We need to look at Havas per se as an entire concept: Vishnu Mohan and Rana Barua

Integration is key, because you cannot make content & data work together unless you create a structure. Fortunately, at Havas our scale, size and less silos, make it a lot easier, the duo shared in a candid conversation

e4m by Naziya Alvi Rahman
Updated: Oct 4, 2018 8:58 AM

"What you will soon find is the kind of expertise and the rollout of the integration journey; how we would rollout this working together as a concept, getting the entire strength of this group, which is doing magnificently well outside. We have not even tapped most of it in this country," announces Vishnu Mohan CEO, Havas Group India & South East Asia/ CEO Havas Media APAC as he introduces his one day old India Group CEO, Rana Barua.

As clearly defined by Mohan, Barua’s biggest challenge as the Group CEO is to focus on integration of all Havas business and make maximum out of each. “If you look at Havas Group as a concept, it has advertising, it has media, health and if you look at the group per se, to which Havas belongs, it has Universal Music, which I would like to work closely with. There is also Gameloft, which is another big asset the group has and there is Dailymotion. These are the assets which we can work closely with,” Barua explains.

Mohan explains that the plans to merge and integrate all the group assets started sometime early last year. However, it has formally come to India only now. “Yes, it began last year. But it has been rolled out bit by bit. We are not rushing into a blanket timeline, but we are on the path to making it happen in every single market. Actually in my region, after India, the only market left is Malaysia, all of the rest are under an integrated structure,” he adds.

He further added that while everyone talks about content and data as the two most important things which drive business very few are able to use it in an integrated manner. “If you see, content sits largely with the creative side of things and data sits with media. So how do you make these two important things talk for each other if you do not create a structure that allows them to talk? And this is a big challenge which everyone recognises. All of the networks understand that the integration is key, because you cannot make content and data work together unless you create a structure. Fortunately, our scale, size and less silos, make it a lot easier.”

The media experts, also talked about the burning industry issue of pitches being driven by price discounts and not strategy. “I wouldn't say that this is 100 per cent true, but I wouldn't say that this is not true either, because at the end of the day, for any client who spends millions of dollars in advertising, prices will be key because any client would want to see the most optimised media planning in the best price,” said Mohan.

However, Mohan adds that it must not come at the cost of diminishing the value of strategy. “But I think some clients are doing it, and it is happening everywhere. When we talk about media prices, under-cutting on fees is completely different. If agencies are devaluing themselves by undermining their own value by going low on commission, then that's a completely different problem. But the prices bid is something else. That's a challenge, and if I put it through the lens of a client, then why wouldn't I want the lowest and best price from any agency,” he added.

Barua, who in his previous two stints has spent almost a decade in creative agencies, says the problem exists there too. “Whether you see it from the creative side, or the client's side, it's a common problem. Clients will always try to get the maximum buck out of work. Most of our integrated propositions have always worked on that. But I think the big change that you will probably see coming forward, is that it is getting very tough. I think it's natural that clients will ask for it, so it's up to the group, the network, or the agencies to take a hard stand on it,” said Barua.

Mohan, however, believes, that a part of the solution lies with digital. “Digital is the biggest leveler now where skill has become more important than scale. Therefore with skills, you can outwit the scale. Also, when you look at the level of platform related buying, etc., these are all audience planning where we are trying to marry the inputs to the outcomes. And as the world moves more towards accountable media spending, this whole notion of pricing will actually go away, because what will really matter would not be so much the price of the media, but what it would take to actually get a unit sold. And that is what really matters. What is involved in a unit being sold is a combination of so many things, such as strategy, thinking, planning and targeting. Pricing is just one element,” Mohan said.

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