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In our network, the best work in mobile is coming from India: Norm Johnston, Mindshare Worldwide

12-October-2011
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In our network, the best work in mobile is coming from India: Norm Johnston, Mindshare Worldwide

Whether it was donning the new structure or approaching the communication industry in innovative ways, Mindshare’s India operation has played a key role in leading the agency into new frontiers. The digital case, it appears, is not very different. In an exclusive conversation with exchange4media, Norm Johnston, Global Digital Leader, Mindshare Worldwide and Nick Seckold, Partner, Digital, APAC speak on the agency’s approach to digital and how India leads the way in disciplines like mobile.

India’s overall growth in digital
India is a fast evolving digital market, and Norm Johnston explained that the impact of this was seen in clients spending more money and being more committed to digital and the talent becoming better every year in the domain. He pointed out, “Social has grown significantly and platforms like Facebook are massive in markets like India. Our role increasingly is to help clients use this more strategically for CRM (customer relationship management) further leading into things such as commerce and product research.”

Mindshare’s digital focus is divided across five broad aspects --- mobile, social media, paid search, organic search and content production. Of this mobile is perceived to be fast reaching the point, where relevant scale would come to the business. The India market is said to have over 850 million handsets and of this, smart phones comprise 25 to 30 million at the moment.

The primary reason for Johnston and Seckold’s trip to India last week was look at the agency’s mobile offering more closely. Johnston said, “We see acceleration in growth in that area, and client interest in doing more on the mobile platform. In fact, probably the best work in our network and industry is coming from India on clients across Nike to Ford to HSBC, who have all done some groundbreaking work.”

The Mobile Focus
For GroupM per se, the expertise of a domain is divided in two clear stages --- incubation stage at the group level, when a new medium may still not have the scale and investment from advertisers but requires the agency to invest in developing its expertise and ability to advise clients, and the integration stage, where the offering is then merged at the agency level.

Seckold observed, “In an ideal world, if you could have your best model, a discipline like mobile should be integrated in the agencies. There can be some debate on things such as backend and central investment staying at the holding company level. But for strategy and daily optimisation, the best model would be for it to be integrated in the agencies.”

In India, mobile is still the incubation stage at the GroupM level. However, Seckold divulged that GroupM management in India was considering integrating mobile at the agency level.

Norm Johnston added here, “The quality of service here in India is arguably the best we have globally. And from both production and advertising point of view, business is at a tipping point.” Johnston cited the example of Nike from Mindshare India to elaborate on the kind of work India was doing in the space. The Nike app used augmented reality to engage the brand with consumers in India. He explained, “The Nike app created experience in retail shopping malls in India, and augmented reality was the viral component that ended up being discussed on social platforms.”

Digital, but not Digital only
According to Johnston, even as Mindshare may have up to 20 per cent of digital only clients, the agency is not a believer of that model. He elaborated, “We have digital specialists embedded throughout our agency and even the so-called traditional planners are going through rigorous training for digital, so they are able to advise clients aptly. People don’t treat digital as a silo anymore. If you run a TV spot, you see a huge leap in search. The number one discussed subject on social media is TV.”

“Consumers are interacting with various media at the same time, and we should also reflect that in the way we work. If digital has to be fundamental to everything we do, pursuing digital only pitches, would compromise our belief,” he stated.

A point that Seckold agreed with, and added, “The most important thing is to be able to link everything together. Even from a marketing budget point of view, ideally there should be one budget and then advertisers and their agency partners work in deploying that investment in the best way possible. But unfortunately some clients’ marketing budgets are not structured that way and different departments have different budgets, so you have to then work with that.”

But Johnston is clear that there still are advantages that specialists or digital independents lose out on. “What we need are digital strategists who help clients understand what they are doing across media and advise clients on which elements are relevant in their business, how the linkage can be done between media, because when that is done correctly, it will give them exponential results but an agency would not be able to give that advice if it was wearing only the digital hat.”

Mindshare is a believer in the magic moment when everything gets perfected, the technology, a clever application idea and consumers getting it and knowing how to use it. Johnston summed up, “Internet is becoming ubiquitous to an extent that consumers take it for granted now – the only time one wonders about it, is when they cannot connect. Everyone who every said that soon everything will become digital, is right.”

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