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Sabyasachi Mitter

Managing Director | 18 Apr 2013

Today, marketers are not worried about building online communities, but are focused on and questioning their digital agency partners how they can leverage their strategies to the already existing community. With this, digital agencies are also facing a lot of challenges; today, there are too many specialised digital divisions which is leading to fragmentation. What marketers want today is one-stop solution and I think this is a shakeout period for agencies.

Sabyasachi Mitter is an alumnus of IIM Calcutta with 17 years of experience in the digital domain. He had a seven-year stint with Asian Paints, where he was Manager Marketing; apart from other duties, he led the digital marketing at the company. He formed ibs in 2003, which is one of India’s leading independent full service digital agencies. The company has expertise in 360 degree digital marketing, including online media planning and buying, social media marketing, e-commerce software and web management. It can be noted that the agency recently bagged a Grand Prix at the Goafest 2013 for the work on Tata Docomo - CRM-powered personalised web banner.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Priyanka Nair, Mitter speaks at length about the changing Indian digital ecosystem, the recent rebranding exercise that agency went through and much more...

Q. How has marketers’ demand from social changed in the recent years?

The market has being changing significantly in last one year. If I had to recall the time when some key marketing shifts happened and changed the outlook of marketers towards digital media, it will be the year 2007-08. It was since then when marketers started to believe in digital as a media platform. The fact that digital will turn out to be an integral part of marketing mix was forecasted by market experts since then.

Marketers started testing new media in a big way. A new kind of content strategy started developing. With this, brand managers got confidence in the medium. This also gave rise to the mushrooming of specialised digital agencies. These expert hands helped brands to flirt with new media. With brand managers understanding the medium better, their demands have also changed. Today, digital media is considered in communication plans in a very strategic way.

Expectations from agencies have also changed. In the last one year, brands are taking digital marketing as serious business. Brand managers started understanding that content and strategies for digital have to be customised. Today, the digital briefs from clients are very holistic. They know what they want and are bringing on board their digital partners along with their other communication partners during brainstorming and planning stages.

Today, marketers are not worried about building online communities, but are focused and questioning their digital agency partners how they can leverage their strategies to the already existing community. With this, digital agencies are also facing a lot of challenges; today, there are too many specialised digital divisions, which is leading to fragmentation. What marketers want today is one stop-solution and I think this is a shakeout period for agencies.

Q. What are the key things that brands should keep in mind to build a healthy social conversation?

The problem starts at multiple levels. A lot of brands have built up communities without knowing who is in the community. There are various ways in which a brand can understand their real targeted audiences.

We did a similar analysis for some leading banks in India, some having a fan base of over one million on their Facebook page. What we found out was that over 60-70 per cent of their fans were below the age of 24 years and in some cases, 30-40 per cent of their online community were of 18 years, which is not the actual relevant target audience of a bank. Likewise, there are a number of other brands from other categories that are facing a similar problem.

Content that will be liked, shared and commented on are the ones that create interest in the minds of the right set of audience. It is like the chicken and egg story. Brands should look ahead to bring in the right audiences in their online community and then create content that is relevant. Today, brands are making a mistake of pushing out wrong content which they don’t own and which doesn’t fit into their context of discussion.

Moreover, bombarding content is also a wrong thing to do. Brands have to behave like real humans and communicate information at the right time and in a right manner to keep a healthy conversation. The whole belief that social media is free and owned media has to come out of the minds of brands and agencies, nothing in this world is free.

Q. Mobile is still not leveraged to its best capabilities by Indian brands. What is your observation on this?

One observation that I have made on the basis of the tracking reports we get for our clients is that the access of digital data from mobile largely led by smartphones will be explored widely. Consumption of data will happen and will keep increasing, there is no doubt about this. What brands need to keep in mind and agencies should understand is how their product’s website will render on mobile. The concept of responsive web is something that Indian brands have not adapted to at all. The best that brands have done is that they have created a website and a wapsite, which are two different applications. Responsive web basically means to deploy content once and it responds to any device. This is the need of the hour, because a consumer today uses multiple screens.

There is a lot of attention on mobile applications. There is over glorification of applications changing the world, which may not really happen. As a customer, I wouldn’t want to keep applications of all the products or services I avail. Brands should keep in mind the relevance of an application in its communication plan and then go for it. There are many other technological features, one of them being Single Page Application, which are not yet popular in the Indian market. Once brands start understanding what is relevant for them on mobile platform, there will definitely be some interesting work created for this medium.

Q. Could you elaborate on the recent campaigns initiated by Interface Business Solutions?

We recently worked on the social media campaign for FMCG major Procter & Gamble’s signature CSR project ‘Shiksha’. The programme funds NGO efforts to address the underlying causes of poor access to education, such as poverty, health issues, and access to immunisation. In cases where schools don’t exist, the programme also funds their construction. It was observed that many people buying products were not sure if the money is going for the cause rightly. What we, therefore, did was create a barcode scanner application on Facebook, which could be used by customers to scan the P&G products they have purchased and keep a tab on the donation virtually.

Another interesting project that we initiated was for Taj Vivanta’s Goa property. As tourists, one would always like to take back memories in the form of photographs and today, with everyone being on the social community, people would want to show off experiences too. Keep this in mind that on a vacation people wouldn’t want to carry too many electronic gadgets along with them, we created a campaign that could help tourists upload their pictures instantly on their social pages. Tourists could buy a swipe card and log on to their Facebook accounts when they checked in. At various scenic locations cameras and LCD screens are put up and a user could then pose and swipe the card to take a picture. The user can then choose their best picture, which will get uploaded instantly.

Q. How do you think the Indian digital ecosystem will shape up in the coming years?

There is going be a shakeup soon in the industry. Few agencies will grow bigger, charge higher rates and will groom to service brands that are serious about the new media platform. These are the agencies that will be able to impact the brands’ key objective in a significant and measurable way. New clients will also come on board, who will test the medium and new agencies will help these brands in a big way.

According to me, it takes around two years for a brand to understand if digital is relevant in the communication plans. It can be seen that a lot of talent from mainline advertising is now looking forward to work for digital media. This will continue to happen. Also, many more agencies will want to cash out at this point of time and go for acquisitions. Network agencies would want to add best of the best digital portfolios under them in the next couple of years.

Q. What is at top of your wish list for 2013?

We have recently undergone a rebranding exercise and we are now called ibs. Our proposition has been consolidated in two key words, which is unified media. What we want to focus is go beyond just digital services, but be a consultant to our brands. We are also looking forward to bring in more talent at the senior management level. Another area that we will be looking to invest our talent in our vertical line of business, we would want to come up with digital products and services that can be availed by both brands and other agencies. This is a scalable business opportunity for us.

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