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After the merger of WPP’s media investment group GroupM agency brands Essence and MediaCom to form EssenceMediacom, the new entity is focussing on providing digital-first planning solutions to clients. In a conversation with Storyboard18, Navin Khemka, CEO at EssenceMediacom South Asia talks about priority areas, big shifts in the media landscape and what skills new age planners require to be effective.
"The success of IPL will depend on whether broadcasters are able to increase the number of advertisers from 100 to 500. This could also fuel AdEx in H1 2023."
What are your immediate priority areas for EssenceMediacom?
With the merger done, we want every single client to have a transformative plan given the changes we are seeing in the media and consumer landscape. India will also play a bigger role in the development of the merged agency globally. This comes from the fact that the country is already the third-fastest growing market globally, only behind the US and the UK. The blend of the team of Essence and Mediacom is completely unique. We have partnered with the aim to ensure that every client team will have an array of specialists, including content planners, content analysts, and data specialists working as one, and that’s a unique combination. We’re working with something called ‘breakthrough planning. This we want to activate across the agency teams and offices with speed.
As the world prepares for a slowdown, how are you preparing as an agency as clients may become cautious when it comes to media spends in India? Do you see a slower AdEx growth for this year?
"Today, it is not about your scale, or your digital expertise, but your ability to holistically understand the complexity that the consumer is experiencing with so many emerging platforms. So, it’s no longer creative-first, but platform-first, and solutions must be platform-agnostic."
Last year was difficult for all of us, including broadcasters and digital partners, because the cost pressures were for real, and the inflationary trend meant a reduction in marketing spends to maintain short-term margins. This obviously had a trickle-down effect on the media. Also, the start-up funding has dried up, which has aggravated the situation. So, it was almost like a double whammy thereby affecting AdEx. However, we saw growth at EssenceMediacom last year. We have been the top-performing market globally. We want to keep adding more categories and India is giving us the opportunity to grow. As a result, we now have a very healthy mix of global and local clients.
This year, January was extremely slow. February-March onwards we are looking at a lot of summer categories, and things have started to look up. Start-ups are still slow right now, however, with the women’s IPL coming up and the men’s IPL starting in April, we will have an advantage. Also, for the first time in two years, the men’s IPL is coming back to the country with all the activations possible on the home ground the interest levels are higher. This is also the first time in the last five years that IPL is going to be sold by two different broadcasters. Both television and digital broadcasters are trying to reset what you could expect from a viewership point-of-view. There is a very interesting fight that is going on right now in the market. It will only help unlock the true potential of the IPL. Now everyone will try to get more advertisers on board and make it possible for local brands to advertise on IPL. The success of IPL will depend on whether broadcasters are able to increase the number of advertisers from 100 to 500. This could also fuel AdEx in H1 2023.
What are the big shifts in the media landscape today both globally and in India?
"The consumer journey is getting increasingly complex and for a planner to succeed they need to keep upskilling and collaborating."
The media landscape is changing rapidly. It represents the third era of advertising, which is neither scaled nor digitised. ‘Era one’ being the time when MediaCom, as an agency, was growing when scale and size were important; while ‘Era two’ was more digital, and this is when Essence was born. Today, it is not about your scale, or your digital expertise, but your ability to holistically understand the complexity that the consumer is experiencing with so many emerging platforms. So, it’s no longer creative-first, but platform-first, and solutions must be platform-agnostic. I would say that the ‘Third era’ of advertising is what gave birth to EssenceMediacom, and we are now equipped to write this journey for our brands.
In a dynamic world of today, what are the key strategies that can help planners/buyers to do their job better?
New era planner needs to be integrated and media agnostic. Media is getting not only complex but sophisticated. The consumer journey is getting increasingly complex and for a planner to succeed they need to keep upskilling and collaborating.
"EssenceMediacom's target is to grow at 30 percent higher pace as compared to India’s AdEx growth."
What are your targets for 2023?
EssenceMediacom target is to grow at 30 percent higher pace as compared to the India’s AdEx growth. In the last three years given the toughest covid conditions, we have managed to grow in India and are confident to achieve our targets. We are also looking to expand to new markets in India in 2023 and increase our footprint.