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We will re-script marketing approaches for our clients: Sudipto Roy, Mindshare

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We will re-script marketing approaches for our clients: Sudipto Roy, Mindshare

In November 2017, Mindshare, the global media agency network that is part of WPP, appointed Sudipto Roy Managing Director for AAR (APAC, Africa, Middle East, Turkey, and Russia). As Roy settles down in his new role, exchange4media speaks to him about his key responsibilities and challenges ahead. Excerpts:

With your new responsibilities in a bigger region, could you give us an idea of the future roadmap that you are hoping to implement?

We are embarking on a remarkable path ahead in terms of the services that both Mindshare and WPP are engaging in with clients. Our single-minded ambition is to bring the best talent and products to unlock growth for client brands and categories across markets. In the next 12 to 18 months, we will invest massively ondata and technology to drive far better decision-making as well as execution. We will drive large scale digital transformation. We will re-script many of the marketing approaches as we help Unilever connect their brands to demand moments and spaces in far lesser steps.

What are the challenges in the current market and economic conditions, especially in fostering healthy client-agency relations?

I think we are beginning to see the start of a very challenging economic and business climate. At a macro-level, we are seeing the tail-end of a 30 year high-growth window for multinationals. Companies took advantage of labour arbitrage, production arbitrage as well as tax arbitrage opportunities and redesigned their businesses to deliver both top-line and bottom-line growth. That arbitrage window is closing now. China is no longer the lowest wage market in the world. South East Asia, India can replace some of the order volume but can’t match the production capacity of China, so its going to be hard for many companies to find other sources of profit. Topline growth, however, will not be an issue because there are so many categories, brands, and products that are yet to penetrate Asia, Africa, and Latam. We have another 30 to 50 years of growth left. We just won't make that much profit.

Profit will only come from really meaningful product innovations. Multinationals have to continue to do that, else profit growth will slow down and lead to immense share-holder pressure. Another big dynamic we see is the resurgence of “nationalism” as a dominant sentiment in many markets and the ability of local manufacturers to tap into unique cultural insights and move much faster from concept to launch. Patanjali in India, Wardha in Indonesia are great examples. Add to this the emergence of ecommerce and social-commerce driven by a mobile-first eco-system, we are suddenly finding hyper fragmentation at our doorstep. New brands with “kickstarter” level investments are able to put together credible products at disruptive pricing and bring this to consumers through this new channel in very little time. That will soon start to erode the premium high margin volume. So multi-national companies will face pressures from many sides. As marketing consulting companies, this means we will place very high emphasis on agility, digital transformation, better global to local execution and breakthrough local innovation. We have to be laser-focussed on doing all things which help our clients grow.

It is a challenging time for marketing services, networks and agencies, for sure. Many of our service-models are in the midst of a transformation. Our margins are under pressure as well. Topline growth is still there in developing markets but like our clients, bottomline growth is challenged. We also have an “innovation” task at hand, to create the kind of products and bring the kind of talent which will command a better price. Our states are not dis-similar.
Having said that, great client relationships are always on the back of “delivery” and “trust”. The trust invested in us sees us doing what is needed to deliver a client’s commercial models and keep ahead of market-forces. When we do that, clients appreciate and invest back in us with a larger scope and range of services. That allows us to build new talent and products thus setting in motion a virtuous cycle which keeps building the business and the trust. I can’t see another way of doing things!

Technology has become a big disruptor. What are the trends in you foresee in technology-enabled marketing?

We are hurtling at an unforeseen speed into the fourth industrial revolution. The implications are astounding. There is ubiquitous digitisation which is happening right now. It essentially means that by 2020, there will be no physical experience, other than eating and staring at a blank wall, which won’t be digital or digitally augmented. There is massive “platformisation” which has happened across these experiences. Which means that these experiences will be created using virtual assembly lines and platforms - which will be controlled by 10 odd companies globally. These assembly lines will be virtual, in the cloud. It will be democratic, which means anyone can access it. But it will take a lot to create these pieces of infrastructure and run it. Data and Artificial Intelligence will become like utility services (electricity and gas) and will power everything. But they will also be huge overheads if not used directly to drive sales. Automation will change the shape of human beings working on every trade. Our path to brand discovery and purchase will alter significantly. And so will the underlying marketing services structure.

The huge upside is the ability to bring data to our service and to be able to actually monitor and influence journeys. And the next big upside is the ability to create new consumer experiences using different surfaces, screens and “mixed” realities. There will be an ability to create an institutional memory of people types and preferences and then move us into the ideal “one-to-one relationship world” between brands and consumers. As a marketing services conglomerate, we are organising ourselves to deliver every aspect of this new digital services value chain. There is huge expertise in platforms being brought in. There is huge expertise being built around data. And also the production and delivery of new digital experiences. At the same time there is a ton of work happening to ensure that our core creative offering can deliver an authentic brand voice in this new “hyper-personalised” world.

How is the role of the media agency changing? What do you think are the essential elements of a media agency of the future?

There is a big shift in the way many of the best companies are looking at media agencies. That shift is from looking at them as a source of “arbitrage” (providing cost savings through cheaper media inventory) to also becoming the custodian of “audiences and experiences”. And this is caused essentially by the digital disruption. The journeys have become more complex and varied. The nuances of discovering actual people in various demand moments and being able to say the “right thing at the right time” to them, has given media agencies a seat at the front of the marketing planning cycle instead of the last mile to “buy 360 media”. Our play in data and programmatic technology means that we become curators and custodians of actual people-data. That is an incredibly powerful place to be in today and that is helping us craft a far broader influence in the overall marketing eco-system.

Tomorrow’s media agency will have a dramatically different talent and skill assortment. It will be much younger as well. We can see a version of that model in our Singapore FAST hub in Mindshare. There will be brand strategists who will create the overall brand experience blueprint. There will be data-engineers and analysts who will create the information and decision design. There will be technologists- the platform experts who will tool and mechanise the vision and design. There will be adaptive marketing experts who will work on static and fluid content and bring the experience to life. There will be traders who will man the control cockpit and navigate all experiences to the best cost. There will be commerce and shopper experts who will connect the brand experience to the purchase moment. There will be very few operations people as things get automated. There will be a fairly quick migration out of the current state where humans make schedules, optimise schedules, send I’Os, assemble monitoring reports, process bills and invoices. All that will be stitched up in automated workflows in the platforms with minimal human intervention. The more digital the operation, the more the above design will manifest itself.

How has 2017 been for the agency and what are your expectations from 2018? What are the key trends that you expect to see in 2018?

2017 has been a watershed year for us. We topped the R3 new business listing for APAC in 2017. We added some really prestigious clients to the list such as Chang An Ford, HSBC, and Manulife. We created Future Adaptive Specialist Team (FAST) hubs for numerous clients for a more integrative approach, and we recently just won Campaign Asia’s Agency Network of the Year across Asia Pacific.

2018 will be the year when we embrace even more transformation. It is a big year for e-commerce. We will see ourselves connecting all the dots across planning, data, and tech to get ahead of the curve. It’s a big year for content-embracing new opportunities to create content in an agile, fluid, and inspired way. It’s a big year for delivering the promise of “people data” in compliant, useful and cost-efficient ways.

Tags Mindshare Fulcrum Mindshare India Mindshare South Asia Sudipto Roy WPP

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