'Reach, engagement & retention, key metrics to measure the effectiveness of ad campaign'

Imran Shamsi, Founder & Director, What Works, said that the agency understands the struggles, limitations, and realities of having limitless aspirations

e4m by Rasika Kiran Upasani
Updated: Apr 14, 2021 8:54 AM
Imran Shamsi

What triggered the foundation of What Works was the hunger to create diverse content for multiple clients and to breed a culture of freedom, learning, creativity and collaboration. The culture at ‘What Works!’ promotes experimentation and failure that is celebrated as it’s just another step towards finding what works. Over the last 7 years,  some of the brightest, young and creative people have joined the What Works team of all-in-ones, who think, write, plan, produce, direct, design and deliver videos. This helps them understand the content making process as a whole and gives them a key perspective in their own roles. ‘What works!’ creates content under two verticals;  content for content and content for brands. 

Content for Content: 

There was a time when the only ways to promote films were press conferences, item songs, and PR manufactured controversies. But with the influx of OTTs, the content world has changed drastically, and there is a huge demand for promotional content that stands out, engages the audience, and is shareworthy. Everyone is fighting to capture the attention of audiences and this bubble is not going to burst anytime soon. 

Content for Brands: 

The advertising and online video content markets are collectively worth over 10  billion dollars in India. There is a huge influx of agencies and production companies that want a piece of this pie. Most of them are depressingly similar to each other. They all offer a full range of services to their clients. All claim to be data driven, creative, young and agile. All of them are desperate to do anything to win the account. And when they do win the account, most of them take an assembly line approach that manufactures campaigns at scale, but creatives become commoditized. 

E4m spoke to Imran Shamsi, Founder and Director, What Works, to get an insight on everything the agency has to offer. 

What opportunities did you see that have resulted in making your production a huge success?  

With the rise of Digital Content and the influx of OTTs, there has been a meteoric increase in content production. In 2015, a year after launch, we started focussing our efforts to create compelling content for content. Stories that persuade you to consume stories. We created a 5-part documentary series for YRF’s ‘Fan’ to promote the film. Such was the hype and excitement around this campaign that  ‘Fan’ trended worldwide 3 months prior to its release. After that, we worked with every major studio like Fox Star Studios, Sony Pictures, Viacom 18, Red Chillies  Entertainment, Disney, Zee Studios, Vishal Bhardwaj films and many more. The second success came from advertising. There are countless production houses and agencies that have experience and an impressive body of work. So, it was a challenge for newcomers like us to stand out. After endless rounds of pitching, we observed that a lot of clients were unhappy with old-school, traditional establishments, as they were not only expensive but lacked the agility and flexibility needed today. We put ourselves in the client’s shoes and treated their objectives like our own. We focussed our energies and passion towards creating a deeper, personal connect between brands and consumers. Being a start-up ourselves, it was in our DNA to be quick, responsive, driven and brave. We wanted to create content that was relevant, relatable and that didn’t put people to sleep. In a short span of time, we bagged multiple campaigns for some of the most exciting start-ups like The Man Company, Nush, Raw Pressery, and upGrad.  

How is your production lucrative enough for investors? 

While revenue has grown considerably year on year, it is also our premium clientele consisting of some of the biggest brands, agencies, and studios in the world and our ability to find what works for them is what makes us lucrative for investors.  

What are your views on client experience? How has your client experience been so far?  

Our mission is to find what works for our clients. We believe the best way to do that is by finding everything about the brand, the product, the target audience, and the competition. What has worked for the brand before, what hasn’t, and then we make these observations a central part of the strategy. The stories we tell are rooted in research and consumer insight. Through our journey, we haven’t just learnt a lot about our clients, we also have learnt a lot from them, and a lot of our success comes from how hard they push us to do better. We would be nowhere without the trust, belief and support of our clients.  

What project of What Works! are you most proud of and why?

This is a particularly tough one as we’ve done so many projects that have not only turned out great but also have changed us as people. I remember a project that we created for Yashraj Films for their movie Sui Dhaaga. We got the film’s logo designed by 15 artists and craftsmen from the length and breadth of the country. It took six months to plan, research and execute the campaign that celebrates our country’s artisans and diversity. The campaign was a huge success, it trended at No. 1 on YouTube, got over 10 million organic views  (across social), generated a huge amount of buzz for the film and won us a Gold award at the Jagran Film Festival. But the most gratifying thing was to see all the attention and love that poured in for these extremely talented and skilled artisans of India.  

We also did a campaign for men’s grooming brand ‘The Man Company’ titled - ‘Gentleman Kisse Kehte Hain’ – A powerful narrative where Ayushmann Khurana redefines what it takes to be a ‘gentleman’. The video dealt with some hard-hitting gender stereotypes and went viral within hours of its release clocking more than 15 million views across social media. Post that we became regulars for The  Man Company and made two more TVCs featuring Ayushmann Khurana. 

How do you stay up to date on the latest advertising technology? 

We’re a curious lot and we keep a check on national and international news in the advertising world. Blogs, books and magazines help us stay updated. A regular review of competition and the production houses that we aspire to be like, also helps us get a good dose of information. 

According to you, what is the most important role of a video production service?  

The most important role is to understand the brief deeply and create content that works for the clients as well as the audiences. Keeping the content real, relevant,  and shareable should be a priority. Production companies are not very keen on doing research as it’s mostly handed over to them by agencies. But in today’s fast-changing world, production houses need to research intensely before they conceptualize and go on the shooting floor. Every insight helps in shaping a  stellar campaign. It’s important for a production house to haggle on small creative details while keeping an eye on the bigger picture. 

What kind of demographic does What Works cater to? 

Our target audience is advertisers and brand managers who’re looking to create compelling content for their brands. People who’ll not settle for mediocre creativity and really want to tell a story that brings forth their brand and connects with their audiences alike. Passionate start-ups, new age media companies, cool,  quirky brands and OTT platforms are the ones we have set our eyes on and will continue to find what works for them.  

Going forward, what plans do you have for marketing What works? 

After the inception of What Works, we were extremely focussed towards creating content and building the business. We didn’t really market ourselves and relied on connections and contacts within the team. However, after proving our worth in video production, we have received tremendous business from word of mouth. Clients and agencies we work with have recommended us further and that’s resulted in growth for the business. We have spent these past 7 years telling stories for others, today we believe it’s the right time to talk about our story too.

What is your marketing mix like?  

For client projects, the marketing mix is dependent on the campaign objectives. We’ve seen a shift in focus from TV to YouTube and now from YouTube to Instagram and other emerging social networks. Most of the content we create is published on the brand pages and shared by the featuring celebrities on their handles. As far as marketing What Works is concerned, we’re highly active on Instagram (@findingwhatworks) and use our community of media professionals to not only get feedback but also to attract talent.  

The biggest entry point for clients is our website https://www.thisiswhatworks.in. We wanted to have a site that reflected our personality, was young, vibrant, and undoubtedly cool. And we thought the best way to do that would be to design the website in-house. We’re not coders or designers, but we’re well versed with the art of the great Indian ‘jugaad’, so we made it happen and still blush when we people appreciate it. 

What sorts of advertising and marketing brands does What Works cater to?  

We just look for passion. If we see that a client or a brand manager is really excited and passionate about getting the results, then we immediately take the leap. We believe that passion is contagious and helps us deal with many things that can possibly go wrong on a project. Brands that market to millennials are the ones we naturally gravitate towards.  

How do you measure the effectiveness of an advertising campaign? 

Reach, engagement and retention are the most important metrics for us. We keep going back to our videos and observe consumer chatter in the comments. 

That really helps us in being objective about the campaign and learning things so that we’re better in our next outing. It depends on the purpose of the campaign. If the brand wants to introduce itself to a new audience then reach becomes a key metric, if it wants to promote a product then sales must be measured, and if the aim is to generate buzz and chatter then engagement would be the ideal metric.

According to you, what are the major trends in advertising today? 

Personalization has become very important; brands are chasing this route more than ever which is why micro-content is becoming a staple for a lot of brands. Considering the low attention spans, small, bite-sized 10 second pieces help deliver messages without wasting time. It’s cheaper to produce and easier to scale. Little doses of such content go a long way in etching the brand in the minds of the consumers. Influencer Marketing - It’s an overused yet highly effective way to add not only appeal but also reach to the campaign. A lot of brands are using influencers to feature in the commercials and also to distribute the content to their fans. This has helped brands to target and plan their campaigns way better than ever before. 

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