Q] The media ecosystem has seen a lot of shifts in 2020, most of which have been in the digital direction. What have some of the big shifts been during the pandemic, according to you?
Well, look, 2020 was unanticipated. And in general, many of the trends in Digital too were already in motion, but what the pandemic has done is really accelerate these trends. The advent of Digital was well underway, as we at Dentsu have been championing over the past few years. What we have seen happen during 2020 would have taken 2-3 years to really take off, but we have seen it happen in a short span of 6-7 months. For example, grandparents are on Zoom today! We have seen big changes happen in a short span of time. Consumer behaviour has been impacted, and some of that impact might well be permanent. So for example, the purchase of groceries through e-commerce would still have happened, though it would have probably taken many years to reach the level it has today. The pandemic has made that shift take place rapidly.
Q] With brands also cutting back on ad spends, what was the impact for media agencies?
So yes, the fact that consumer behaviour and spending has changed will definitely have implications for media agencies in the future. There is already a crunch in revenues, cash flows, etc. Both agencies and clients are now seeking newer ways to rationalise costs, enhance efficiencies and ensure enough bang for the buck. Clients are demanding more efficiency and ROI has become more important than ever. They’re going to demand that if they’re spending money, there is complete accountability for it in the entire media ecosystem.
And there are certain gaps in the Indian media ecosystem, which we know. So for example, Digital is the fastest growing medium and is already the second largest medium, and may even become the largest medium in a few years from now. However, we still haven’t agreed upon the metrics for measurement when it comes to Digital. Someone may watch an ad for three seconds, while someone else will watch the entire ad but they are both views. It’s important that the industry comes to agreement on a measurement system for Digital. Whether good or bad, we have BARC for Television, and IRS for Print, but we do not have a single agreed measurement system for Digital. The other shift is that consumers today are consuming content across mediums, whether it is on TV, the mobile or iPad. Sometimes they are watching the same content on two devices at the same time, so the size of the screen doesn’t really matter. So it’s only a matter of time before we quickly start thinking about measurement across screens in that sense.
Q] So much is being written about digital transformation across the ecosystem. What are your observations on that?
Look, the big shift that’s happening over the last few years and it only got accelerated in the last year is the whole area of data, tech and analytics. Given that we were the ones to identify this trajectory in digital growth, we have also taken leadership on the digital front. All of us consumers are leaving a huge digital footprint in all that we are doing. While everyone is talking about big data, the industry is still identifying the best way to use it. E-commerce too is on the verge of an explosion, and brands and agencies must be equipped to deal with that.
Q] What capabilities will agencies have to build to adapt to this digital transformation?
It is estimated that around 250 to 300 million internet users are going to come in over the next three to four years in India. That should take the total number of internet users to say around 800-900 million, which is roughly the number that TV reaches. These new millions of users are not going to come in from cities like Mumbai and Delhi. They will come in from rural, from tier III and IV towns. Therefore we need to be geared up for communication and for handling that scale. Cloud is becoming extremely important. And being able to provide cloud-based marketing services is going to become a fast growth area for agencies. So, our markets and agencies will need to start working in that direction and I would say that we at Dentsu are slightly ahead on that front. But we have to become the clear leaders and dominant players just like how we did for Digital. I am clear that is the direction I would like our agency to take.