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Simon Ruparelia

Head – Digital – Asia Pacific | 10 May 2014

A 360 campaign by default will incorporate digital channels as part of the mix and, therefore, digital can play a role in every campaign a marketer runs. Experience and familiarity with traditional channels are the only barriers that marketers have in exploiting digital channels to their advantage. The key is not proposing a 360 degree campaign for the sake of ‘ticking the boxes’, but taking the time to assess each channel in turn (digital and traditional) and decide on its importance for the target audience.

Simon Ruparelia joined GolinHarris in 2011, when it newly adapted the G4 model, which comprehensively reorganised the agency into a new structure. Before joining GolinHarris, Ruparelia had spent almost a decade at Unilever, and was responsible for driving digital activities and initiatives across the FMCG giant’s global brands.

Ruparelia was in India for the launch of LinOpinion GolinHarris’ The Bridge in Mumbai earlier this week. The Bridge is a pioneering concept of GolinHarris, which is the centrepiece of a new working model termed G4. This tool has changed the way real time insights in today’s increasingly digital landscape can interplay into creating impactful PR campaigns.

In an email interaction with exchange4media’s Abhinn Shreshtha, Ruparelia talks about the media environment in India, turning real time marketing opportunities into big-time results, and more…

Q. Please explain the concept of The Bridge.

In a crowded advertising environment, marketers around the world realise the need to be more relevant to their consumers and provide campaign messaging which resonates with their target audiences’ daily activities.

The Bridge delivers the infrastructure and processes required to enable our clients to effectively add real time marketing to their marketing mix. These real time engagement centres are staffed by Connectors from our G4 model, who are able to monitor and respond to real world events as they occur by monitoring mass media and online channels.

Q. How does it help turn Real Time Marketing opportunities into big-time results?

Real time marketing is about marketing with relevance. This allows marketers access to their consumers at times when they would be most receptive to the brand messages, allowing them to reach their target audience in new and creative ways.

Our own study (GolinHarris Global RTM Study 2012) carried out over five markets showed that when consumers are exposed to real time marketing, there was a 20 per cent or greater increase in the likelihood to learn more, discuss and consider a brand’s message. In an increasingly competitive and fragmented media landscape, what brand can afford not to take advantage of that?

Q. A lot has been spoken about digital marketing. How do you approach it and how does one integrate digital in a 360 degree campaign?

A 360 campaign by default will incorporate digital channels as part of the mix and, therefore, digital can play a role in every campaign a marketer runs. Experience and familiarity with traditional channels are the only barriers that marketers have in exploiting digital channels to their advantage.

The key is not proposing a 360 degree campaign for the sake of ‘ticking the boxes’, but taking the time to assess each channel in turn (digital and traditional) and decide on its importance for the target audience. If it is a channel to reach the consumer; the next step is to establish an optimum channel mix for the campaign. Channel agnostic creative ideas can then be applied to these selected channels.

Q. There is a perception that the strategic and creative arms are always at loggerheads. Your comments.

Our G4 model is designed around four communities designed to complement each other. Rather than replicating an advertising agency’s ways of working and those traditional points of friction, we’ve built a team to service our clients who want an integrated solution specifically for communications.

We were the first to put such a model in place in the industry and we’ve now had three years of running with it to great success. Tools like our proprietary BrandStory bring all the teams together to build great campaigns with clear ways of working which play to the strengths of each community.

Q. What are your thoughts on the media industry in India?

India offers an exciting, but challenging landscape for media companies. Media is evolving fast and there is a wide recognition of the importance of digital media in all facets of communications. This is transforming the PR business and opening up new opportunities for us.

Q. What are the challenges and the opportunities you foresee for the PR & communications space in India?

The overall landscape for the industry is rapidly changing and the potential is vast. There is always a challenge to find the right kind of talent to match evolving expectations of marketers. It’s a unique skill set to know digital communications and PR.

C-level executives in all sectors are willing to buy into agencies that have a valuable proposition and can evolve with their ever changes needs.

Q. With social and digital media changing the media environment, how do you see PR organisations evolving?

A natural evolution of PR agencies has been to build out social media expertise. Clients have benefited from this with PR agencies’ years of experience in issue management and media relations. Now, the challenge is to provide pro-active and relevant campaigns for brands. PR agencies will need to keep innovating to provide those value-adding services which marketers expect.

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