Agencies ready with game plan to take on consultancies: Anita Kotwani, Mindshare India

Senior Vice President, New Business for Mindshare India, talks about agency of the future, the challenges ahead for the agency business, and why she believes Mindshare is a great place to work

e4m by Venkata Susmita Biswas
Published: Aug 21, 2018 8:58 AM  | 8 min read

Anita Kotwani joined Mindshare 14 years ago as the media director of the newly won HSBC account. From setting up the team to service the HSBC business to leading the west mantle for Mindshare, it has been an invigorating journey for her. She ensured that the diversified service offerings of data, digital and content became core to the agency's  mandate, in line with the evolving media ecosystem.

In April of 2018 she was assigned to lead the new business agenda for the agency. As Senior Vice President, New Business for Mindshare India, she is in charge of driving the growth agenda for the agency. In her new role, Kotwani will also work closely with specialist teams across Data, Digital and Content, collectively driving the traditional and diversified services of the organisation.

Kotwani spoke to exchange4media about the agency of the future, the challenges ahead for the agency business, and why she believes Mindshare is a great place to work. Excerpts:

In an ecosystem where management consultancies are looking to grab a piece of the media marketing pie and where companies want to make their marketing teams more in-house, how do you convince CMOs that agencies like yours are the answers to their problems?

While there is some infringement in the media agency business by management consultants, there is a game plan that agencies are ready with to take on these companies. Critical to the offering of every agency is the end to end solution that we can provide to the client. From branding to performance, from top of the funnel to driving bottom of the funnel expertise, agencies like ours are building expertise across the consumer purchase journey. With strategic acquisitions in place for strengthening the new areas like social and performance, we are looking at horizontality to deliver end to end solutions to clients. Given that talent pool is critical to deliver new age service offering to advertisers, we have ensured that we bring on board a diversified pool from the content, data and tech world into our core planning framework.

An aggressive drive towards existing talent pool transformation is high on the agenda across agencies. They are ready to take on the challenge and ensure that their turf is well protected. And when clients see the day in day out proof of that through delivery of their business goals, the battle is won.

You mention reskilling talent as a crucial part of being future ready. How much of Mindshare’s efforts and energies are invested into reskilling talent?

We typically have one-hour long webinar once a week for our employees; each of these webinars can be attended by the entire team. These webinars talk about new technologies, a new stack that has come out, a new technology partner that has come on board or even a new practice that WPP and GroupM wants to talk about. This is not an agenda only for the employees but also for senior management to stay ahead of the curve in the new age ecosystem whether it is that of digital content or blockchain. In fact, I land up spending weekends doing courses which will add to my knowledge and keep me abreast of this ever-changing ecosystem.

In comparison to my previous employers, I can say that I have never seen such a focused training agenda within any organisation as I have seen in Mindshare to drive reskilling and talent transformation.

How has the media landscape evolved in the years since you began working?

Erstwhile agencies were full service and the media component had a small part to play as creative was focus for clients. Many a times when we would go to clients we would not even be sure if media would get an opportunity to present its plan. We used to be the last five slides of the presentation. Now we are at the forefront, even before the creative agency. Today we have the spectrum of business, communications, and media beautifully integrated with the service offerings that we offer. I do think we have done much better to shape our services in these spaces, compared to what the creative agencies did with their services.

I was trained under Sundeep Nagpal, one of the media consultants and to date I have immense respect for him. So right up from manual calculations and drawing Venn diagrams to explain duplication to clients, to diary ratings, we have done the manual drudgery from ground zero. Today we have so much more data and automation to assist us in our work. Technology and infrastructure developments have moved us in the right direction where we have an entire team that does the central media planning for Mindshare. This bunch of people run a semi-automated media planning process which would have otherwise taken a week to do. By removing the manual drudgery we see to it that the team is using their talent to do better brand-thinking.
How can agencies stay relevant to brands in this changing landscape?

By being “data driven digitally charged” agencies need to invest in big data and analytics, as the ability to navigate consumer habits individually will completely change the game.

Data empowers media agencies to shift from targeting people we don’t know, to people we know; driving greater personalisation, relevance and eradicating media inefficiencies.

This needs to be coupled with human intervention where we have strategic thinkers who can mine the data, fuel insights, measure outcomes and drive business results.

At Mindshare, we use “Adaptive Marketing” as the foundation to our thinking. We believe everything begins and ends in media.

  • Tenets to our Adaptive Marketing
  • Linear to dynamic consumer journeys
  • Static to real time planning
  • Fixed and Fluid moment marketing
  • Fixed and Fluid investment strategies
  • Output to outcome based planning
What is the one message you have for CMOs today?

The battle between effectiveness and efficiency will always be there. Generally speaking, CMOs favour efficiency. It takes guts to tip the balance towards ‘effectiveness.’ There is no such thing as a ‘perfect deal’ but there is ample proof of an effective campaign because it drives business goals. So, spend time and energy on that instead of needless negotiations. At the end “In your success lies our success”. So see us as partners whose sole objective is to drive business results for you.

You believe that strategy without execution is hallucination. How do you strategise and execute your business goals for Mindshare India?

My inspiration comes from “4 Disciplines of Execution” the book written by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling

The four disciplines:
  • Set “The wildly important goal” (WIG) for the organization
  • Have a lag and lead measure to track progress
  • Keep a compelling score card that’s visible of progress
  • Drive a cadence of accountability with the team
The focus has been to put the strategy in place and then institutionalise excellence in execution. 

What have been your biggest learnings from challenges in the past? How do you build on these learnings?

Biggest challenges that we have seen is the sheer amount of time our teams have spent churning out data and spending time on drudge work. Our drive towards automation and setting up a centralised planning team are learnings that we have taken on board and we today have teams that focus on higher end quality work on the business.

What is the core pain point for media agencies? What are your suggestions to overcome these challenges?

We are a people based business and our talent pool is our biggest strength, while there is an action place in transforming talent, we do struggle with infusing diverse talent into our fold. Our industry needs to attract the content, data and technology experts in to our fray.

We have made some inroads into attracting talent from the technology space, bringing on content creators, and machine learning experts into our fold.

Our industry needs to be an exciting career opportunity for the new age spaces, we need to change our recruitment strategies and participate beyond conventional campaign placement colleges.

We need to get clients to move beyond the efficiencies game and start looking at solutions that drives outcomes for their business. These services will have a price tag attached as the talent pool to drive business solves need to be specialists in the areas of modelling, big data expert etc.
You have been with Mindshare for 14 long years, what continues to keep you tied to the agency?

I have worked with Mindshare for 14 years and I have never found a reason to look outside for work because of the way Mindshare takes care of its talent. This place grooms you to understand the dynamics of growing our business, provides enablers that can help you succeed. It makes you a thorough business professional who is ready and charged to drive your clients’ business outcomes. Here meritocracy is rewarded.

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