It is clear that getting an expat on board in an Indian advertising set-up helps primarily because of their vast experience in different parts of the world and also provides an outsider’s perspective, bringing in clarity along with deeper knowledge of the subject. In the second part of this report, exchange4media finds out from some expats who are working in India or have worked here, how they view the Indian advertising industry.
A vibrant, dynamic industry
According to Max Hegerman, President, Tribal DDB India, “The advertising industry in India is vibrant, even more so than in the People’s Republic of China (Beijing), where we were most recently. The community here feels like a group of people excited about what is being created, and the digital community is a maniacal sub-set of that. Perhaps, it is a result of India’s robust economy and a corresponding surge in optimism, but it certainly feels like clients and agencies alike are excited about the future. In terms of the digital space, it does lag behind other major markets (in penetration), but that has not deterred digital creatives from pushing the envelope when it comes to technology and creativity. I really like what I am seeing.”
Hegerman is bullish on the industry, though he does admit that digital, which is pegged as the hope of the future of communication, is lagging in India.
Les Margulis, who was till recently President of RK Swamy Media Group, added here, “The advertising industry is very dynamic in India, but I see two primary differences vis-à-vis other countries where I have run media agencies. First, is the very strong emphasis on lowest price versus the right strategy. Perhaps because it is easiest to compare prices, the entire focus of many campaigns rest on cheapest CPM or CPRP. Second, is the relative slow growth of digital. In the US, for example, digital is the focal point of all campaigns now and not an afterthought, as it is in India.”
‘The industry is at once blessed with what it has and cursed with what might be’
Charles Cadell, CEO, Lowe Lintas, felt that from an industry point of view, Indian advertising was weakening fast and squandering the time to prepare for what is to come. He said, “I do not believe the industry truly appreciates the wonderful stature and regard in which it is still held in India relative to other markets. If it did, it would understand the height from which it has to fall and be anxious indeed. So, the industry is at once blessed with what it has and cursed with what might be. Unless we, as a body, unite, fight and lead.”
He further noted, “The market dynamics that exist in India do not exist elsewhere, but they naturally set the tone for how the companies within it operate. Traditional remuneration schemes, including commission, can often still drive traditional agency structures and thinking, thus giving limited investment for the massive digital explosion of tomorrow. Dominant and still growing TV and print spends limit the development of the internal expertise to be able to engage customers in conversations versus monologues. The tremendous power of client and agency relationships limiting serious account shifts and moves can mean accountability and delivery (analytics) is secondary to personal compatibility. Neither local boutique creative hot-shops nor multinational marketing specialists companies (consultants, design groups, digital, etc.) have (yet) made a real dent. The procurement department is not a common feature amongst clients, and as yet, consultants such as R3 are not an everyday part of life. All this and more is a fact of life elsewhere and will inevitably hit India at some stage – and it is going to be painful. The question is how are we readying ourselves for it and ensuring as a body we can take advantage of it. We still have time.”
‘Is there a flaw?’
Having gained indepth knowledge of the Indian market, expats are only too aware of the flaws in Indian advertising. Margulis opined, “I would not use the term ‘flaw’, but rather emphasis. I see several, the first being with government contracts (and PSUs). It is a decision by committee, which I always found difficult to manage as often times there was no one in charge. Second, is the emphasis, as I mentioned above, on price and more price. How cheap can a buy be was the overriding theme that I heard. I think that is misguided.”
Tribal DDB India’s Hegerman added here, “From a purely digital perspective, my thought would be that online has been seen largely as a lead-generation tool, instead of an opportunity to engage and inspire (as well as learn from) consumers like no other medium. It is not necessarily a ‘flaw’, but I do see that digital is undervalued as a brand building investment – and digital agencies need to change that perception. In addition, and these two points may be related, industry talent is still largely focused on above-the-line business/ creativity.”
‘I want to be a part of it’
Giving his views on advertising in India, Hiroshi Omata, Director and Executive Vice President, Dentsu Marcom, said, “First of all, looking at the current advertising landscape in India, I am observing no stereotypes about advertising in terms of its execution. I am rather seeing an abundance and variety in creativity. As award-winning advertisements prove themselves, India’s creativity delivers as high quality of execution as that in other parts of the world, backed by long and deep indigenous cultures like the movie industry. In an environment where culture blooms, advertising blossoms. Another observation is that high caliber of professionals with higher education are being attracted into the advertising business, which is a good thing. Advertising business is a people business. Where there is affluence of talented people, advertising prospers.”
He further said, “No matter where we were in the advertising business, the key to success in the future of advertising is to blend technology and creativity, and to be a master of both fundamental elements of advertising. The advertising professional must speak technology while he talks about creativity. As the world is getting more and more flat, India would play a key role in the global advertising landscape in terms of creativity and technology. India would be able to get most out of this trend, which will be more obvious in a few years down the line. I am dreaming about a future where knowledge professionals will collaborate with each other, going beyond national and cultural boundaries, and India’s professionals will play a main role. The future of India’s advertising will be brighter than anywhere in the world. And I want to be a part of it.”
The value factor of expats in Indian advertising - Part 1