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Vir Sanghvi, Ashok Venkatramani, Madhukar Kamath, Jasmin Sohrabji, Sam Balsara, Sivakumar Sundaram recall lessons of the last decade & define rules of the next

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Vir Sanghvi, Ashok Venkatramani, Madhukar Kamath, Jasmin Sohrabji, Sam Balsara, Sivakumar Sundaram recall lessons of the last decade & define rules of the next

The exchange4media Conclave 2010 concluded with a Power Panel that was marked by some intense debate. The panellists gave their views on the learnings from the decade gone by and the expectations from the next decade. Session Chairperson Vir Sanghvi encompassed even the audience in the debate, which made the session very interactive and involving.

The exchange4media Conclave, the annual flagship event of the exchange4media Group, is special this year as it marks the commencement of the Group’s 10th Anniversary celebrations. The theme for the Conclave this year is ‘Rebooting the Indian media and advertising industry’. The Delhi leg of the Conclave was held on June 9, 2010.

The session, titled ‘Lessons of the decade gone, rules of the next…’ featured Ashok Venkatramani, CEO, Media Content and Communication Services; Madhukar Kamath, CEO, Mudra Group; Jasmin Sohrabji, CEO, OmnicomMedia Group India; Sam Balsara, Chairman, Madison World; and Sivakumar Sundaram, CEO, Times Private Treaties, as the panellists.

The lessons learnt

Getting down to business, Vir Sanghvi commenced the session by asking each of the panel members to share the three lessons that they had learnt from the last decade.

First one to speak was Ashok Venkatramani, who said, “The three questions to be asked oneself on this are – Are we delivering to the client? Are we delivering to the customer? And, are we delivering to the shareholders? If the business has got these questions in place, it will flourish, but wherever they get it wrong, it will flounder.”

Jasmin Sohrabji said, “I wouldn’t say lessons, but I have an observation of the decade that was. a) Industry metrics have moved from simple reach performance to an engagement one; b) We have come a long way in developing talent in the industry and invested in looking outside the core industry for the right talent; c) Collaboration between media agency and media owner increased too.”

According to Sivakumar Sundaram, the key lessons were advent of new media and the emergence of the radio as a business.

Sam Balsara added here, “The three learning are – Firstly, we need to focus on the outcome rather than the output. Earlier, clients thought they were doing a great job in terms of accountability, however, today, somewhere this realisation is gone. Secondly, as India prospers, agencies need to watch out where to put on fat. Don’t economise on expenditure, but at the same time critically look at every rupee spent. Lastly, we need to ask why is the advertising business not growing. We are only 0.34 per cent of India’s GDP while the global average is 0.8 per cent. I think we have not done a good job in nurturing the small businesses as we focus only on big players. Industry needs to bring in thousands of new entrepreneurs into the advertising market.”

Madhukar Kamath observed, “It was a decade of de-segregation, which is not good from the marketers’ point of view. It led to price debates. Today, in the age of collaboration, one is dependent on the other. It is good for growth, but not for ROI and brand building. Secondly, content is not king, the consumer is. He is the one who creates the demand and spreads the word. And from the agencies’ point of view, we need to structure our agencies differently and have strategic relationships.”

What went wrong?

Sanghvi then asked the speakers as to what went wrong in the last 10 years.

Kamath replied, “It’s just that people forget that market forces will rule and survive.”

Balsara highlighted the fact that it was a certain segment of the society that did not understand advertising, yet invested in media. “Some financial communities invested money in media even though they didn’t understand the field and its communications. The television boom was created by them. I think somewhere the ecosystem needs to be examined. People from outside the industry queered the pitch,” he said.

Sohrabji admitted, “We, the agency, also didn’t take the step to learn more. We overestimated the potential.”

Ashok Venkatramani noted, “People started chasing the valuation instead of the bottomline.”

Editorial vis-à-vis paid content

Taking the discussion to another level, Sanghvi asked, “Will the trend to sell content continue?” Sohrabji was the first one to respond. She said, “Partly yes and partly no. Today, the brands are not space sellers, they are space marketers. The control lies in how much editorial team can push back in the interest of the reader.”

According to Venkatramani, “One needs to see whether editorial is in sync with what the reader or the viewer wants. There has to be a Chinese wall between editorial and advertising. There is need to build credibility of the brand.”

Hereafter, the floor was thrown open for questions from the audience. When Anurag Batra, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, exchange4media asked, “Who makes a better leader – a person from the industry or a person not from the industry?” Sanghvi quickly replied with a pinch of humour, “I don’t think there are any standard rules. At Hindustan Times, we’ve had two bosses – one from the industry and another one from outside – one has been a disaster and the other, a success.”

As the session approached its end, Balsara stressed, “Evangelise advertising to non-users and people who are not aware and those who haven’t awakened to the magic of advertising.”

Wrapping up the session, Sanghvi said, “The old rules of advertising are changing and so is the way in which we advertise. We are living in multi-media environment, where one needs to break the clutter and adopt different collaborative ways. There is an entrepreneurial explosion going on and the industry needs to tap this market.”

The exchange4media Conclave 2010 is presented by Dainik Jagran. CNEB is the Associate Sponsor. The Mumbai leg of the Conclave will be held on June 11.

This year, readers can follow the latest developments and discussions regarding the Conclave on Twitter, the hashtag for which has been set as #e4mC2010. An exchange4media brand page has also been initiated on Facebook at

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