Business in July-August this year will be in line with 2019: Ajay Gupte, Wavemaker

Gupte, CEO, Wavemaker South Asia, talks about the resilience the agency has shown in these tough times. From retaining key accounts to winning new ones, Wavemaker India has kept it going

e4m by Naziya Alvi Rahman
Published: Jul 13, 2021 8:46 AM  | 12 min read
Pls update the pic

In today's edition of 'The Resilience Story', e4m editor Naziya Alvi Rahman speaks to Ajay Gupte, CEO, Wavemaker South Asia, who tells us how the second wave of Covid affected the industry, the resilience that the agency has shown in these tough times, how he's looking forward to the festive season to get the growth back on track, and more.

Edited excerpts

Wavemaker recently retained the Rs 750-crore L'Oreal account. You also won some new accounts like Luminous. How is the sentiment on the floor?

Winning is always great, it lifts spirits. And that's something that’s very important in these times. We've continued our winning streak. We've had a great year. It is very gratifying. I'm very grateful to the team who has put in a lot of effort. It is not easy to pitch in these times; preparing for the pitch without actually being physically together. All the pitches are taking place virtually, there are no physical meetings. So it is very challenging. Especially when all the videos are off, and you're not seeing any expressions and you don't know how you're doing and whether you're going on the right track, it is not easy, it is challenging. But in spite of that, we have put in the effort and we have been successful, for which a lot of credit goes to the team. And I'm grateful to the clients to have seen the value. 

The industry was hit hard by the second wave. Your parent company GroupM, in its TYNY report, claimed that the company will see a growth of 23%. But this sudden second wave disrupted the entire ecosystem. How much has that affected the industry and your business? 

Overall, we are still good with that 23% prediction. We started the year with a bang. We actually took on from 2020 when the last few months really picked up. Jan, Feb, March did extremely well and showed a lot of positive growth. In fact, if you remember Jan and Feb of 2020, there was no Covid, yet we have exceeded those numbers. So it's a very good positive trend. Yes, after the second wave hit us, there has been a reduction. But this time, we had the benefit of experience on our side. Unlike last time, where everyone just stopped advertising. This time, clients are a little more cautious. It is not a pull-the-plug situation. So in that sense, we are actually going quite well so far. The first half of the year hasn't been as bad as last year. We've done okay.

Talking about the drop, compared to the first quarter, April-May would be about 70-80% of what we expected it to be. July and August are typically lower advertising months and that trend will continue. So we will be in line with every year’s strength and the seasonality patterns.

I'm very hopeful for the last quarter of the year starting from September; the cricket tournaments and festivals will get the growth back on track. I think it's all going to come together very well, the way it did in 2020. 


We also discussed how the July-August period this year looks much better or comparable to 2019. Would you want to explain it a little more?

That's right. July-August this year will be in line with 2019. And that's great, considering how 2020 went. 


The second wave was very tragic in a lot of ways, there were personal losses. So, how has this impacted the consumer sentiment? Do you see this continue till the festive season or you think people will overcome it by then and things will be back to celebrations?

There are a lot of trends that we've observed. Compared to the previous wave, there have been some changes that we have observed this time, though some things have continued. So when the first wave went down, people got a lot more confident and were going out. Some offices also reopened and things were getting back to normal. And then the second wave hit us. I don't think we were ready for it mentally because we thought that this is all behind us. But the hit was tremendous. Like you said, we've all been hit personally. And that's a very sad situation to be in.

The consumer reacted in a similar way as the last time, a lot of media viewing went up because a lot more time was spent at home, OTT viewing went up, viewing on the mobile went up, and people got a lot more comfortable ordering on ecommerce, online. Unlike last time, where a lot of hoarding happened, this time hoarding didn't happen. People knew that you don't need to fear that things will not be available.

The other thing which has continued and kept growing is the sentiment of health. One of the key trends is the consciousness towards a healthy lifestyle. So the number of searches around healthy eating, healthy recipes, yoga, and healthy habits went up phenomenally. The whole trend has continued and has possibly grown. I think brands could use this very effectively by learning or finding ways to talk about how they could benefit from a health perspective or associate with that. This is another trend that we have seen.

The other thing you would have noticed, which is a very interesting, is that, in the earlier phase, there was a lot of sharing happening, like, I have made this coffee, I have cooked this new dish. I've learned this new trick. All of that happened a lot in the first wave. It didn't happen in the second wave. The second wave was a lot more about caring for others, about doing something, about asking for help. I think it was due to the intensity of it. Having gone through the first wave, people were a lot more conscious of the situation that is going around. That was another big thing that changed.

Also, people are being more value conscious. Value for money became a lot more important. Established brands and brands with a lot of equity benefited a lot more in terms of sales. 

Also, unlike earlier, when not too many people were involved in gaming, we've seen a lot more serious gamers spend a lot more time on gaming. So that is another key trend we've seen. The other, from a media perspective, is audio. Podcasts have taken a lot more space. Edutech also is another trend which has taken off. I think people have begun to believe that you can do a lot more with their screen, than earlier. Another thing is hyperlocal. A lot of media consumption is local. There is a lot of wanting for things to be delivered to you quickly and therefore there has been the usage of the local network to buy stuff. 

If we talk sector-wise, which sectors appeared most resilient to the second wave?

When the secondary wave was at its peak, consumption went down dramatically. But we are seeing things coming back for most categories in the FMCG space, I think FMCG space hasn't been affected. Talking about spaces like banking, finance, all of these areas have continued to flourish. Categories in the retail space have been affected very badly. Categories in the hospitality space have been very badly affected. But in general, consumption is not that badly affected this time as it was last time. And I believe things will get better as the festive season comes back. I am hopeful. Because finally, everyone is looking to come out of this. And one of the ways to feel liberated is to spend and to feel good about the fact that you can do something. So I believe we should be off it. I just pray that the third wave doesn’t hit us. 

Wavemaker has launched a new AI-powered platform called Maximize. How is it different from the platforms that other agencies have launched? What are its USPs and how's it rolling out in India?

Maximize is something that I'm really proud of. It's a massive differentiator and something that will help clients make better investments. This is being launched globally. And currently in India, we are rolling it out with the teams. A lot of training has been going on at a massive scale. And we are getting our teams used to using the platform. We are also taking it to some of our clients and working with them to start getting them to get a feel of the platform.

What is great about Maximize is its ability to look at multiple situations at the same time. So as an advertiser I need to make decisions around which target consumer do I go after? Which medium do I target? When I decide my medium, and how much do I invest in which medium? We also have a proprietary way of looking at the consumer journey, which is called momentum. In momentum, we say there are four stages. There is a priming stage, when you're not actively looking to purchase something. But at the same time, your mind is open to input coming in, from advertising or from anywhere else. So take an example of a car. You may have just bought a car, and you're not looking in the market for a car, but then you keep seeing advertising or if some friend or relative buys a new car, it registers in your head, that's the priming stage. Then there's a trigger, your car gets old, or there's a sudden income increase, which requires you to or which allows you to make a new investment in a new car. So there's a trigger, and then there's the active state. In the active state, you behave very differently. You go to showrooms, you will go and search and ask questions, you're not passive, you're very actively searching. And then you make your decision and you buy.

Now, what stage do I really need to invest in? Where is my brand today? Is my brand actively in the consumer’s mind? And therefore, I don't need to really invest there, but I need to invest when they're searching for me or when they're looking for me. Then I need to invest in the priming stage. There are millions of permutations and combinations. Should I invest in the priming stage, or in the active stage? Should I invest on television or radio or influencers? What this tool does is it looks at various consumer groups, it looks at various stages, it looks at various media, and tells you how to invest in each of these variables. So it's a multi-dimensional tool.

Have you started using it for your clients in India? Or is it still in the rollout phase?

We have started with a few clients. And we are still looking at how the results are, and we are training our people to use it. So I guess in the next one or two months, we should be able to go out to all our clients, and all our people will be in a position to use Maximize. The beauty of this is the data which goes behind it.

GroupM has M platform. Our platform has 380 million user IDs on it, which is a massive base, it is the largest base that you can get in the country. And on top of that, we have what we call a live panel, which is a panel of about 25,000 people linked on M platform. So, Maximize works on the live panel. The data is very, very robust and the information is real time. Nothing like this exists anywhere else. Given the thinking and given the kind of robust data that it has, we have a winner in our hands. Right now we're focusing on making sure that everyone at Wavemaker is fully trained and equipped to use this better for our clients. 

Globally, business is picking up, as a lot of pitches that were held back in 2020 are now on. How much do you see India gain from the overall momentum?

Yes, at Wavemaker, we've had a very active pitch season. Honestly, we've been at it since January. I think there hasn’t been a single time in the last six months when there was not at least one pitch at any point of time. So that's the way it has been. To answer that, yes, 2020 was a time when a few pitches got postponed. But now there is a fair bit of action going around. And so far, we've benefited from it. So I look forward to it.

We have named this interview series around resilience, because this was a difficult period for all of us. What kind of initiatives did your agency take on building trust with co-workers?

This has been really tough. Honestly, I believe that no matter what we try to do, it is just not enough. The kind of personal losses that people have gone through cannot be compensated by anything we do. But we've tried our best to support people in whatever way we could when the peak happened. And I love the way it wasn't just the management trying to do it, but the teams got together on our WhatsApp groups. The groups were buzzing with people trying to help with beds and oxygen. I was really heartened to see that happening.

At our end also, we tried our best to help and support in whatever way we could. But it has been hard. We try to do small things, very small things given the magnitude of the challenge. And the small things include a few holidays here and there. Support in terms of mental and physical health, from training in yoga to helping people talk to health services. And we hope that we've been able to help our people. I personally feel that no matter what we do, this kind of a situation is just overwhelming. I really feel for our people. And I'm so proud that we've been able to stick together and hold hands and come through this together. I wouldn't say completely unscathed, because a lot of us have been hit personally. But at least we are coming out of it together.

I think the biggest thing is that we are really very, very conscious of the challenge. Whenever there is an opportunity to support in whatever way, we try our best to do whatever we can do.

(Transcription credit Rasika Kiran Upasani)


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Vedantu & dentsu creative India launch ‘The Everything Book’

The campaign aims to bridge the education gap in rural India

By exchange4media Staff | Jun 3, 2023 9:25 AM   |   3 min read

dentsu creative

Vedantu in partnership with DENTSU CREATIVE India has launched a campaign to address the absence of reliable connectivity that hampers the access for not only to online learning platforms but also to skilled teachers and valuable courses.


To address this challenge, Vedantu, in partnership with DENTSU CREATIVE India, has developed a patented network aggregator device nestled in a beautifully illustrated book titled, ‘The Everything Book’.


The device aims to bridge the connectivity gap by providing high-speed internet access to the most remote and disconnected parts of India. The goal is to provide children in these areas with a fair opportunity to access the education they rightfully deserve.


In an era where smartphones have reached even the remotest villages, the challenge of reliable connectivity still persists. This game-changing device operates as a portable network signal aggregator, capable of consolidating multiple data blocks from weak 2G mobile networks. By combining these fragments, it generates a strong ‘hyperspot’ that offers high-speed internet connectivity equivalent to 4G networks.


The concept of ‘everything’ represents the boundless nature of online learning. Additionally, the incorporation of a book element serves as a symbolic representation of the core purpose of this endeavour. Within the book, readers will find four inspirational stories, accompanied by captivating illustrations that depict the cultural heritage of the country. By employing various art styles, the aim is to create a sense of relatability and familiarity, encouraging more children to explore its contents. The book is an extraordinary amalgamation of art forms from across India. For the first time, the diverse styles of Avadhi, Rajput, Madhubani, Sikkimese Thangka, Pichwai, Chitrakathi, Kerala Mural, and Kalamkari have been united, showcasing the vibrant artistic traditions of the nation.


Pulkit Jain, Co-founder, Vedantu said, “We want to bring quality education to every child in the country, but without the internet, you cannot stream online courses. Children of rural India have so much potential which we’re losing out on because of a lack of supporting infrastructure. We worked with DENTSU CREATIVE to bring the idea ‘Everything Book’ alive to make sure quality learning reaches as many children as it could in our country.”

Aalap Desai, Chief Creative Officer, Creative Experience, West, DENTSU CREATIVE India added, “The Everything Book has the potential to democratise education in the country. It is simple to use, is portable, and can be easily held and moved around letting children who don’t even have a proper classroom to sit in, let alone proper books and resources, to study connect to the internet and stream the latest syllabus and learn from the best teachers at Vedantu.”


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MsChief unveils new brand film that empowers women to #ClaimYourPleasure

The film urges women in India to challenge the status quo

By exchange4media Staff | Jun 1, 2023 4:58 PM   |   1 min read

TTK healthcare

MsChief, TTK Healthcare’s sexual pleasure brand for women, has unveiled its all-new brand film, a poignant and unique take on the sexual pleasure landscape in India, specially when it comes to female pleasure. 

The new brand film traces the journey of five women from different walks of life who challenge the norm and shatter everyday stereotypes through their choices. At the beginning of the film, we see these empowered women breaking down walls when it comes to pay parity, dressing what is considered appropriate, getting married before the age of 25 and pursuing their careers after marriage. Mirroring society as it stands today, these women go beyond stereotypical gender norms. Claiming their identities and space, the women are finally faced with a wall that is often overlooked- the Pleasure Gap.

On the launch of the brand film, Vishal Vyas, AVP Marketing, TTK Healthcare comments, “MsChief rejects the idea that women should settle for diminished or muted pleasure. Today, women are forging ahead with milestones in all industries and fields, have broken barriers in terms of pay parity and education, but the pleasure gap is something which needs to be addressed equally openly. MsChief empowers women to claim their pleasure with their range of products, and the brand film reflects that.

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Springwel ropes in Boman Irani for new campaign

The series of ad films will talk about the effects of sleeplessness in daily life

By exchange4media Staff | Jun 1, 2023 2:29 PM   |   3 min read


Springwel Mattresses has launched a new ad campaign #DhangSeSoyaHotaTohYeNaHota, featuring Boman Irani by introducing multiple innovations in products like Pure Ortho balance, Tru Comfort and Tru Love.

The three films starring Irani highlight how lack of proper sleep leads to absent-mindedness, embarrassment, and errors in the smallest of tasks. ‘Dhang se soya hota, toh ye na hota’, the catchphrase remarked by Boman Irani in the films, captures the brand messaging light-heartedly. The three films talk to three unique consumer cohorts and address their specific sleeping needs.

Sharing his thoughts on the association and the brand campaign, Ankit Kapoor, CMO and Operating Partner, Ananta Capital, said, “Springwel is constantly innovating and extending the technology prowess in the mattress industry of our country. This campaign highlights the need for proper sleep, and Mr. Irani’s portrayal as the central character adds credibility to the unique features that Springwel’s new innovations. We are delighted to collaborate with him and are confident that the consumers can relate to the daily nuances we project through each of our films. With that, we aim to play our part in solving the problem of lack of proper sleep in our country.”

Expressing his concern towards the rising cases of sleep deprivation in the country, Boman Irani said, “Through this campaign, I would urge people to consider the importance of good sleep and the role of the right mattress in addressing sleeping issues. I am thrilled to be part of this initiative, thought over so well, innovated and door-delivered by Springwel. Technologies like cleantech protection and pure orthopaedic benefits will ensure better & deep sleep for every Springwel consumer.”

Commenting on the same, Ashish Kharwatkar, Executive Creative Director, Enormous said, “Enhancing the quality of your sleep is paramount for overall well-being, and Springwel has embraced cutting-edge technological advancements to achieve that. Through relatable situations depicting the consequences of sleep deprivation, we've crafted an entertaining and lighthearted message of ‘Dhang ki neend’ - The perfect sleep, expertly delivered by the affable and iconic Actor, Mr. Boman Irani."

Sharing his thoughts on the association & the brand campaign, Ankit Kapoor, CMO and Operating Partner, Ananta Capital, said, “Springwel is constantly innovating and extending the technology prowess in the mattress industry of our country. This campaign highlights the need for proper sleep, and Mr. Irani’s portrayal as the central character adds credibility to this message. We are delighted to collaborate with him and are confident that the consumers can relate to each of these situations in the three films. With that, we hope we can make the consumer conscious of the role our mattress innovations can play in getting them good sleep."

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Creativeland Studio acquires London-based Creators Inc

The deal value exceeds UK £3 million

By exchange4media Staff | Jun 1, 2023 1:19 PM   |   3 min read


Today, on its 16th anniversary, CLAN announced Creativeland Studio's acquisition of London-based Creators Inc – in a total deal value exceeding UK £3 million (three million pounds) to solidify its entry into international long and short content production and the expansion of CLAN's global footprint aligned to its vision of building a global creative super ecosystem.

Further, Creativeland Asia Network (CLAN) has launched Creativeland Studios to focus on the growth of its long and short-format cinema and tv content offering – focussing on creating, producing and distributing high-end films, documentaries, television series and audio content. 

With this acquisition, Creativeland Studios has consolidated ten active slates, including two titles in production and now will have over 50 titles in its pipeline. 

Creators Inc. is a unique long and short format production house with a roster of directors that includes Oscar, Emmy & BAFTA-winning directors such as Guy Ritchie, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Sarah Gavron, Philip Barantini, Colin Tilley, Mark Osborne and many others. 

Creators Inc., founded and led by Jani Guest, brings together award-winning industry specialists from advertising, film and television. Creators Inc. use various synergies across these industries to position themselves worldwide at the top of the production market across all formats. 

On the back of this acquisition – Creativeland Asia Network has begun its successful foray into CLA’s creative, technology, marketing & media services ecosystem to the global market.

Sajan Raj Kurup's vision for Creativeland Studios is to provide a platform for filmmakers and creators to express their vision and bring their ideas and unique stories to viewers. The acquisition of Creators Inc is a significant step in achieving that vision. With this new global acquisition – the possibilities are endless, and CLAN is ready to take on the entertainment world.

Sajan Raj Kurup, Founder & Chairman of CLAN, said, “At Creativeland Asia – we are on a passionate journey to create a formidable creative infrastructure for the new world where media, technology, creativity and humanity will come together to curate a more entertained life. The core strategic insight for this acquisition is to build on our ability to bring brands, content and talent together – through a consolidated platform. Today, more than ever before, we recognise that content plays a pivotal role in keeping us connected, informed and entertained.”

Jani Guest, Founder & CEO of Creators Inc, said, “Creators Inc. places its incredible directorial talent at the heart of the company. The partnership with Raj and CLA allows us to accelerate the development and production of stories - created by our talent - to entertain, move, and impact positive change. I could not have wished for a better partner as we move forward to achieve our shared visions and goals.”

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Sociowash renews digital mandate with multiple brands under Viacom18

The agency’s Mumbai team will amplify the YME cluster's social media presence across digital channels

By exchange4media Staff | Jun 1, 2023 1:17 PM   |   1 min read


Sociowash has renewed its digital mandate with Viacom18’s Youth, Music, and English Entertainment (YME) cluster.

They have been associated with the agency since January 2022 and have continued their partnership to upscale their strategies for the subsequent tenure. Sociowash will manage their social media strategy, campaign management, influencer marketing, and shoot management under this association.

YME cluster includes responsibilities for MTV Beats, Vh1, Colors Infinity, Comedy Central, KaanPhod, and Fully Faltoo. Sociowash, with its competence in digital and creative marketing, will manage its social media strategies, including 23 of its Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages. The efficiency of its workforce will also concentrate on Analytics and reporting for its campaigns.

Speaking on the association, Raghav Bagai, Co-Founder of Sociowash, said, “The continuation of our journey speaks volumes of how successful the partnership has been in making them divergent from their competitors. The Sociowash team aspires to accomplish exceptional work and get recognised by winning numerous industry awards to maintain the soaring/high standards set in the past. We look forward to strengthening our association and making it more fruitful by helping the brands achieve their goals.”

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ITC Nimyle celebrates the ‘joy of clean floors’

The campaign has been conceptualized by Ogilvy

By exchange4media Staff | Jun 3, 2023 9:25 AM   |   2 min read


The floor is a child’s first playground. From crawling to taking their first steps, to creating memories as they grow, floors have been a comfort zone for all kids. While parents take steps to create a safe environment for kids, ITC Nimyle celebrates the joy and satisfaction of clean floors that can be a happy safe space for kids, with their newly launched campaign film with ‘Nimyle Farsh hai, Khushiyon Ka Farsh’.

Conceptualized by Ogilvy, the endearing film highlights the fact that children spend an ample amount of time indulging in activities on floors.
Commenting on the campaign, Sameer Satpathy, Chief Executive, Personal Care Products Business Division, ITC Limited said, “Floors are often playgrounds for many, especially for children. The expression of unbridled enthusiasm, happiness and energy is more often on floors in a protected home environment. To keep floors clean and safe is extremely important and Nimyle with the power of neem enables clean and hygienic floors for all.”

Kainaz Karmakar and Harshad Rajadhyaksha, CCOs, Ogilvy India, said, “The floor beneath our feet is such a taken-for-granted space, which usually finds mention in this category of advertising only functionally. With Nimyle, being natural at root and warm as a brand, we laddered up this functionality of the safety of our clean floors, to the emotionality of what those clean, safe floors mean, especially for childhoods to flourish on them. For such a sweet idea, we are so happy with the way our film director, Afshan, has brought out this correlation between clean, safe floors being a part of healthy, wholesome childhoods.”

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Reckitt welcomes Wavemaker as 'newest partner in India'

The media agency will lead the mandate for Reckitt’s brands across health, hygiene and nutrition portfolios

By exchange4media Staff | Jun 1, 2023 11:52 AM   |   2 min read


Reckitt has selected Wavemaker as their media agency in India. Wavemaker, part of GroupM, won the business after a competitive global pitch.  

Under this new partnership, Wavemaker will be responsible for handling the media strategy, planning, buying and implementation for all mass and digital media. The media agency will lead the mandate for Reckitt’s brands across health, hygiene, and nutrition portfolios such as Dettol, Durex, Mortein, Harpic, Lizol, Strepsils, among others.

Commenting on the association, Dilen Gandhi, Regional Marketing Director, South Asia – Health & Nutrition, Reckitt, said, “Reckitt is one of the leading consumer products brands in the Indian market with a diverse product portfolio. At Reckitt, we are always looking out to strategically align ourselves to the ever-changing consumer needs and improve our connect with them. As a result of a global decision, we are glad to welcome Wavemaker on board and are confident of their domain knowledge and media buying clout. Their experience will help us enhance saliency across our brands and drive media efficiencies.”

Saurabh Jain, Regional Marketing Director, South Asia - Hygiene, Reckitt said, “We welcome Wavemaker, our newest partner, and believe their comprehensive understanding of the media landscape will position us at the forefront of media innovation, endearing our brands to all stakeholders. The decision to change has been made in alignment with our global processes. We would like to thank the Dentsu team for their unwavering dedication in establishing our power brands over the past years.”

Ajay Gupte, CEO - South Asia, Wavemaker said, “We are absolutely ecstatic to have been selected as Reckitt's esteemed media agency partner. Securing the consolidated media mandate for Reckitt's iconic brands not only recognizes our profound comprehension of the ever-evolving media landscape but also showcases our exceptional proficiency in crafting ground-breaking solutions for our clients. With Reckitt's illustrious heritage, we wholeheartedly dedicate ourselves to delivering unparalleled media and communications strategies that set new benchmarks in the industry.”

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