and technology. Basically the relationship is growing and morphing into closer partnership.

Q. Everybody talks about the digital growth everybody talks about mobile the mass medium. Mobile as a mass medium hasn�t even taken off internationally. People are still figuring when will the day of the mobile come we still talk about it though. Are you really expecting mobile to take off and why hasn�t it taken off yet?

I have actually long been of the opinion that it is early on mobile. I think a lot of the issue is what is invasive and what is interactive and the thing I think is that for a lot of markets where there is a lot of mobile phone usage its phone, its text. Whenever you get an advertising text it is annoying so the thing is I think people say that there is huge audience on mobile why can't there be advertising but I don't think the environment exists and therefore I think it is early. I think that as you see 4G technology as you see more mobile apps, as you see more mobile interaction, you are going to see more mobile advertising. We at the Vivaki level we have been doing a lot in terms of keeping our finger on mobile. Is mobile is one of my top 5 priorities? No. I think there is much more going on in terms of rich media, in terms of you know you think about digital, in environment in looking at apps and looking at tablets. I think those environments are a lot richer.

Q. Do you think the newer forms of technology, they have created a lot of interest but do you think people are already thinking on how an iPad can be used for communication exercises?

I don't think, I know they are

Q. People in the US are now spending money on applications, they are talking about augmented reality, India has got no clue about augmented reality?

But even within the US market there is not a huge amount of money there, People are interacting with apps, that is the habit are being formed but advertising is still lagging behind

Q. Another area in digital is social media now it starts and ends with Facebook and some bit of Twitter. Isnt it?

I have a different view on social media I think the thing which is interesting is again people are all excited about it is because of its huge audience. Thing for me on social is that I don't think it will ever be huge because by its very nature it is not paid. I think for certain brands there is opportunity to create ideas that have social relevance. And I think the thing within that as well is tied back to our whole focus on Human Experience when you can make your brand relevant to the human experience it has social value and creates currency. I think that the interesting thing is people say I have to be in the social media because social is big and they don't have a reason to exist otherwise. You know again the starting point needs to be how does my brand interact and how does it create relevance within the human experience and social is a component of that

Q. How many of Starcom clients have upped their spent in digital?

Every single one of them from 0 to 2 per cent, from 5 per cent to 8 per cent or from 7 per cent to 12 per cent. Every single one of them in the past 6-12 months.

Q. In digital there are things like DTH which is digital television or in radio there is satellite radio, internet radio, in print we are talking about epaper. There is digital version of traditional media so when the advertiser engages with the digital version of traditional media where is his budget getting allocated is it in digital or is it in traditional ?

I don't think believe that there is such thing as digital or traditional. I think everything is digital. You know it is interesting that the cable TV goes through the same cable, we have Samsung as a client, all Samsung's TV's now basically act as computers, they work as computers, you have YouTube in the TV. We need to start thinking that way. Amazon in the US sold more ebooks last month than they did regular books. Everything is digital.

Q. On Starcom you have already explained to me that focus on India would be so much that we will see you come here 3 or 4 times this year in the rest of four months left. Also you have said from the HEN point of view there is a lot you are clear that you are going to focus in India and the three points that you had mentioned. Apart from that what are some of the other things that we can expect from you in India? What are some of the new initiatives?

That is it. Honestly I think when you talk about human experience, simplicity, meaningful relevant communication, real time technology and investment those are huge buckets, you know you add digital to that and I am done. If I can do those four things that is going to lead to growth that is going to lead to client satisfaction that is going to lead to success.

Q. Do you do a comparison with other media agencies and where they stand in terms of their market share?

Of course everyone looks at that but while I am aware I don't think we have ever nor do I think we should start benchmarking ourselves versus the competition. I feel like more of the things at SMG is unique in leading versus following. We have been doing great with the idea of human experience because we want to lead not because we saw other people doing something.

Q. Two years and one month since you have been in this role. How are you finding it especially because it was a special role and not something which system already had?

It has its pros and cons. I love global business, I love the experience, I love the learning, I feel like I can see it gaining more impact. I see that our network has become much more cohesive, much more consistent and is evolving much more rapidly. Travelling and being away from my family kills.

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