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Interview: Performics Worldwide COO Craig Greenfield, and India Head Tanmay Mohanty

Both the veterans speak on various issues ranging from digital marketing to performance marketing to big data decoding consumer behaviour in a detailed interview with

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Delhi | February 23, 2016

Craig Greenfield & Tanmay Mohanty Craig Greenfield & Tanmay Mohanty

ZenithOptimedia Group, through its digital agencies Performics and Resultrix, recently organized a digital marketing event – Zoogle Day – in association with Google in Mumbai. Craig Greenfield, COO, Performics Worldwide, who was vising India on this occasion, agreed for an email interview with on various issues ranging from digital marketing to performance marketing to big data consumer behaviour alongwith his Indian counterpart, Tanmay Mohanty, Managing Director of Performics and Resultrix. Edited excerpts:

How would you rate the inaugural Zoogle Day in India?

Craig Greenfield: ZenithOptimedia and Google first created this property in the UK, twelve years back, with the clear objective of leading the change that digital technology is bringing in the consumers' lives. Back then the digital transformation was just starting to take shape. Zoogle Day was so successful in the UK that the format was retained and expanded across years and across markets. This time around –we brought it to India and it has seen extraordinary success.

The focus was on micro-moments that are arising every day in the lives of consumers, given their shift to mobile. Micro-moments occur when people reflexively turn to a device, increasingly a smartphone – to act on a need to learn something, do something or discover something and in the process, make a purchase or consume interesting information around a product. There were some interesting ideas discussed and case studies presented.

In my own presentation at the session, we brought key trends for the mobile medium. For instance, voice search is growing at a rapid pace, not just in India but across the world. Twenty-three per cent of people have used voice search/voice commands. There has been a 50 per cent increase in usage over the past year. Another key trend is that ad blocking is likely to kill the banner and increase share of native advertising. iPhone users are 18 per cent more likely to block ads; 32 per cent of iPhone users have used an ad blocker.

How has been the growth of performance marketing in recent years and will the concerns over visibility of digital campaigns due to ad block features enhance the potential of performance marketing?

Greenfield: The size and scope of performance marketing will continue to grow. To illustrate, programmatic display spend has just recently outpaced non-programmatic; and programmatic is expected to be 66 per cent of total display spend by 2020 (US). RTB (real time bidding) formats in mobile and video are also quickly closing in on traditional. And the potential of performance marketing is no longer limited to the traditional digital channels. For instance, Google recently started testing DoubleClick ad serving technology for out-of-home (OOH) billboards. And Performics itself is making early investments in integrated bid sciences for direct-response TV (DRTV). This is performance marketing for TV ads bought on a biddable basis and customized to specific audiences. Performance marketing’s ability to target relevant audiences in the right moment at the right bid; which, in addition to leveraging advanced analytics and measurement to power optimization, makes it very appealing to advertisers, even on channels where its not yet widespread, like OOH and TV.

As for ad blocking, the industry needs to focus on creating and serving fewer, better display ads. The industry needs to face the fact that the majority of ads are blocked by consumers because they are intrusive or irrelevant, too heavy to load on mobile devices or use too much valuable (expensive) mobile data, or outside viewable areas as they don’t conform to varying screen sizes or fall below the fold. The future of display advertising lies in light, interactive formats, with ad content focused on relevancy. As an agency, our part is to create more relevant ads and target them to the right moments. This hinges on extracting meaning from data to understand consumer intent and deliver dynamic and personalized experiences.

What are the plans and projections for Performics Worldwide in 2016?

Greenfield: We are now in 41 countries actually, the most recent being South Africa, Greece, Indonesia, Argentina and Czech Republic. We continue to be focused on corporate development through acquisitions, new offices and strategic alliances. Latin America is a region seeing incredible digital growth and one we are watching closely. Performics is the performance marketing arm of ZenithOptimedia Group, part of Publicis Groupe. We also function as an independent global performance marketing AOR.

We have a top global footprint amongst performance marketing agencies. We support projects in 50 global offices with various models depending on business need (central, local, and hybrid).  Twenty per cent of clients run multinational campaigns.

Our Intent-based Planning is built upon capturing and converting consumer intent.  Our strength is understanding intent at each decision point to deliver relevant experiences that drive performance

We will continue to grow as a network in APAC to meet client needs. The focus is to make sure all our markets have a consistent skill set around biddable and actionable media, as well as the capabilities in data insights. There can be no weak link in our network when driving sales for our clients. All markets in APAC have had tremendous growth, and this will continue. In mature markets such as Australia, we have made strategic acquisition in FirstClick Consulting, to maintain and build on our strong product in that market.

ASEAN as a region has done a great job of unifying in the past five years, as they realised that together they were stronger and better able to compete with the larger markets such as India and China. Performics has taken the same approach, by working as a close network with offices in Singapore, Manila, HCMC, and Bangkok, and of course, the recently opened Jakarta office. Growth has been significant working on key clients Nestle, Mead Johnson Nutrition and Sanofi as well as winning new business Singapore Airlines, Scoot, Acer.

Tanmay Mohanty: We have always had a distinctive position in the Indian market as being a pure-play performance player. This position was further strengthened by our acquisition of Resultrix in 2012 which was one of the largest standalone performance marketing agencies. We have been able to leverage both brands and draw out the similarities to build a very strong performance product be it with our One-search approach or technology and data driven planning and media innovation. We launched Performics Mobile in 2015 given that this is a mobile-first market and we have seen tremendous growth and response here. We also set up the first ever media-tech and analytics division in Bangalore that helps clients make informed decision on the choice of technology and works on implementing them to drive maximum ROI on their investments.

In India, client acquisition is our main focus. Existing clients are moving from single-digit spend in digital to double due to growth in mobile internet. But we are also examining investment opportunities in technology driven solutions to drive the growth story. Driven by cheaper handsets and the spread of wireless data networks, the number of internet users is expected to go up significantly in India. Mobile marketing today is more alive in the East, than in the West, with India being the case in point.

At a time when media agencies have recognised the strength of big data as a key to the future of media planning and business solutions, where does ZenithOptimedia and Performics stand vis-a-vis others in the Indian and global markets?

Greenfield: I think we are very much ahead of the curve. We have always believed in data driven planning. The richness of the data points adds to success of the campaign. With this very thing in mind we have been making investments especially in India. What distinguishes us is our scope and scale of work and the kind of data, insights and technology that we bring to the table.  In fact, ZenithOptimedia’s core proposition is “LiveROI”, which emphasizes our focus on data driven planning. This philosophy and framework is supported by the right tools and talent across the network. In ZenithOptimedia, we map how the data is ingested and analysed to drive audience insights, channel insights that will help businesses and allow us to make forecasting models that based on real data. So, yes, big data is not so much “big” but an amalgamation of millions of small data points that need to be looked at with the right lens and put to right use to drive business success.

What is your view on the evolution of ‘big data led media planning’ in India?

Mohanty: Advertising started out as 100 per cent art. But with the rise of big data, it’s now shifting to a blend between art and science. Performics’ main focus is to extract meaning from big data to understand consumer intent and deliver dynamic and personalized experiences. We then measure performance and rigorously optimize (investment level, creative/copy and audience) based on each touch point’s influence on revenue. Nothing is sacred as we relentlessly test and learn and make decisions based on data. However, it’s important to not let big data carry you away. Successful performance marketing campaigns must blend art and science, man and machine. Advertisers cannot treat consumers like data points; they must uncover the distinct motivation behind each click to match experiences to intent.

What are the top trends in digital that you foresee and what kind of technological and consumption shifts is 2016 likely to bring?

Greenfield: The next decade will see the rise of new multi-billion-dollar industries that will fundamentally change communication and commerce in an even more profound way than how the smartphone has disrupted business and empowered consumers in the recent past. 2016 will see the Internet of Things, smart homes, virtual reality, connected vehicles, and meaningful wearables become very real consumer offerings. We’ll see the rise of a super-connected consumer journey – your tablet, phone, watch/band, TV, smart home, fridge, car will all connect and interface with each other. This creates a mass of consumer data that can be used to buy and optimize ads or experiences across the journey. This connectivity paves the way for a future marketplace for ad buying that leverages this data and makes it actionable. It will be interesting, however, how the costs pan out and hence how much adoption is happening, and how fast.

Will understanding tastes and preferences at an individual level with big data simplify or complicate marketing for brands, especially in a market like India?

Mohanty: It depends on how you use the data generated. And how agile you are while you are at it. Personalization and hyper personalization is what the consumers are expecting and data allows us to do so at scale with the aid of technology. Data points will be on the rise and there will need to be adequate expertise required on mapping these data points and trends. We  have set up a special ‘Communication Planning team’ in India that helps bring in the intelligence of data to the build a communication approach that helps map the consumer journey from awareness to buying. This team helps glean insights into what sort of communication works at which touchpoints and at which stage of the buying journey. This team is actively involved in all brand and product launch campaigns and helps drive branding solutions with communication driven approach as opposed to a pure play media approach.

How should brands make the most of their digital ad spend and stay relevant in India’s diverse markets?

Mohanty: You have to know your consumer really well. Know what they want, when they want and try to add something to their lives and you will be rewarded for it. This means deeper consumer insights in real time and adaptive planning that caters to the ever changing consumer trends.

Leading a global performance marketing agency, do you see digital advertising working in a similar fashion in India as it did in other developed countries?

Greenfield: Similar in some ways but vastly different in some ways. India and China are leap-frog markets. If you see how mobile is shaping the environment you will see a very different view from that of the West. In some other ways it’s quite similar that the movement happens from Search, Display, Social to a more programmatic buying and that is starting to happen here too. However, the mobile landscape and the evolution of that will create new paths here that probably don’t exist in the West.

Digital advertising, which was at a nascent stage in India until a few years ago, is growing rapidly at 30-40% annually. When do you see it catching up with traditional advertising such as television and print?

Mohanty: I think the answer to that depends how the entire “Digital India’ initiative works. The day those 750 million people have access to data, then we are talking about a truly mobile-first market.

How has the growing e-commerce market here changed the marketing landscape for both global and local brands?

Mohanty: I think it is sign of a healthy economy when both local and global brands go head to head. The e-commerce market in India is heavily driven by investments both local and foreign and it has become hyper competitive and price driven. It has given the consumer tremendous power and driven brands in the red so far. The coming years will see a lot more consolidations, buyouts and only the ones who have really strong business models will be able to survive this pace. As far as advertising is concerned it has driven up the inflation up on desktop as there only so many impact properties available. But that is changing with the app business booming. E-commerce players will be going more and more programmatic and will focus more on the marketing ROI than ever before in the coming year.

How big is the opportunity of cross-border e-commerce for Indian brands eyeing global sales? What do you think should their approach be?

Greenfield: There is no doubt that consumers today have unprecedented access to products. Cross border e-commerce is only expected to boom in the coming years and there is a significant opportunity for Indian brands eyeing global sales. Such e-commerce holds appeal as shoppers look abroad for better prices and offerings online. For instance, Chinese digital shoppers are buying everything via cross-border e-commerce, whether it comes to exotic food items, cosmetics or clothes. What Indian brands can do is to build a distinct and competitive offering that holds up the demand in the global market. And it is important to hold up on quality standards, infrastructure and shipping while they are it, so they can compete on a world stage.

In India, we have noticed significant decline in advertising by relatively smaller brands because e-commerce platforms are already doing the same on their behalf. What is your opinion on this?

Mohanty: I don’t think this an accurate estimate. If all the brand wants to do online is drive sales at the least cost than having an e-commerce player do it for them would make sense. However, digital is a lot more than a store. It is the entire consumer experience of the brand online and smaller brands that have a very digitally savvy consumer will always be mindful of this and will create digital assets and digital marketing efforts that cater to every stage of the consumer journey and not just the purchase decision. So, I really see them both complementing the other, and not eating into each other.

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