In a fireside chat with Annurag Batra, Chairman & Editor-In-Chief, exchange4media and Chairman, Businessworld magazine, Dominic Proctor, President, GroupM Global Operations, answered questions and engaged in a lively discussion about technology and creativity at the exchange4media Conclave 2014.
When Batra asked what stands out according to Proctor in all these years visiting India, Proctor said that the soft change is the change in government which puts a lot of confidence in India’s prospects in the market and the hard change is the theme of the conference (Marketing: The Future is Technology) which shows the impact of technology and its applications in media.
On the number allocated to digital spends in India which is 8 percent as opposed to other countries where the spends are between 30 to 40 per cent, Proctor said India is obviously lagging but it is also in a different position. He said the growth in other countries happened when broadband grew during the desktop phase while in India the growth is not limited to desk-bound screens, it includes wi-fi, mobile and having skipped a whole generation. On a positive note, he said India should not be overly concerned about digital.
Proctor said GroupM has reached critical mass in India in terms of digital but have not stopped expanding. In India they have between 350 and 400 digital specialists and professionals and about 100 people in data analytics. They tend to be largely integrated within GroupM’s agencies. He stressed that their view is to have specialists not just in digital but from all over the market, but the trick is to have them integrated within the agencies and to each other.
Batra asked Proctor if there was anything India should learn from China, to which Proctor said there are a lot of differences between the two culturally, but one of the main differences is ‘to get on with it’; speed or pace is the biggest difference between Chinese and Indian business communities. Discussing business strategy is the easy and obvious way, getting things done in the marketplace quickly and accurately is more difficult. “Sometimes in India we debate things for longer than the debate is useful and therefore we delay bringing things to market as quickly as we could,” observed Proctor.
He said that technology has not taken the fun out of advertising and media or take away from it but it lends to creativity, gives more opportunities and is a catalyst to creativity.
When Batra asked about convergence of technology and entertainment and if India is exploiting it effectively, Proctor talked about finding specialist areas and integrating them. In terms of convergence of data, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Madison Square and the whole gamut of what they do, the difficulty is not so much in finding things but integrating them and getting it done.
Taking cue from another presentation at the Conclave, Batra asked if we are headed towards a place where less and less things are bought and more and more things are shared in terms of consumption, a sharing economy.
Proctor said it is definitely an opportunity instead of a challenge. Just the very explosion of platforms on which to share things is a demonstration of it. Sharing economy is the current and the future economy.
Proctor mentioned that clients expect them as marketing partners to be much more challenging and innovative when it comes to market strategy. “They tell us they want to be challenged. Sometimes when they are challenged, they become defensive,” he said. Also they want them to demonstrate not just claim value for money. This is a very important part of what they do. Procurement factor became very important on the back of the recession. While some thought it was a phase, it actually isn’t, said Proctor. It is a permanent reality and it is a good thing. It should be embraced as that sort of demand in the business calls for more accountability. On one hand clients want to be challenged on the other hand they expect agencies to be efficient. Clients want to see that they have chosen their suppliers and partners carefully who don’t just take money off of each other’s tables.
In reference to CMOs tenure becoming shorter these days, Proctor said that it makes it even more important that as brands come to rely on agencies, they must become an enduring backbone for growing a brand or a business.
Delivering against the pressures of procurement and agencies undercutting each other was one of his main concerns a couple of years ago, but now what concerns him is the availability and sustainability of talent pools in emerging markets, said Proctor.
Automation is not going to kill creativity. It unleashes efficiency. What’s the point of data if there is no imagination and what’s the point of imagination if there is no data to execute it; they go hand in hand, concluded Proctor.