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Rajiv Verma, Sam Balsara & Sameer Suneja on Solutions & Experiments

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Rajiv Verma, Sam Balsara & Sameer Suneja on Solutions & Experiments

A power-packed Plenary Session marked the conclusion of the Delhi leg of the exchange4media Conclave 2011, held on July 12. The e4m Conclave is presented by Jagran Group. The session saw media owners, media agencies and the marketer coming together to agree that they need to collaborate and innovate to do the new, and vie for the larger consumer mind space.

Representing the media owners at the Plenary Session, titled ‘Changing Consumer, Evolving Marketer… Realigning Media to Meet Expectations’ was Rajiv Verma, CEO, HT Media. Talking on behalf of media agencies was Sam Balsara, Chairman and MD, Madison World; while Sameer Suneja, MD, Perfetti Van Melle India, represented the advertisers.

Srikant Sastri, Country Chair, VivaKi India Chaired the session.

Rajiv Verma: The importance of being a solutions-oriented company
The session stressed on the need to innovate and experiment by the three stakeholders. Rajiv Verma was quick to point out that HT Media was a house not working in silos, and that it managed well cross-efficiencies across its print and digital verticals across languages. Verma had joined HT media in September 2004. He agreed that HT in its earlier days was underleveraged, but now, they had built assets to bring it to the level that it was today. He also spoke about the four pillars that HT as a media house was built on.

Verma said, “We are a solutions oriented company. HT Media offers solutions and not just a platform. In Hindustan Times, we have a solutions group comprising people, who go to clients and sell the offerings. They look at the solutions needed by the client and not necessarily sell print or radio, but instead they sell the solution.”

He cited an example of an FMCG company having stakes in healthcare and hair care, which collaborated with HT Media for an experimental campaign for six months. “The company wanted to grow in the markets very fast, they wanted to go guerrilla. HT Media signed a deal with them and asked for remuneration depending on the results,” he said, adding “The results of this campaign were fantastic. We would like to repeat such an exercise if the client is open-minded and experimentative, and plan to do more of such exercises this year. We would like to work with clients as partners and provide offerings that are solutions oriented.”

Sam Balsara: The Need for experimentation
Stressing on the need of experimentation, Sam Balsara said that a brand manager should have a part of his budget kept aside especially for experimentation and high risk, which could be as less as 2 per cent. “The brand manager should not think much about the results. This budget should go up by the year,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sameer Suneja agreed that between the agencies, marketers and the media owners, there was a need for education and a language to compare efficiencies.

He cited an example of Mentos Helpline, which was an innovation done in association with Perfetti’s media agency partners. He also stressed on the need for media owners to take the initiative to experiment and take risks and say ‘Why don’t we take a risk together and we both will have a percentage of the game’.

Sameer Suneja: Creative & Digital focus
Suneja stressed on the need for experimentation by creative people too, who, he felt, were not experimentative enough with new media, and digital for most of them was an afterthought.

Balsara rued the fact that while media agencies were willing to take risks and come up with ideas, advertisers had a well entrenched ecosystem which could not be penetrated. “CPRP is a well entrenched thing,” he said, adding, “It’s eventually a GRP game. While the customer has moved on, we are clinging on to CPRP and GRP.”

He pointed out that all the stakeholders were using a 100-year old media model and while the customer had evolved, even a 100 exposures were not enough. “We have to stop carpet bombing and hoping that you’ll get someone along the way,” he said, while stressing again on the need for action and stop doing “lip service for experimentation”.

In response to Srikant Sastri’s question on what his wish list was for clients and the agencies, Verma replied, “There is trust and there is transparency, but there are two more things that I would like to bring, which are that clients and agencies understand what value they bring, and I would also like to see more communication. So both are linked, communication will lead to more understanding of the things.”

Answering to a question from the audience, Verma tended to agree that there was a need for media to get talent from outside (from other domains). “If you follow a framework… and a framework in having a vision for the company, you are bound to succeed and unlock the real value of the company,” he said, adding that the vision for HT Media was to traverse beyond being a media company into entertainment and education by 2020.

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