Ashwin Padmanabhan, Head, Trading and Partnerships, GroupM India tells us about Motion Content Group, the content division of GroupM and the various projects the Group has undertaken since its inception and says the biggest differentiator for it is that it completes the entire content value chain
Q] It’s been a year-and-a-half since the inception of Motion Content Group. Take us through some of the work the Group has been doing. So, Motion Content Group (we call it Motion) has its roots in what used to be erstwhile GroupM Entertainment. Globally, we are present in more than 20 countries. The company was announced sometime in late 2017 and since then, we have already produced more than 200 titles globally, including some award-winning and No. 1 titles in markets such as the UK. Our content includes original formats as well as existing formats. For example, in the UK today, one of our most successful shows is Love Island, a Motion coproduction with ITV Studios. In terms of existing formats and properties, we have taken the ‘Got Talent’ format and produced Thailand’s Got Talent in Thailand. We have produced the MasterChef Singapore show too. The idea is to leverage our expertise in the understanding of brands and media which comes from the GroupM and WPP ecosystem with our understanding of what kind of content is being consumed and enable platforms to create more content. We have leveraged our global experience here in India as well and we have had some successful franchises such as No.1 Yaari. It originally started off as a chat show that we created in Telugu with Rana Daggubati as the host. It went on to become the Number 1 show in Telugu television, so we then took that format and have produced the show in five different languages. Last year too, we announced a large collaboration with YouTube to co-create content. We have created some pieces of content in collaboration with YouTube too such as The Dessert Carnival with Britannia as the sponsor. So not only do we produce the content but we also bring in a brand like Britannia to support that. The content we have created thus far has been really diverse and has been appreciated greatly by our audiences.
Q] What is the kind of regional content you are creating? Regional content is surely going to be very big for us, because that’s the way content and consumption are growing. We have already created a lot of content for the South market, and we will continue to invest more in the South. We are also looking at content in Bangla, Punjabi and Marathi very seriously. These are independently becoming very big markets for content, which is great for us. On the Hindi side too, we have done multiple collaborations. So, for example, one key collaboration that we have had is with the OTT player Viu, where a lot of the content that we create gets simulcast on TV and on Viu. One of the biggest shows we did last year was Jammin, a music-based format that was co-produced by Qyuki. Strategically, we are definitely looking at building more collaborations like these, and we will have a few big collaborations to announce in the next 3-4 weeks. One of the things we did strategically was India’s first Critics’ Choice Film Awards that happened last week, an IP that is co-owned by Motion and the Film Critics Guild. We are very proud of this platform.
Q] What was the insight behind the creation of this IP? Motion Content Group has played a very important role encouraging the already vibrant ecosystem of content creation and consumption. With this IP, we wanted to to play a role in truly encouraging content that is not only popular but rather pushes the envelope keeping story-telling at the centre. This property really started as a conversation between Devendra (Deshpande – formerly of Mindshare Content+) and Anupama (Chopra, author and film critic). Our objective was to get together and create a credible platform to award and recognise work in films. We first started out with the Short Film Awards in December, 2018 that saw a fantastic response. That success encouraged us, and we decided to bring together the top critics in the country across languages, platforms, TV, Print, Radio and Digital to form the Film Critics Guild. So, strategically it was also about being a catalyst for the fraternity, because getting critics together to form a guild is a big win for the industry.
Q] How is 2019 shaping up for Motion Content Group in terms of projects? Last year, we did approximately 12 projects, but this year we are definitely expanding in terms of the work we are doing. We will probably end up doing close to 24-25 projects. Our team is a really small one of just four members, but we have also established strong relationships with partners who are good and dependable. So we’re really excited about the way this year is shaping up.
Q] Content is key in the world of brands and media; what is your vision for the company and what role do you see the Group playing in the larger value chain? The biggest differentiation for us as a business is that we complete the value chain. So, we are not a producer in a traditional sense. We are clear that we are a contentfirst company. We want to challenge the boundaries in redefining formats and creating new initiatives and we want to keep Television, Digital, Print and other media excited. We take care of all the boxes right from the conceptualization to funding and monetizing it. That’s a unique value proposition we offer, which truly creates greater value for the whole ecosystem. To be honest, we are not even competing with other players in this space but really collaborating with them. We are also working with brands to see how we can create content pieces, which speak for themselves. They are not advertising films but real content, which also captures the brand ethos. This sort of content is not in-your-face stuff.
Q] Which are some of the brands you are currently working with, and creating content for? We are working with a lot of Diageo brands at the moment. In fact, across many markets, McDowells is the lead brand partner for the Yaari franchise. We are also working with a lot of Pernod Ricard brands – Royal Stag is one of them. At this point of time, we are also in talks with other brands within the Pernod portfolio. We are also working with Hero for some of our other content. This is one area that will grow exponentially for us because brands are today recognising that the content we create enables them to connect better with audiences.