We need to be agile in communicating with the consumer: Ajay Gupte

We speak to Gupte, CEO, Wavemaker South Asia, in part three of our interview series with the big winners of IDMA 2021

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Aug 6, 2021 8:58 AM  | 5 min read
ajay Gupte

The 12th edition of e4m Indian Digital Marketing Awards (IDMA) 2021 was marked by some momentous wins. A slew of brands managed to shine through the storm with clutter-breaking work in a rather difficult year.

Despite the odds, brands and agencies displayed resilience and stole the show. Recognizing these champions, our ongoing series will feature chat with the big winners of IDMA 2021.

Today we speak to Ajay Gupte, CEO, Wavemaker South Asia, on bagging the coveted Agency of the Year title, staying on the top of the digital game and more.

Edited excerpts below: 

What do you attribute the brand’s (in this case agency’s) big win at IDMA to? What according to you made the work clutter-breaking as it managed to fetch the accolade contesting and cutting through reams of entries?

We have been very fortunate to have a wonderful base of clients and an extremely talented team. I would first attribute our big win to our clients who have trusted us and backed the ideas that the team has come up with.

I would then attribute it to our wonderfully talented team and lastly to the infrastructure and processes we have invested in. Over the years, we have consistently invested in data, technology, content and commerce.

These investments came to bear for our clients as we together tackled the challenges brought about by the pandemic. There have been changes in the consumer purchase journey and their media consumption behaviour. Online discovery and e-commerce have seen growth like never before and media consumption patterns have seen dramatic shifts in the last year with various forms of digital getting accelerated traction. 

Consumers are seeking value and convenience while also leaning more on brands that they trust. In light of this, brands needed to have a strong understanding of the consumer purchase journey through access to relevant data and the ability to connect with the consumer across the various fast-growing touchpoints.

Through our Wavemaker Operating System (WM OS) we have built the capability to guide our clients in understanding the consumer purchase journey and prioritising touchpoints. Our investments in the content and creative teams means that we are swift in developing and executing the ideas we would like to execute.

Add to this is our culture of ‘Positive Provocation’ which means that we are always pushing ourselves, our clients and our partners to look for better ways of doing things. All these factors came together to define the kind of work we have been able to do that has helped us win big. 

What according to you are the elements that make award-winning, clutter-breaking digital campaigns and what is the right approach to reach out to consumers during these trying times? 

The customer is at the centre of everything we do. A deep understanding of the consumer journey using data and the ability to look for simple and powerful insights is the core fundamental that leads to great work. Consumer behaviour is evolving right from how they engage with brands to how they purchase and digital is right up front and central in this evolution.

It is important to have the right skill sets and tech and data capabilities to convert these insights into the right interventions that drive favourable outcomes for the brand. Brand resource prioritisation, personalisation at scale and efforts towards driving sales are the bedrock of great campaigns. 

 In such uncertain and turbulent times, how has the brand ensured that it stays ahead of the game when it comes to the digital marketing space?

It has been a coming together of several factors that have kept us ahead. Firstly, it is the high-quality team that we have been able to attract and grow in the agency. This team has been supported with consistent training to remain ahead of the game. Wavemaker and GroupM have made massive investments in data and technology in India and at a global level that has given our teams an unbeatable advantage in understanding the consumer journey. Lastly and most importantly is our large base of clients across several categories has given us the experience and understanding of the digital marketing space from various perspectives. 

What are the trends in the digital marketing space that you see gaining momentum as we go forward?

The pandemic has further accelerated an already fast-growing space. Consumers have leaned on digital while looking for more sources of information and entertainment.

From a communication opportunity perspective, there are several new areas that have opened up and grown in scale to reach out to consumers.

Digital is already the second-most consumed medium and this pattern is going to continue. In their quest for convenience, consumers are now searching and buying online. This is only going to grow as infrastructure begins to support better and consumer confidence grows. Rapid digitisation on the back of a supportive infrastructure and digital penetration coupled with consumers’ growing willingness to purchase online is going to ensure the momentum will continue.

As the competition in the digital space heats up for brands, what would be your advice to brands and agencies when approaching the digital space?

Brands need to invest in data and a better understanding of their consumers’ path to purchase. It is important to make a beginning as more data will only result in better consumer understanding resulting in a virtuous cycle. The changes in the path to purchase with discovery and purchase moving online means that brands need to better segment their consumer to create meaningful engagements driving greater trust and connection with the consumers. The consumer today is exposed to so much more, we, therefore, need to be agile in our ways of communicating with the consumer, especially in areas like advocacy, content creation, eCommerce market places, OTT, etc.

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Tanmay Bhat puts 'Samay' to good use in new Kotak811 spot

The campaign #SamayKoSahiKaamPeLagao by Schbang stars stand-up comedian Samay Raina alongside Bhat

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 30, 2023 12:55 PM   |   2 min read

Schbang

Kotak Mahindra Bank Limited’s (“KMBL”/ “Kotak”) Kotak811, a semi-autonomous digital bank, announced the launch of its campaign that highlights Kotak811 as the digital bank that lets you do more with your time. The campaign #SamayKoSahiKaamPeLagao features new-age stand-up comedians, Tanmay Bhat and Samay Raina.


Launched in 2017 as an acquisition engine, Kotak811 has evolved to become a semi-autonomous digital bank that offers a range of solutions at the fingertips of customers. 

The campaign reinforces Kotak811 as the digital bank that lets customers do more with their time, thanks to its easy and convenient banking solutions. 

Conceptualized and created by Schbang, this digital campaign comprises a set of 3 ad films, which will be seen across digital channels and OTT platforms. The campaign kicks off with an ad film that is a humorous take on doing more with time, as it shows time being put to better use by literally putting the protagonist Samay (Raina) to better use. 

“The campaign #SamayKoSahiKaamPeLagao aims to encourage consumers to do more with their time by banking with Kotak811,” said Ms Shanti Ekambaram, Whole Time Director, Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd. “Kotak811 is making banking so easy and convenient with its digital banking solutions, that it leaves one with more time to do things they like. Kotak811 is positioned as a preferred mode of banking for those who feel traditional banking can take up a lot of their time.” 

Akshay Gurnani, Co-Founder and CEO of Schbang, said, “Kotak811 wanted to highlight the convenience of digital banking. Understanding our audience, we knew collaborating with the popular duo - Tanmay Bhatt & Samay Raina would amplify our messaging and draw the right eyeballs. The campaign is overall aimed at showing how the 'Samay' you save by digitally banking with Kotak811 can be spent doing things that actually matter to you.”

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SBI Securities unveils new brand identity

The new logo retains its iconic SBI logo unit

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 30, 2023 12:41 PM   |   1 min read

SBI

SBI Securities has unveiled a new brand identity with aims to strengthen its relationship with customers.

Deepak Kumar Lalla, MD & CEO SBICAP Securities Ltd said, “Our mission is to develop financial solutions that make it easier for our customers to create trusted experiences, while enabling everyone to feel safe and secure in the digital world when it comes to investing. We believe our new tagline “Investment Aur Trust, Dono” has a customer-centric approach and the vital role we play in being their trusted partner when it comes to their investments”.

He further added, “The new avatar reflects the brand’s core values - ‘Simple, Adaptable, Accountable, Trustworthy, Happy, and Innovative, which represents the brand’s vision and strategy as we focus on accelerating our growth trajectory.”

The company stated that conceptually, aspects of ‘Investment & Trust’ were developed to reflect the digital investing experiences are enabled for consumers, by being their trusted investment partner. The new logo retains its iconic SBI logo unit.

The refreshed brand identity manifests itself through its app, website, offline branches, and all branded assets.

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PUMA ropes in Indian cricket captain Harmanpreet Kaur as ambassador

Harmanpreet joins the PUMA roster comprising celebrated sportsmen like Virat Kohli, MC Mary Kom, Yuvraj Singh and Sunil Chhetri

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 30, 2023 12:23 PM   |   2 min read

Puma

PUMA India has announced Indian women’s cricket team captain Harmanpreet Kaur as its latest brand ambassador.

The brand had earlier posted a cryptic teaser video of a player taking position at the stumps and quizzed the audience to guess PUMA’s next brand ambassador. PUMA tracked comments of consumers on Instagram and Twitter, native shopping platform Puma.com and retail stores.

According to the 5000 responses collected over 36 hours, 80% of the consumers surprisingly assumed the brand ambassador to be a male cricketer.

PUMA followed it up with a video that revealed Harmanpreet as its new brand ambassador, thereby breaking moulds, busting archetypes and creating a strong culture for women in cricket and overall sport.

Harmanpreet joins PUMA’s illustrious roster, which consists of some of the greatest names from the world of sports, including Virat Kohli, Usain Bolt, Neymar Jr and Sunil Chhetri, boxer MC Mary Kom, cricketer Harleen Deol and para-shooter Avani Lekhara.

“We are delighted to welcome skipper Harmanpreet Kaur into the PUMA family. The way she plays — bold and fierce cricket - she is the perfect fit for our brand which embodies the same qualities and ethos. As a brand, PUMA has always stayed ahead of the times and committed to support, celebrate and empower women in sports. This association is a massive step in that direction. Harmanpreet is a sporting icon and, with this partnership, we hope to inspire younger generations and help Indian women’s cricket reach greater heights,” said Abhishek Ganguly, Managing Director, PUMA India and Southeast Asia.

As part of the partnership terms, Harmanpreet will endorse the brand’s footwear, apparel and accessories through multiple activities and campaigns throughout the year.

“Not many know that I hit my first ODI century in 2013 in a pair of PUMA boots that I received as a token of support in my early years from the brand. Exactly a decade now and I have been roped in as the face of PUMA. I am thrilled to join the biggest sports brand in the country with a star-studded roster. It’s heartening to see a brand such as PUMA support the growth of Indian women’s cricket; it’s crucial for bolstering progress. This is just the beginning and I am sure this association will encourage a lot of women who dream to make a career in cricket. I look forward to an exciting journey ahead,” Harmanpreet said.

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Yashraj Mukhate’s new song is an ode to KFC Chizza

The internet sensation has created a foot-tapping number composed entirely of the comments on KFC's Instagram page

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 30, 2023 12:22 PM   |   2 min read

kfc

After KFC brought its iconic Chizza back, internet sensation Yashraj Mukhate has created a track which captures the feelings of all the Chizza fans who rallied for the product’s return.

Ever since the dish was launched for a limited time a few years ago, fans have been eagerly awaiting its return. It’s this fan longing that finds itself at the centre of The Chizza Comments Song. Colonel Sanders, Yashraj and the all-chicken, no-crust Chizza take centre stage in the fun video released on Instagram. Yashraj mixes some of the best comments KFC has received asking for the Chizza’s return with his trademark beats!

With catchy tunes set against popular comments such as “Ae koi toh ye unqil ko bolo ke pehle toh yeh Chizza waaps le aaye.”, “Inn logo ne chikan ko crust bna dya brooo.”, and “My mouth is watering like a sink.”, the music is sure to get your feet tapping within seconds. Add to this, some groovy dance moves, and you have all the recipes of a cruncheesy blockbuster.

In the video, Yashraj also personifies each of the KFC fans through various personas – from that hip-hopper friend to the neighbourhood aunty and many more.

Speaking about the track and his partnership with KFC India, Yashraj Mukhate said, “Food and Music are my OG loves. And I was one of those fans rooting for the Chizza to come back. Imagine my happiness when it actually happened. I thought I’d commemorate the occasion the way I know best – by singing about it. So here we are! I hope I’ve been able to bring out the emotions of fans like me through the Chizza Comments Song and that people out there enjoy listening to this track as much as I enjoyed working on it.”

With more than 3 lakh views in less than 48 hours, the tune already has the Internet grooving.

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UpScalio-owned Hestia and Homepuff onboard Neha Dhupia as brand ambassador

Dhupia will appear in the digital advertisements of the brand, and Hestia and Homepuff’s social media campaigns

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 30, 2023 12:04 PM   |   2 min read

Dhupia

UpScalio’s home and kitchen brands - Hestia and Homepuff - have partnered with actor Neha Dhupia to onboard her as the face of the brand.

In the ad for Hestia, Neha is seen making Samosas in their Easy Peek Air Fryer with almost zero oil, highlighting the virtues of this type of cooking. She has also appeared in another ad for the brand, endorsing the benefits of its cold press juicer.

For Homepuff, Neha has endorsed its new line of cast-iron cookware and the bestselling HeatPro range of lunchboxes. The ad exhibits the ease with which one can consume fresh home-cooked food with the help of Homepuff’s technologically advanced products.

Speaking on the campaign, Nitin Agarwal, Co-Founder and CGO, UpScalio, said, “Neha Dhupia is a bold voice in the health and nutrition community, and aligns perfectly with our vision for Hestia and Homepuff. These brands have achieved immense growth over the past year and we'd like to reach an ever larger audience with our health-first products. With the new year starting, this was the perfect time to expand customer reach and awareness around their product portfolio and their health benefits. We can’t wait to see how customers respond.”

Dinesh Vardhan, Founder, Homepuff, said, “Homepuff has grown at an incredible rate in the last year, and its new products have garnered great ratings and reviews on online marketplaces. 

Associating with a personality like Neha Dhupia will boost the brand’s reach and unlock multiple customer segments. We’re expecting the brand to reach even greater heights from here.”

Neha Dhupia, said, “With our professional lives taking centre stage, it’s becoming tougher to allocate time and attention to health and nutrition. Hestia’s range of kitchen appliances and Homepuff’s cookware and kitchenware line of products will help customers boost their health with minimal effort. I’m personally excited about the vision of these brands and can’t wait to see their impact on the Indian customer.”

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Movado unveils India campaign with Sidharth Malhotra as brand ambassador

The new campaign showcases the brand’s heritage

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 30, 2023 11:44 AM   |   1 min read

Movado

Movado has announced actor Sidharth Malhotra as a brand ambassador and is all set to release its campaign.

Movado means ‘always in motion’. Pacing up with today's racing times, the company has always reflected the forward drive throughout history and aims to do the same in its latest campaign with Sidharth.

Xavier Gauderlot, President International at Movado Group Inc. said, “We are excited to announce our partnership with Sidharth Malhotra. He is the perfect balance of classic and contemporary which forms the very foundation of Movado. The campaign has been curated to showcase Movado’s exquisite heritage and to appeal to our consumers who are watch aficionados.”

The campaign will see the actor in motion donning an array of bold looks with exquisite contemporary timepieces.

Sidharth Malhotra speaking on the partnership said, “It feels fantastic to be the Indian ambassador for the international brand Movado, which is iconic, timeless, and so bold. The brand's elegant simplicity and aesthetics resonate with my personality, making this partnership seamless and more memorable.”

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Partnership declarations: Will influencer marketing continue to be influential?

Most industry players opine that while the rules will make the industry more accountable, there will be an impact on the content creation and storytelling

By Kanchan Srivastava | Jan 30, 2023 9:07 AM   |   7 min read

Influencers

In a bid to curb growing malpractices in influencer marketing, the Consumer Affairs Ministry on January 20 released endorsement guidelines making it mandatory for celebrities, influencers and virtual influencers to disclose their paid partnerships with brands while promoting them on social media or else face legal action.

The guidelines specify that failure to disclose any material connection would make such violators liable for strict action under the Central Consumer Protection Act, 2019 (CCPA). For “endorsement of misleading advertisements”, CCPA has prescribed a Rs 10-lakh penalty, which may go up to Rs 50 lakh, and a ban of 1 to 3 years for subsequent contravention.

Brand collaborations, which are often passed off as organic posts influencing the purchase decisions of millions of consumers, may land influencers in legal trouble and hefty penalties henceforth.

The move has left brands and influencers confused and this might negatively impact the influencer marketing industry in the coming days, experts say.

It is noteworthy that influencer marketing skyrocketed in India during the pandemic touching Rs 1,275 crore in 2022 and was projected to grow by 25% CAGR for the next five years, according to the INCA-e4m Influencer Marketing Report released last year.

However, the rise also led to complaints of malpractice. Several Bollywood celebrities have been accused of flouting the Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI) ‘Influencers Guidelines' while advertising for brands without disclosing properly that their social media posts were part of commercial agreements.

The ASCI deals with hundreds of such cases every year, prompting it to bring exhaustive influencer guidelines in 2022 but it doesn’t prescribe any punitive action on the violators as the ASCI’s mandate is limited to self-regulation.

“Influencer violations comprise almost 30% of ads taken up by ASCI,” says Manisha Kapoor, CEO & Secretary General, ASCI. This is despite the fact that more than 90% of the brands have pledged to be ASCI compliant, as per the INCA report.

Nano and micro-influencers remain out of the ASCI net, despite flouting ASCI guidelines as they are millions in number, industry observers point out.

'Storytelling will be lost'

With the government as well ASCI guidelines drawing a clear line between authentic and branded content, the government’s move to include hefty penalties and a ban will make the industry more accountable and clean up the ecosystem of hidden promotions, which have escalated over the past couple of years, says Kapoor.

Sahil Gupta, Lead - Influencer Marketing, Interactive Avenues (A Reprise Network Company and digital arm of Mediabrands India) has a different point of view though.

According to Gupta, the guidelines are important and much needed, but they shouldn't be so stringent that they affect the overall storytelling.

“While most of the guidelines shared were part of the ASCI guidelines, there are a few key additions that will impact content. The main impact would be on video content where the influencer, apart from disclosing it in the caption, has to also call it out in both audio and video,” noted Gupta.

He explained, “Imagine an influencer narrating an emotional story, has to say-this video is in collaboration with XYZ brand. Apart from the platform algorithm that reduces the distribution of the branded post, if the storytelling also takes the hit, traction on the post will reduce even further.”

Appealing through a social proof is the pillar of influencer marketing. The disclosure mandate is undoubtedly going to impact the audience as well as brand emotions with regard to influencers, especially in the micro and nano category, opines Vineet Bajpai, Founder & CEO, Magnon Group.

Engagement rates to fall? 

Now the question is: Why do brands and celebs avoid declaring their “paid partnership” deal while promoting a brand on social media?

There are several reasons. While certain brands want the content to appear organic, some brands don't want to be seen as too commercial, which often turns off social media users resulting in poor engagement rates.

“The engagement rates on social platforms witness an immediate fall when posts are tagged as ‘paid partnership’ or ‘sponsored’,” says Vineet Bajpai, Founder & CEO, Magnon Group.

It is common for influencer engagement rates to decrease when they are posting sponsored content. This is because followers may view the content as less authentic and less likely to be relevant to their interests. Additionally, the influencer may be promoting a product or service that is not a good fit for their audience, which can also lead to a decrease in engagement, experts say.

A 2022 study published in the Journal of Interactive Advertising found that sponsored posts by influencers had lower engagement rates compared to non-sponsored posts. The study also found that the more followers an influencer had, the more likely they were to have lower engagement rates on sponsored posts.

Swati Nathani, Co-founder and CBO at Team Pumpkin, “When influencer marketing started getting big about 10 years back, the entire idea for brands was to showcase the fact that their products are endorsed by popular people. Even until now, we use influencer marketing as a “middle of the funnel” activity which not only drives branding but also sales for our brands.” 

The new move obviously puts a restriction on the “organic” perception of influencer content, and frankly, it’s not going to be liked by a lot of marketers because declaring the arrangement with the brand damages the purpose of choosing influencers over performance marketing, she added.

In a landscape like this, specialized platforms and talent aggregators like Talentrack become even more relevant as they help brands with advanced curation and leverage the influencers across categories to suit their products and campaigns, Sawant points out.

“Aggregators and agencies will strengthen their position as a bridge between these influencers and brands sustaining the transaction on both ends, “ Sawant said.

Sawant adds that the reign of content is here to stay. There are several examples of branded content keeping consumers hooked. In a nutshell, good content by influencers from any category will continue to appeal to and win the hearts of the audience, with or without endorsement disclosures.

Asked if celebs will pay heed now, Kapoor said, “Penalty and ban are expected to serve as deterrence to influencers who used to get away with just deletion of social media posts after ASCI’s notice for violation.”

What do the guidelines say?

Titled the "Endorsements Know-hows!" the guidelines aim to ensure that social media stars do not mislead their audiences when endorsing products or services and that they are in compliance with the Consumer Protection Act.

Before endorsing, the product and service must have been actually used by the endorser. In case of default, the consumers can seek legal action.

For pictures, disclosures should be superimposed over the image such that the viewers are able to 'notice'. In the case of videos, disclosures should be placed in the video and not just in the description (of the video).

The guidelines further require that disclosures should be made in both audio and video format. In Live streams, disclosures should be displayed continuously and prominently during the entire stream.

The guidelines also provide a non-exhaustive list of benefits and incentives, which would establish the existence of a material connection: Monetary or other compensation; Free products with or without any conditions attached, including those received unsolicited, discounts, gifts; Contest and sweepstakes entries; Trips or hotel stays; Media barters; Coverage and awards; Any family, personal or employment relationship.

They are also applicable to 'virtual influencers', identified as – fictional computer-generated 'people' or avatars who have realistic characteristics, features and personalities of humans, and behave in a similar manner as influencers.

“While the guidelines attempt at providing a clarification by specifying that creators would be ones who advertise products and services ‘with a strong influence’ on the purchasing decisions or opinions of their audience, it doesn’t specify the criterion/manner for/of determination of presence of a ‘strong influence’ by a creator. In absence of specification of this threshold/criterion, there would be ambiguity on whether or not an individual with minimal followers (for instance 100) would be required to comply with these guidelines or not,” writes legal expert Gaurav Bhalla in his blog post published at Mondaq.

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