India projected to be one of the biggest markets to rebound in the best way: Nick Emery

In this edition of Get Set Grow!, Nick Emery, Global CEO, Mindshare, tells Naziya Alvi Rahman, Editor, e4m, about his faith in the Mindshare team in India & a lot more on recovery plans

e4m by Naziya Alvi Rahman
Updated: Jul 14, 2020 9:06 AM
Nick Emery

As the market begins to open up we at exchange4media are speaking to leaders who are redrawing the growth maps for COVID-affected 2020.

Today we have one such senior leader - Nick Emery, Global CEO, Mindshare.

Excerpts:

Considering that we have left the worst behind us, and most markets have started to ease restrictions where do you see growth opportunities in the current business climate?

You see lots of different situations as you go around the world. I think there is a lot more optimism than there was before. A lot of people are coming back. There is still a concern about a second wave on how different policies and different countries manage that. But having said that, it has been a personal tragedy for lots of people and it has been a real challenge for businesses, and lot of people have been through other hardships.

It has been quite an intellectually stimulating time and I think people know the platitude about change and crisis from transformation, and out of a deep challenge, we have begun to come up with different ways of working.

One thing is clear that if ever there was a time to pitch a crazy idea to your company or to the business, now is the time to do it because you are more likely to get accepted than another time. So, I think it is an opportunity for business. I’m not sure I like the term ‘new normal’ or ‘returning to growth’ but I think the idea of a ‘renewal’ is interesting. It is a chance to pause and think about what companies do stand for and what your aspirations are and your relationship with the consumers. Many companies now are bigger than a lot of countries or governments - what is the responsibility to their consumers and vice versa and how do you reset, that is an interesting opportunity.

What kind of demands or solutions are clients looking for in a post-COVID environment?

You have seen the move to digitisation and many such things. It’s interesting that there are things on the margin that you can look at, both in terms of new things and opportunities but also doubling down on skills that you need to have. In terms of doubling down on skills, people are obviously spending a lot of time online, a lot more time on your customer website. If your analytics, your on-site analytics on are not the best they possibly can be in terms of conversion or tracking your consumers then you are missing out on a huge opportunity. At the same time if your creative is not dynamic, flexible, reflecting what your consumers are doing on-site then you are missing an opportunity to communicate with them. So there is a rigorous element that says analytics, understanding, optimization, on-site conversion that you need to look at.

There are also a lot of interesting kind of approaches. In the last few months, the world has been a world where everything is takeaway. So what does that mean for your brand? You can’t go to the car dealership but maybe the car comes to you. So what could you have that delivers to you? Essentially, everyone is digitally native now. So people who were comfortable with that are now much more comfortable ordering online and comfortable in that world. We are also in a kind of temporary world where desktops are as important as mobile, that may not last, but what does that mean now. With the platitude of e-commerce growing, everyone’s going online, and the digitization of the world there are areas to explore within them and that is quite interesting.

With cost cuttings happening all across, do you think the agency business will suffer? Will this pandemic lead to a change on how clients look at agencies as their partners or will they start doing some of their business on their own? Has it made the agency’s role even more important?

Numerically, of course, it has challenged us. Because a community of businesses like in the advertising world was supposed to grow. Depending on Pick Your Forecast, it is now going to go down between 5 and 12%. That wipes off 85 billion of potential revenue that was going to be around. So clearly it is not the same world numerically. It is about how you respond to that. I think a lot of it is about flexibility and working in different ways.

We at Mindshare, before this even happened, looked at three core things that were happening in the world and I think they have just accelerated. One is the client’s desire for change and digital transformation. Sometimes they are not completely sure what digital transformation means but they are probably a lot clearer about it now. So help and guidance on that - in terms of what their data structure might be and their marketing strategy. On the other hand of digital transformation is a kind of mercilessly efficient activation in a programmatic world. In the middle, it is about a fusion of both brand and demand. So understanding great big anthemic brand activity that clients are very good at, but also minute by minute, day by day, dynamic messaging to clients in a kind of e-commerce world. So how do you blend the two? There’s no either or. The nirvana of an agency relationship lies in the mixture of those three elements.

Overall on top of that, a real increase is now on Direct to Consumer, a question mark now on what is the retail environment. A need for people to understand that world and navigate that. Then, yes the role of agencies is more important. But the nature of those agencies changes. We look at Mindshare as a global talent agency not so much as a company and the talent that we assemble for a client, now based on where they are and what their challenges are might be quite different than the skillset and the team that you are assembling in two-three months’ time. That flexibility and desire to work as a team is important. I think if you are sharing data and working increasingly now around outcomes, not around fees or commissions put paid results, if you are working that way then that involves a high degree of trust and confidentiality of working together.

So the lines between agency and client blur, much more than they have ever done before. Because I don’t think you can really achieve digital transformation if you are still working with 10 different agencies in different ways. So, rather working together as one team is kind of the sweet spot.

What should a good recovery plan for brands look like?

We need to define recovery, first. Is recovery getting back to where you thought you are going to be or is recovery resetting and renewing and going in a different way? And we are seeing an arch of clients.

So, in the early days, it was about crisis management, now it is about the opportunities that the business and the world now provides.

Recovery is probably not the right word but renewal is the word in terms of how do you fast track your strategy because many clients already have their strategy in place. They knew what was coming, it is just coming a bit quicker. If you see the agility of which we have responded to working from home or working in different ways and across the world, I am very hopeful that the new relationship will bear a lot of fruit for a lot of our clients.

Most markets, where Mindshare operates, started to work before India. What suggestions are you giving your India team about going forward and handling the situation, which is novel for most of us?

It's unusual for me to give suggestions to MAPS (MA Parthasarathy) or Srini (CVL Srinivas) or PK (Prasanth Kumar). India is our fourth-largest market, so a lot of innovations come out of India rather than the other way around. I have faith in the Mindshare India leadership team and obviously part of the recovery for India is that there are many India(s) because it is different in different places. So the micro-targeting, understanding of what is happening in the urban centers vs the rural areas will be critical to that which is slightly different to other areas. There will be unique challenges as well as other things that are consistent. What is consistent is consumer behaviour, understanding that confidence is coming back to the market place. I think we are all hopeful that every market will kind of follow the China V-shaped recovery. I don’t think it would be V-shaped everywhere but certainly, it is coming back in a lot of places quicker than people thought. From our point of view, it is about being there when and where our clients need us to be there. So to spot the recovery, the opportunity, to be talking to our clients about that and taking every possible chance that we can to stimulate growth looking for new avenues of growth. The whole idea of sharing the best practices around the world has escalated and we talk every day about what is happening in the world and with our clients and what those opportunities might be in India. 

Talking in terms of numbers, for the Indian market how much hopes are you pinning on the festive season which starts from next month? What kind of conversations are you having with your India team?

We are quite dented in terms of projections but at the same time, it is a rash person that makes an immediate projection about a return. I think we will return relatively soon as soon as consumer confidence returns. If you look at the growth for next year, 2021, then India is projected to be one of the biggest markets to rebound in the best way. We are in the middle of it now in many ways. Therefore, it is difficult to make those projections because a lot depends on how the urban centers, in particular, react when that consumer confidence comes back. We have every faith in our team, they will all continue to grow, invest, and be there at the right time and the right place.

Anything you will like to add on the team in India or globally.

I love the Mindshare team in India, they are the best. They are brilliant. It was the last place I visited before we went into lockdown, it is always an inspiration. I have every faith in our team in India and around the world. We work in a fantastic business and we are going to use our ingenuity to make things even better.

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