Creative component in advertising will separate those who do it well: Adam Gerber, Essence

Gerber, Global President of Media, Essence speaks about the uniqueness of the Indian marketplace and how it gives local marketers advantage over their global counterparts

e4m by Ruhail Amin
Updated: Oct 9, 2018 8:31 AM
Adam Gerber Essence

In the age of machine learning, big data and artificial intelligence, the human component cannot be missed. Adam Gerber, Global President of Media, Essence, roots for the human-machine synergy to create lasting brands. He also speaks about the uniqueness of the Indian marketplace and how it gives local marketers advantage over their global counterparts.

Edited excerpts from an exclusive interview with exchange4media:

What would you call the USP of Essence’s approach to media planning?
I think the most important thing that we are focused on is business outcome. We define it in very different ways than marketers have potentially seen it or applied it in the past. We are focused on lots of different signals that we collect from the digital media and increasingly from offline media too, and using those data points to understand both how the viewer or the consumer is engaging with content, the level of attention that they are paying and most importantly the impact of advertising. Not just from the standpoint of how an ad builds a brand but how it actually drives the sales.

In today's cluttered market environment, where the consumerism is bombarded with messages, what would you call the biggest challenges for media planners?
I think the biggest challenge is dealing with the amount of data that is available. You can be overwhelmed by the amount of information. The challenge is also to distill what is important out of that mass of data and identify the few things that are really important to a particular advertisers' business, and those things are different for every category and for every brand. It takes a lot of experimentation, and that is a big part of what we bring to the table. We are always ideating and always testing and using data to identify how to improve and how to tweak and optimise a particular brand initiative. The only way you can do that effectively is when you know what signals and what information is really going to help the brand.

Do you think data led insights can help build emotional connect with the brand?
Data alone is absolutely not enough. It is not the only thing that matters. Identifying who the right consumers are and what is the right time to reach them; the location and on what device the message has the most potential to breakthrough, is one piece of the puzzle. The other is that you have to have a compelling and relevant message, and that message has to be delivered in a way that connects with the consumer. We like to talk about it in terms of the art and science of advertising. That is really what media agencies and advertising agencies have to do, they have to be able to take the intelligence driven by data and the emotional components of storytelling and marry the two together in ways that can help achieve the breakthrough. The average person is exposed to thousands of messages every day, they may not realise it, but they are subconsciously being exposed to thousands of messages at different times and at places. So that creative component in advertising is going to separate the few who do it well from the many who do it poorly.

How is Essence leveraging big data and AI to deliver impact?
We look at artificial intelligence (AI) as a way to streamline a lot of the decision making around data that humans are not capable to accomplish given the volume of data involved. So there is a tremendous opportunity for the development of campaigns driven by machine learning as opposed to human beings actually planning where they are going to invest. It does not mean that we will have a completely automated process without human interaction. We want to take things that can be driven by data and we want to make AI and machine learning accomplish these tasks and we want to leverage creativity and ideation on top of that to take the campaign or the initiative to the next level. I don't think you do one without the other, I think if you want to automate everything and use AI and machine learning techniques to  build and execute campaigns, you won't be successful.

How would you describe the uniqueness of the Indian market when it comes to media planning?
Every market has its own uniqueness given the geography and the way media distribution has evolved. The Indian marketplace is fascinating to me because of the stratification that exists, the multilingual nature of the country and the number of TV channels that exist  to service such a large population that speaks in different languages. What is also fascinating about this market is that how quickly it has changed because of the adoption of fairly inexpensive data products in the mobile space. So there is a fairly significant increase in the use of mobile services and that is foretelling us what is going to happen over the next decade here. Along with the pervasiveness of mobile access, you are also going to see robust market of handheld devices and mobile apps. The other interesting part about Indian marketplace is how television and print are still dominating and growing mediums, probably the only country in the world that is seeing growth in TV and print. It is an interesting dynamic because marketers here have the benefit of being able to leverage mass platforms like television and print in addition to having an incredibly robust digital environment.  

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