The RK Swamy Hansa Group has witnessed many changes in the past one year, from amicably ending its over 37-year partnership with BBDO to filing papers for an IPO. Recently, Srinivasan K Swamy, executive chairman of the company, became the chairman of the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC). He’s also the chairman of AFAA (Asian Federation of Advertising Associations). ABC certifies and audits the circulations of major publications.
Storyboard18 spoke to Swamy, who discussed his goals as ABC chairman, AFAA’s ‘Changemakers For Good’ awards, and the inspiration behind it. We also picked his brains on disruptions, trends, opportunities, and challenges in the ad industry.
As the Chairman of ABC, what goals do you have in mind?
Becoming 75 (years old) is something we need to celebrate. I think it's a good opportunity for us to highlight the service ABC is providing to members and the industry. There is no other service like this as the IRS (Indian Readership Survey) is still not available for advertisers to measure print media.
Besides ABC and AFAA, in the past you have also been at the helm of ASCI, AAAI, IAA India and AIMA other industry bodies. How have these roles shaped your approach to advertising?
I have not changed my outlook, I have changed the outlook of others towards the ad industry. The only thing I can say with some degree of humility is that I am not known to warm a chair. I normally try to do something more than what previous presidents and chairmen have done.
Could you touch upon the inspiration behind Changemakers For Good?
The only industry which has actually been doing a lot of good work and who are the real, true changemakers, is advertising. Because we change the mindset and the habits of people. Whether it's gender sensitivity or getting people to vote or contributing to a good cause, what we talk about is actually good for the society. That’s what communication is — a force for societal good. So we want to honour changemakers whose work in advertising has had an impact on society. Therefore, we decided to launch Changemakers For Good awards.
Which are the awards Changemakers For Good is competing with on a global level?
Other awards look at the communication aspect, whereas we are talking about the people behind the communication, and how they are the changemakers. The focus is slightly different. It's not about the end product, the ad, but about the changemaker.
Are there any other such initiatives in the pipeline?
There is a pan-Asia award we are going to launch in January 2024. It is called AFAA Brilliance Awards. That too will be for communication that has made a difference in the marketplace.
The world of Indian advertising has witnessed massive change in the recent past. What do you think would disrupt the advertising industry in 2023?
The industry has been evolving for 45 years, ever since I entered the business. The change that is coming about is gradual and happening in a manner that allows people to absorb it. For example, some say that AI is going to transform advertising. But it is another tool that can be made use of by the industry. The tool by itself will not transform. How you use the tool will transform the industry.
Digital advertising came about a few years ago. It was thought of as some big change. But at the end of the day, it is just another medium, like television and print, but more interactive, which the industry leveraged. So, things have changed, and the industry is ready to embrace the change and actually move with it.
I have seen the rise of television, the rise of FM, the rise of out-of-home media, and the rise of digital. Now we see the rise of analytics, martech, edtech, and AI. There was a lot of buzz a few years back on leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT) for advertising, but that has now died down.
What are the trends in advertising and marketing that you see as opportunities and challenges?
What is a challenge is also an opportunity. AI is an opportunity for the person who views it as an opportunity. It is a challenge for those who look at it as a challenge.