Speaking at Goafest about the need to think differently, Sanjay Nazerali, Chief Strategy Officer, Carat Global, in his session, touched upon globalisation, convergence, importance of data and many other issues.
Nazerali has over 20 years of experience across various organisations like MTV Europe, BBC News and now at Denstsu Aegis Network. He had founded a Top 50 media insights agency, The Depot, before joining BBC. His introduction paragraph on DAN’s website reads, “An unapologetic bleeding heart, Sanjay sits on three charity boards, including BBC Media Action and NAZ Project.”
On the side-lines of Goafest, BestMediaInfo.com spoke to Nazerali about the working pattern of Carat, the performance matrix of Carat India, how Mondelez, one of their biggest wins, doesn’t seem to be very happy in India and his views on millennial marketing and the growth of digital. Excerpts:
You have been advocating the need to introduce a strong editorial judgement to the content posted by and on the digital platforms — including FB and Google. What kind of policing do you think is important and possible?
I am not sure if I know the answer to that question. The big digital revolution was about the disconnection of distribution from content. The distributors which are the big platforms would sport the attitude — ‘we don’t take responsibility for the content which is uploaded on the platform’. What this has raised is a very important issue about the difference between responsible speech and free speech. You can’t stop spreading hatred online, it is illegal. Then government starts getting involved. This is what always happens — as the companies grow big, the government gets involved. One of the first examples is from Uber UK when one of the drivers said that Uber is treating them badly and why they are not giving holiday fare. Uber’s response was ‘because we are not a cab company. We are an interface that connects the passenger with the driver.’ But the Court ruled against Uber. So, now, Uber has to offer employee benefits.
Another one was Airbnb. In order to be classified as ‘not a hotel’, one has to sell not more than 60 or 90 days of their home per annum. If one is selling more than 90 days, then they are classified as a hotel and the taxation is totally different. Therefore Airbnb now has to police its own property owners to make sure that they are not using Airbnb for more than 90 days. See what’s happening. The regulation comes in after the companies have grown big. What will happen if the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter will be forced into a position where they will have to start taking editorial responsibility. How do they do it? Having spent 10 years at the BBC, my answer is to start hiring people who are actually respected editorial voices, people who are good at making editorial judgements rather than people who are just software engineers. That is going to be a massive change for all of them.
But isn’t it difficult to find people who are sound in both technology and editorial?
Not necessarily so. Twitter did something amazing a couple of years ago and started hiring digital journalists from the New York Times and NYT started hiring more.
You are a digital journalist. You grew up in the digital environment. You know the nuances of technology, about blogs and such things. There are lots of people like you. The testimony is the very existence of the amount of journalism you see online. Yes, it needs training, schooling and refining but remember, Arianna Huffington started it online!
Carat’s global adex report says that while digital will grow exponentially, TV will still remain as the base of media plans. How is India placed in the growth of digital and TV?
This is a very interesting question about the growth rates of digital and television. According to me, TV is going to become digital. We have started to see this already. In the US, you can buy TV programmatically. That is quite a big move. It is not on reservation, it is just based on availability. It is still high fruit — ‘buying TV programmatically’ — but it will only grow further. In addition, as your cable operator has access to your personality identifiable information (PII), if they are also your mobile phone divider provider and your broadband provider, you have one identifiable person and you can start to look at the possibilities. So it’ll stop being about TV versus digital, it will more be digital and how much entertainment or news are they consuming? How much are they posting actively? What forums are they participating? It is not going to become about the device.
What is your view on marketing to millennials? How relevant are the strategies of millennial marketing to India?
I was once the marketing director of MTV. I launched MTV in India. Personally, I do not like the term millennial because I believe that young people are young. They always have been. There will always be young people. People will always go through that certain stage in life when their biology changes. They don’t want to be a part of their parents’ tribe. They want to be their tribe which they are creating. It’s an eternal truth that will always exist and I believe that it (millennials) is just a fancy term to put on a group of people who are growing up. People who will be in a radically different digital environment. So the stimuli and responsiveness that they have access to are different. My point is that the fundamental basics of growing up do not change and that’s why I hate it when people put fancy names — generation X, Y, Z and millennials.
Blind selling can’t happen to youth anymore. They are more aware. Isn’t that true?
I am not sure. I think we have very short memories. I think we used to know quite a lot. Of course, there’s more media and availability but equally there’s more opportunity to push up fake news. How do the young people really know the difference between most real and most fake? They have access to more stimuli than ever before, but are they really equipped to judge the information any more or any less than my generation, I don’t think so. Personally, I think it’s quite insulting at times for me to talk about youth and youth marketing as if they are a completely different species or creatures. Here, what we are calling as millennials are like us. Let’s not treat them as a completely different group of people who have nothing in common with us.
Carat Media has won quite a few major accounts in the last couple of years — Mondelez and Standard Chartered to name a few. How do you rate the winning to losing ratio?
I love winning businesses. But retention is more close to my heart. For me, that is the re-affirmation of the marriage vows. That is when the client says, ‘I took a risk. I married you. But I took the right decision marrying you.’ That’s what makes me feel warm. Losing a client is emotionally painful. I think as an industry, we should pay more attention to retention than acquisition. Love your clients.
But I don’t think I have ever seen or heard about a ‘fully-satisfied’ client. No matter how much you love them, how much you help them with their businesses and do whatever they have asked for. So, then how do you deal with this?
Then you get back to the trust and transparency conversation. How often do you sit with them and say that ‘how could I be any better? If you were in my shoes, what you do to make it any better? Help me to make it perfect.’ Aim for perfection and inspire your teams for that. This is the hand that feeds us. The pitch is not the hand that feeds us.
Is it true that Mondelez is not happy with Carat in India? How is the sentiment between the two companies outside India?
It is very good. It is much better than it is in India. I think India is a difficult situation. Mondelez has had an agency for a long period of time. They had an established relationship there. It was a part of global consolidation when it came to us. I think it is early days. In the early days, there are going to be hiccups because you haven’t been working with them and you don’t know what they are like. But, I and a number of people in the agency have sat down with Mondelez and said, ‘Yes. We know the problem. So, let’s fix this together.’ I think we are up for a big upward trajectory with them.
How do you decide which agency goes for which client? You have so many sister agencies too within DAN.
We have an overall executive entity — Global Clients in Media Brands that looks at the competitive scenario, the competency, the culture — where they believe will the client be happier with culture, scale, markets that are more important to them. They decide the best possible match.
Carat India had expressed the intention of overtaking Mindshare and Maxus at some point in 2014. Where are we on that note?
We are running at 150 miles an hour. Period!
While DAN has claimed to be the No. 2 agency network in India, where does Carat India stand?
Carat is a really interesting organisation because we are the glue. So, we will sit down with the client and our job is to truly understand what the client’s issue is. What is the client trying to achieve overall? And then, we tell the entire Dentsu Aegis Network, ‘this is where we absolutely need the Webchutney. We need people like that to come in. The client will also need some search marketing. So let’s bring iProspect inside too’. It is Carat’s job to bring together the multidisciplinary team and to be the interface with the client.
It is an interesting question because the size of Carat is about constructing an entire holistic marketing solution for the client from across DAN with glue that pulls it together. Sometimes, when people ask me what I do for living, I say ‘nothing. I knit together the pieces of DAN together’.
So, does Carat also have a set of human resources experts?
You have hit the single biggest challenge that, I suppose, every agency is facing. It is a wise question. The challenge is about people, culture, behaviours, respect, emotional generosity and collaboration. The fact is that today, you need 25-30 specialists deliver a campaign. Earlier, who did you need — an art director, copywriter, media, optionally account planner and an account lead — just five people. You need so many now. How do you get them to work together, unless you create a culture where there is mutual respect, mutual understanding and collaboration — else, you will never deliver for that client. That’s why the points I made about Carat earlier are so important. Humility and listening are the kinds of people I want to hire.
Is there any competition among the sister agencies?
Zero. The reason I work for DAN is that we have a single market P&L structure. There is no competition between the DAN brands, whatsoever. The competition is outside, not inside. In that, we are really unique. Personally, it doesn’t affect my income whether this project is sold to Carat or iProspect, even if I work for Carat. The point is whatever is right for the client and that is a big ethical issue for me because I got to be recommending what is right or the client, not what is necessarily good for my bonus.
As far as strategies for clients are concerned, how different do you think are solutions provided by Carat Media, beyond the traditional forms of advertising on the several media platforms?
Huge difference. I think Carat is the architect of the overall plan. TV is still more powerful. But, one doesn’t look at it like, ‘let’s plan TV. Now let’s look at digital and other platforms.’ It is about planning a campaign across platforms with connected stories. Carat is absolutely leading the way in terms of collective storytelling.