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Agencies need diversity to understand the market: Jane Lin-Baden, CEO, Isobar APAC

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Agencies need diversity to understand the market: Jane Lin-Baden, CEO, Isobar APAC

Jane Lin-Baden, CEO of Isobar APAC, shares her thoughts on Isobar’s future plans as well as the key focus areas in terms of technologies and business objectives.

Edited excerpts…

How high does India rank for Isobar from a global perspective?
From a global perspective, India ranks in the top 8 while from an APAC perspective, it will be in the top 3. Numbers-wise, we are seeing how fast digital advertising in India is growing and maturing. So, there is no reason why it cannot be in the top 3 for us.

What will be the focus areas for Isobar in the coming year?
I think the first thing we need to talk about is what the winning strategy is. For growth, the winning strategy has to be to play by portfolio. Isobar India has three agencies under it, all of which are very good at something and they can work as a group to win in the market. We are going to expand through organic and mergers and acquisitions in a couple of areas. How to move into technological innovation is very critical for us. The second focus area for us is commerce. We want to set up Isobar Commerce in the market, which is a holistic service that helps clients bring transactions closer. The third thing is that we want to power creativity through the use of data. So, these are the three things that we see as a future investment.

Can you tell me something more about Isobar Commerce?
Isobar Commerce is based on our idea of brand commerce. For every brand, you cannot just talk about branding; every brand needs to sell and so agencies need to play a role in getting every brand to sell. Isobar Commerce is service-led; from consulting to mobile commerce to third party commerce through Amazon, etc., and also their own platforms. This is a holistic solution and it is not just about buying media but how to operationalize commerce, how to build brand in the e-commerce space, what should the e-commerce strategy be when you have so many different platforms. So, all of this forms a part of Isobar Commerce.

Which technologies, according to you, will be the key disruptors of the future? 
There are a few areas we are looking at. One of them is definitely mixed reality (MR). You already have virtual reality (VR) but we are also looking at augmented reality (AR) and how we can create mixed reality solutions in the community. No consumer wants to be isolated, so how to create a community around MR is something that will definitely be disruptive.

The second thing is Artificial Intelligence (AI). I know everyone is talking about AI but from an agency perspective, we look at AI improving communication efficiency and also improving the kind of insight we can provide to our customers. These will be the two tracks we will be focusing on in the next 24 months.

We keep hearing about how the consumer is constantly changing. As an agency, how do you keep up with this rate of change?
The mandate for an agency is to be close to the consumer because that is what differentiates us. It is through that consumers change a lot but don’t forget that agency people are also a part of the consumers. So, what we need to do is focus on our diversity. In the agency environment, we need to have people of different ages and backgrounds as they are very close to the reality of the market. I strongly believe that agencies need to drive diversity for the sake of understanding the market.

The second thing is that if agency people do not use technology, they will be left behind. No agency can come up with a great tool if they do not know what tools the consumers are using.

What trends are you seeing in the Indian digital landscape?
I think for any market you see a step function especially for digital progression when there is a growth and there are always external factors that lead to the big jump. I think India is at the juncture for two reasons. Any digital growth is closely related to the cost of internet. You saw this in China and it is now true in India. The second thing I am fascinated by is how closely the government is behind developing the digital ecosystem in India. Digital is about government infrastructure, it is not a natural progression. In a large country like India or China, you need to have government support.

You mentioned about brands seeing their value get diluted due to the fragmented nature of the digital ecosystem. What is the solution to this?
I think every brand needs to think of digital as not just a channel. If any brand says that digital is one of their media mix channels then they are foregoing a big opportunity. They have to look at the digital channel holistically and ask themselves, “How can I make a digital economy for my business?” rather than “What digital communication can I create for my business?” Digital economy has a lot to do with digital spending, digital design, digital experience including offline retail, and more.


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