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Brands are built when teams collaborate seamlessly: Raji Ramaswamy, CEO, Contract

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Brands are built when teams collaborate seamlessly: Raji Ramaswamy, CEO, Contract

Just a year in the organisation, but CEO of Contract Advertising, Raji Ramaswamy has a lot to share. Ask the lady about her three big accomplishments at the agency, and she is prompt to answer. “We have won 10 new businesses (14 brands within that), seven new projects and four organic new businesses in the last one year alone. We are in the middle of four pitches that look good at the moment,” says Ramaswamy with excitement. Some of these new businesses are from big brands, including Bata, Sony SAB and Wipro in Bangalore.

Her next major accomplishment has been strengthening the relationship with the clients. “And the third big thing, for me, is that we are happy with the work that we are doing for our clients,” says Ramaswamy. Excerpts:

On creativity going the digital way

“I feel digital is an integral part of what we do today. If we create an idea that is not media agnostic, it will not be able to create traction in the market,” says the CEO.

Ramaswamy admits that while mainline communication mediums such as TV, print, outdoor and activations are still very important for most brands, there is a digital-first approach now. This approach is primarily because of the kind of audience that the brands address and the kind of focus they want to create.

“As a medium, digital is far more measureable. Also, with digital, you are always on. That is why I think all mediums will co-exist. Some categories such as finance, fashion and e-commerce are a little ahead of the curve in terms of digital, while with some other categories such as FMCG, mainline will remain the main focus,” she says.

Key industry trends

Highlighting the trends that have come up in the last few years, Ramaswamy speaks about the “storm of new content” through platforms such as Hotstar and Netflix. “I think these will change the media world. We will have more specialised content,” she says.

“The second trend is AI & AR and technology tools. These will change the way we communicate with the consumer and the way the consumer responds to the communication. We will be creating content that gets shared and we will also be sharing content which is created by the consumer,” she adds.

Ramaswamy believes that as consumers become more evolved, they will seek more value from brands. “Therefore, brands will have more purpose and will promote more causes that people believe in. Sustainability will also become more important for brands because it will become more important for the consumer,” says Ramaswamy.

Challenges ahead

Talking about the challenges, Ramaswamy says, “From a creative perspective, (creating) project-based engagement for some clients is a challenge.”

“We are investing time and effort in understanding consumers, the category and how the consumers relate to that category. The effort that we put in is far higher, and so it might not be sustainable from an overall perspective,” she says.

“Another issue we face is that the procurement team is sometimes not briefed on the complexities of the agreement. They may see it as a cost-fee structure instead of seeing it as an investment towards branding.”

On media agencies handling both media and creative

Ramaswamy is all praise for the integrated model. “I believe in the integrated model. That is the only way. I think if we did not have the digital, design and consulting units, we would not have been as strong as we are today.”

“The integrated model works well with a team of strategic talent, creative talent, designers, writers, art designers, digital strategists, technologists, web designers, and content creators working together. Brands and businesses are built when teams collaborate seamlessly,” she concludes.

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