Business is now back to pre-Covid levels: Vishal Shah, MediaCom

Managing Partner Vishal Shah believes that budgets are pretty much back and the overall mood is upswing with everyone being extremely excited to have an action-packed 6 to 8 weeks

e4m by Naziya Alvi Rahman
Updated: Oct 18, 2021 9:33 AM
Vishal Shah

With the festive season looking promising, brands are back with their 2019 budgets wanting to be seen. We, at e4m, spoke to Vishal Shah, Managing Partner, Mediacom about the latest consumer trends, festive time, and a lot more.

Q: This is one of the best times of the year for brands, marketers and media agencies. How is the business shaping up ahead of this festive season?

Given the fact that the stress of COVID pretty much seems at arm's length, people are really keen and eager to finally do something. Brands are now excited to get their communication on air and start connecting with consumers again as they've been relatively silent or they have cut spends for a long time. Businesses are now pretty much back to pre COVID levels, or at least 90-95% levels than what it was. I think the mood is very upswing, and everyone is extremely excited to have an action-packed six to eight weeks.

Q: As a planner have you faced a situation where there's a brand for which you want to buy a spot and it's not easily available or broadcasters are demanding too much?

No, we have multiple options to consider across channels. I think IPL is also very well-timed, just before the kick-start of this huge festive season. And brands who can't afford to be on IPL, they still want to be visible, with the festive period approaching. There is a lot of momentum happening. From the consumers' side, there is a lot of traction happening. Malls have started opening, people have started going out and shopping actively, and therefore, brands want to connect with consumers, and all those who can't afford IPL definitely want to look at alternative options outside of IPL, and therefore, that is something those brands are considering.

Q: This is the second time that the IPL and the festive season are, kind of, overlapping with each other. Is it a good thing for the industry or are brands somewhere eating into each other's pie?

Yeah, I would say they would eat into each other's pie, there's no doubt about it. Had it been a little more staggered, it would have been better. But I think, from a timing perspective, the World Cup is immediately followed up by the IPL. And, they've already started talking about the next season where two additional teams are getting added. So if they had to complete this year’s season, I think there was no other window and therefore, it was important to get that done as well. While it could eat into each other's revenues, I think such as life.

Q: Looking at early trends, where do you see the Indian advertising industry closing in the year 2021? And do you think we'll be able to touch 2019 numbers?

So from a volume perspective, definitely the trends are all positive. In fact, we're looking at probably overtaking the 2019 volumes, but that is not translating from a value perspective, is the sense I have. I think, during the second lockdown, we still lost about a good 20 to 40-45 days, depending on which market you are in. And obviously, that revenue is not completely compensated for. So from a revenue perspective, I think we will still be at a shortfall of maybe 10 to 15%. But from a volume perspective, yes, we will definitely cross 2019 levels.

Q: Covid has made technology all the more important for us. What kind of tech-enabled solutions are you offering to brands and their marketing challenges?

As the Covid-19 crisis has led to rapid digital adoption, consumers are more willing to experiment with new options, new platforms, new forms of technology, so on and so forth. And given this high amount of time spent now on online platforms, we're looking at it in two different ways. Digital is playing a very integral role in how behaviours from a consumer perspective are changing dynamically. Coming to the usage of technology, there are some interesting innovations that we have recently done across a whole host of different brands and campaigns. So the very recent one, which we actually executed was in partnership with M Canvas, where we are using augmented reality filters, and smile detection technology, to kind of engage with consumers in a very interesting way.

We did another partnership with a platform called Sharechat, where we were asking users to kind of shake the phone to relieve some of their headaches. Interactive messages like these, with the consumers, are increasingly on the rise, where your tech is playing an important role in the kind of engaging consumers. So that is another area where we did a very good partnership with the platform and executed a campaign.

The third example, I can give you, is of using artificial intelligence to bring couples together via emotion detection. So that was done for a retail-based jewellery client of ours where we were actually asking consumers to take photographs and see how they look in that specific jewellery. So, that is another area where we have done innovative usage of technology and kind of executed tech-enabled solutions. We collaborate very strongly with the likes of Google. In fact, we recently even published a case study in partnership with Google, for big Bazaar, where we've taken digital storefronts with GMB. And we use Google as a full-funnel approach, right from targeting the top of the funnel in terms of taking YouTube mastheads and doing the regular reach frequency campaigns. But along with that, we are also linking that with sales and discovery campaigns, and the entire funnel is then strongly linked to attributions in terms of the last mile. In fact, Google recently published that case study where we saw an online jump of almost 8x, which was higher than almost any imagination that we could have. So, increasingly, we are seeing, more and more brands willing to experiment with new things, new ways of connecting with consumers, new technology on how they can engage with consumers, etc.

Q: What kind of changes did you have to bring within the agency to meet the new demands from the brands?

If you look at the entire digital world, there are multiple specializations that are actually evolving. One is a performance marketing specialization, then there is a brand marketing specialization, there are platform specialists that are evolving, then there is a combination of tech and platform on how you can integrate and merge that to drive the right outcomes for brands and businesses. Even from our side, we are looking at, people across all these different types of roles, by bringing in specialists, and generalists. Each of them plays their own independent roles, and in general, that kind of comes and then stitches the entire narrative together. So, that's how even we are evolving. In our teams, we have platform specialists, vertical specialists, that kind of focus on individual platforms or verticals. We also have general planning rules and strategy rules and people playing those rules, which kind of merge both of these together which is also an increasing change that we have seen. Also, with more and more platforms being launched, like e-commerce, almost every few months, there is a new platform that is getting popular. There aren't enough people today in the market who have the experience of those specific platforms and expertise in those domains. That is a big challenge that I think the industry as a whole is facing.

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