Artificial Intelligence will free up creativity: Leigh Terry, CEO, IPG Mediabrands, APAC

Terry spoke to exchange4media about all things digital and India’s place in the IPG Mediabrands universe

e4m by Venkata Susmita Biswas
Updated: Jul 27, 2018 9:00 AM

Nothing can get Leigh Terry more excited than the perfect combination of technology with purpose. Over the last two years Terry has been overseeing the operations of IPG Mediabrands in the APAC region. According to him the next big trend that will define digital is artificial intelligence. But he confesses, "I don't know how!"

Describing his fleeting visits to India, a key market in the APAC region, Terry said, “I don’t get the chance to come to India often, and that is a testament our solid leadership and great business here. When I come here is for pleasure and not because there are problems!”

Terry spoke to exchange4media about all things digital and India’s place in the IPG Mediabrands universe. Edited Excepts:

What are the overarching digital trends that will get consolidated over the next few years?

Consumers are more open to the possibilities that technology can afford us. One of the things I feel will be largely impacting will be Artificial Intelligence. I just don’t know how! If AI for marketing can take away the labour and drudgery around marketing then people can devote more and more of their energy to genuine ideas that inspire and rich creative work. I don’t think AI will replace creativity, it will actually free it up. It will in fact allow humans to do what humans do best. We will see this as a growing trend particularly in markets like India and China where the population is huge, so there is the opportunity to reach mass audiences where we are looking to segment and deliver tailored messages to small subsets of audiences.

Everyone talks about voice as the next big thing, what are your thoughts?

Voice is another interesting aspect. On one hand we have had Siri or its equivalent on our phones for the last few years. That said, I have not seen mass adoption of using voice with mobile; the irony is that the mobile phone is a voice device. In the home though, there is better use of voice with devices like Google Home, Alexa and the likes. I believe that voice search will make brands more important. For example, if someone wants to search for batteries and Amazon has its own brand of batteries to sell, then it will be more important for the consumer to search for ‘Duracell batteries’ and reference the name of the brand in the search string.

Digital platforms like Facebook, Google, Twitter have all come under fire for a number of reason from brand safety and privacy to fake followers and bots. Are they doing enough to rectify everything that is wrong with the platforms?

I have been having a lot of conversations with Google and Facebook in the last 12 months on brand safety, ensuring that our clients are handled appropriately, and ensuring that there is the right amount of rigour in the processes put in place. They are doing a lot, but I do believe that there is always more that can be done. I do think there is a lot of complexity to the problem because of the scale of it. I am glad they are treating it as seriously as they are and I hope they maintain their level of rigour.

The agency business is under threat from all quarters. What does an agency need to do to future proof itself?

Other than buy a fantastic business like Acxiom (laughs)... The best way to future proof the agency is to continue to listen to clients. We are here to serve and build the business of our clients. If we are not doing that then we be disrupted in the same way that any other category is being disrupted. If we cannot prove our value, then we do not have the right to exist. And I think not enough people accept or embrace that position.

As an agency we have clients across categories at different stages of evolution and they each have different demands. If you are everything to everyone, it means you are nothing to no one. This means one has to focus on certain areas. In order to do that, we spend a lot of time not only talking to clients but also experimenting with technologies.

When we experiment we look through the lens of 90,9,1. We look at the 90% that we should be using, the 9% that we should be experimenting with and looking to grow and the 1% that’s probably in the distance but stay prepared to implement it’s launched. We need to be in a constant stage of evolution.

India is one of the fastest growing markets in the world. From the IPG Mediabrands’ perspective, where does the India market stand?

The Indian marketplace is very much a two-horse race and I am very please to say that IPG Media is one of those horses. Within the APAC network India is in the top 3 and at the global level it is definitely within our top 10. There is a lot going on in our India operations.

This is not just about scale. I am a passionate believer that biggest does not mean best and by being best you get bigger. The quality of the work and talent we have in this market is genuinely world class. The work that we do across the Lodestar UM client-base is phenomenal and that’s the case even with Initiative. We have very interesting clients like Amazon India. Working with clients who are changing their categories will help us change our business also.

What are the main growth drivers in India?

Digital is obviously a big driver in India. There is still great scope to grow in the digital sphere in India as penetration can go deeper. Strategically speaking a lot of the more interesting work that I have seen is largely through content. I don’t say that purely in terms of advertising but also with respect to content strategies; and this space is growing massively.

In fact, everything is growing here in India! Which is very pleasing.

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