Our focus is to keep growing faster than the market: Anand Bhadkamkar, DAN

DAN CEO Bhadkamkar talks about his plans to leverage the agency's strong creative and digital capabilities & make more acquisitions in 2020

e4m by Naziya Alvi Rahman
Updated: Jan 15, 2020 9:37 AM

Four months into his new role, Anand Bhadkamkar humbly claims it’s not easy to fit into the shoes of Ashish Bhasin, former DAN CEO and now CEO APAC and Chairman India, Dentsu Aegis Network. Bhadkamkar in a candid conversation with exchange4media, reveals his plans to continue the legacy of Bhasin to further strengthen the One P&L model. He will continue to consolidate and leverage DAN’s strong creative and digital capabilities to bring the best in class integrated services to the clients. Below are excerpts from the interview :-

Q It will soon be six months for you in your new role. What are some key changes we can expect under your leadership?

It’s been four months to be precise since I have taken on the role of CEO DAN India. Over the past years, we have consistently delivered growth way ahead of the market. Presently, we are a 3800- member strong team in the market with 23 brands providing solutions to client’s business problems. Our biggest strength is our One P&L model supported by our strong digital, creative, OOH capabilities and our talented workforce.

Over the years, this has helped fuel our growth and set us up in an advantageous position versus our competitors. The immediate focus this year is to continue growing faster than the market. We aim to further consolidate and leverage our strong creative and digital capabilities to bring the best in class integrated services to the clients. Acquisitions have been a part of our growth strategy to partner with the best talent and bring in new capabilities in the network, and we will continue focusing on acquisitions in the market.

Q 2019 was interesting for the country since we began with a clear growth year and then mid-year there was slowdown enough to say that India was witnessing not just muted growth but a quasi-recession. This has put immense pressure on ad spends. How much impact has it had on your business and how do you think the industry can cope with it.

The economic slowdown did impact the industry overall. The ad spends growth came down from the initial estimates of around 12 per cent to around 9-9.5 per cent. The slowdown had an impact across industry segments, especially in automotive, real estate, financial services, etc. At DAN, many of our clients were also impacted by the slowdown, which affected their advertising spends.

However, they used efficient ways to reach consumers, focusing on performance and outcome-oriented advertising; digital – programmatic spends, hyper-local and other marketing communications channels over traditional advertising spends during this period. In 2020, the growth is expected to come back with various initiatives being planned by the government on taxation and sector-specific schemes. Overall economic activity is also anticipated to improve in the coming quarters.

As technology took centre stage in the last decade, ‘media agencies’ purpose had already moved away from a vendor for rates to a true strategic partner in brand building because media agencies understood data from their very beginning. Why do you think there was such a need for marketers to drive change in the agency life?

The market is going through a transformative phase with digital playing a big role in how the brands engage with and reach out to consumers. Data and Data analytics has gained prominence from the perspective of not only brand-building but also clients’ business needs & solutions.

Digital evolution had an impact not only on just advertising but also on India’s overall economic and social behaviour. Marketers are using digital & technology as a key component of their business strategy. Meanwhile, agency capabilities have also evolved simultaneously over the years.

Clients like Reckitt Benisker call for annual pitch. We saw Marico calling for a review in less than a year. Do you think that shrinking budgets and growing competition is putting greater focus on pricing. How is this impacting your business?

Clients are looking at marketing outcomes, and pricing is one of the criteria. As part of their marketing strategy, clients carry out their evaluations for advertising spends, brand communication plans, etc. These strategies are normally not driven purely for pricing, but for achieving overall business objectives.

Agencies over the years are working with clients to provide solutions to their business and marketing problems as a part of their overall solutions.

Digital media spends are at par with television spends in some markets and have overtaken TV spends in some other markets. Will we see this happen in India soon?

India still is a slightly different market compared to others. Here, television will continue to grow over the next few years along with Print. Although in India, Print will grow at a slower pace, compared to the other markets that are experiencing negative growth.

Digital does continue to grow at 27-28 per cent year-on-year. It would overtake print to be the no. 2 medium in the market over the next 2-3 years, but TV will still continue to be the largest medium in the near future.

Presently, Television spends are 39 per cent of the total market share, while digital spends are 20 per cent. In the coming year, Print spends are expected to be around 27 per cent of total media spends. 

What according to you will be four or five top changes media agencies will undergo post-2020? What are the big trends of today that are shaping that future?

Digital transformation and the advent of mobile have had a huge impact on the overall ecosystem. Easy access to data has enabled a change in consumer behaviour with digital platform adoptions and the way content is consumed.

This has also led to data and data analytics gaining prominence. Clients are beginning to use digital better to understand consumer trends/ recruitment/ deciding product strategy; it is more about using digital to achieve business outcomes and driving commerce than advertising/marketing outcomes with the use of data, machine learning, martech platforms, etc.

Agencies will need to adapt to these changes in the coming years. We at DAN had called out 3Vs – Video, Voice and Vernacular to drive growth, supported by programmatic media. The 3 Vs should continue to grow this year with regional languages expected to fuel further growth in the future, especially in content and OTT platforms. 

Q How should media agency leadership change to fit in that future? And what are some steps that you are seeing media agencies already undertake as we speak of reskilling and creating a future-ready workforce?

Talent in India is already one of the best in the industry globally. We have some of the finest minds in our industry, competing with the best globally. Media agencies are already undertaking measures to develop digital, tech and data capabilities within the existing staff.

And Media Agency leadership in the market across networks are embracing the change. Those who are not will be left behind.  At DAN, amongst other initiatives, we are working on the Operational Excellence programme to drive automation of processes and capability improvement among staff.

Agencies are focusing on attracting and retaining the best talent in the business by providing further development opportunities across the network and creating future leaders for the business. 

Q What are clients asking for in today’s times? How are their expectations from agencies changing?

What clients want today from agencies is solutions to their business problems. They are looking at business partners and are expecting integrated solutions for their marketing problems from the agencies. In the current digital world, clients want to operate in a seamlessly across creative, media and digital solutions and not in silos. At DAN, with our One P&L model, we are able to provide integrated solutions to the clients at the same time. 

Q How you are seeing agencies in India contribute to a global vision for a future-fit industry?

Indian agencies are already at the forefront of digital evolution. India has a huge digital talent pool, especially with data and martech capabilities. Indian agencies are already providing offshoring solutions & support to many international clients and networks in martech, data analytics, Ad-ops, etc. Technology has been one of the strong points for India and as the industry moves further on the digital evolutions, Indian agencies and talent will be very well placed to take advantage of the global stage and play a leading role there.


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