Creativity is more than just art & copy, it's also about attitude & thinking

Guest Column: Rammohan Sundaram, Managing Partner & Head Of Media Technologies at DDB Mudra, shares his thoughts on 'creative thinking' as a major force of differentiation in media

e4m by Rammohan Sundaram
Updated: Nov 26, 2020 11:02 AM

We in the agency business often hear and talk about creativity and people working in the agency business divide that between departments. Like creative is part of creative teams and creativity is restricted to those teams alone. Who says so? Creativity is not a department, creativity is a state of mind and hence an attitude that has thinking as its driving force. 

Now one would argue is that not part of the brand strategy set up alone? 

No it is not! 

Creativity like I said can come from any corner of your agency or workplace and that holds true for media as well. Media for the longest time has only seen numbers and comparisons with reach and efficiency as their major force of differentiation. It is not. It is “creative thinking” that is becoming the differentiator. 

Media as a function has gone through the transformation where storytelling is more critical when putting a plan in place. What will this plan do to the consumer’s mind? Is this plan going to change consumer behavior? Will this plan grow our business objectives? These are answers companies are looking for and the medium is less important that the end outcome. TV or Digital is no more the question because behaviors have changed, consumptions have changed, consumer journeys have changed and the inflection point has arrived when content consumption is absolutely agnostic in nature. 

This was largely driven by Covid 19 however an external factor has now changed the way media is being consumed. No wonder OTT has peaked so much and AVODs are seeing big growth and there is no reason to not believe why this won’t stick forever. 

Now in situations such as these what does a media planner do? Do we have separate TV and separate digital plans or one goes after an integrated approach when it comes to TV and OTT, which incidentally is the biggest driver of growth for the digital eco-system? The data I am putting up to prove my point are in public domain and so there need not be an argument around what is a bigger medium today. Let’s take an example of IPL on Hotstar – it reached a peak of 5.4M concurrent users and while they have not announced the official overall number, it looks to be in the range of 250M+, which is huge and also validates the fact that the youth of India consume media agnostically and this population is close to 65% of our 1.3B our total populations. These are the people who also consume connected TV given the penetration of streaming devices into homes, which Amazon has crossed by a million. 

Now let us look at TV, family viewing continues to happen on TV sets and IPL was no different. Star also delivered exceptionally with 400M+. While the pricing is vastly different making TV more expensive, it in no two ways dilute digital and they will co-exist. Brands have different objectives and some of the largest internet brands like Amazon, Facebook, Cred etc. used TV because they were looking for that extra growth but brands who clearly knew that they needed to reach a specific set of audiences took the digital route. Both TV and Digital will Co-Exist and co-existence is the future which is why teams have to be integrated as we move forward into the next phase of Digital India given the growth of agnostic consumption is only going to increase. 

This is where story telling becomes important. Understanding the consumer on where he or she is consuming content in itself is such a behavioral shift which can have a beautifully crafted story that can be backed by data and that art is where creative thinking comes into play. With changing consumer behavior creative is not stipulated to a department, it is in every walk of life and creative thinking is what is going to change the way an agency is going to succeed. I am of the firm belief that every leader has to follow the path of creative leadership that will pave way as we move to the post Covid 19 scenario. I keep telling my teams to think creatively to bring out a solution to a deadlock and I can’t tell you how wonderful the results have been at DDB Mudra Group. 

Coming back to “Creative Thinking” – let me tell you a story about an airline called Spirit in the US. It is the worst low cost airline in the world. Ranked last in every parameter from aircraft comfort, leg room, jarring colors etc. but it is the highest in revenue profits worldwide in the airline industry. Ned Homfeld launched Spirit Airlines in 1983 because airline travel was getting expensive and he saw an opportunity to challenge the status quo. He launched Spirit keeping in mind per person travel per wide body has to be the cheapest and should do just one job which is to transport one person from point A to point B, period. He did not care for comfort, he did not care for advocacy etc. basically he cared for nothing but one thing. So much so that there was very little room to keep luggage inside the aircraft so that the aircraft remains light. He painted the interiors with pink color so that passengers just waited for the plane to land and get out. He charged extra for everything. 

People continuously ranted about the worst service an airline could provide to an extent that for 15 straight years they were ranked the worst airline in the world. But their profits continued to soar and today the most promising airline in the world. Their current CEO Ted Christie ran an ad-campaign in 2018 when they were declared second worst. Can you beat that? They were so proud of their achievement of being the worst that they celebrated being second worst and could make fun of themselves. That campaign was a massive hit and help increase brand affinity to the next level. 

This is what I call creative thinking and this in an airline industry would have been considered a big blunder but not till date. Spirit Airlines recorded $3.8B in revenues with 88% occupancy in 2019 and their stock prices are trading at $22 at the NYSE. Post pandemic while the world will continue to see slow recovery, Spirit will recover much faster than other airlines globally and this is largely driven by their creative thinking capabilities. 

Coming back to the agency business, integrated efforts are going to see a big comeback of sorts and we are seeing that at DDB Mudra Group unravel since the last couple of years and it has only accelerated many folds since March 2019. Our product offering in media is now integrated, our teams are integrated and we are ready for 2021 to dawn on us. Digital media product offering is now robust than ever with a triangle model of Video, eCommerce and ORM as the pillars for the next level of growth and we have enough validation to believe this is another first from us which will see a lot who will follow suit. 

Author is Managing Partner and Head of MediaTech at DDB Mudra Group heading the Media Business across 5 companies in the group.

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