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Unless cause makes sense, brands should focus on functional ads, says Roopak Saluja of The 120 Media Collective

In an interview with, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The 120 Media Collective says the ad industry has evolved in the past few years as brands now want to know how it is transforming their business. He says his agency’s focus is to create content for business impact

Roopak Saluja

The advertising industry is not the same anymore and anybody who hasn’t really moved forward or re-engineered the way they approach the customer will die a horrible death, cautions Roopak Saluja, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, The 120 Media collective.

In an interview with, he said that brands were no more looking at the number of likes and followers on social media pages but sought to know how it was transforming their business.

Saluja said that the on-going trend of brands focusing on causes and purposes wouldn’t make any sense if customers cannot connect with them. “Customers will be put off if they cannot make sense of what is being shown to them. I think it is a great opportunity for brands to avoid cause or activism and just focus on functional ads,” he says, adding there is a general movement towards realism.

The communications and content group whose verticals are spread across production, creative and content marketing, recently completed 12 years in the industry.

Talking about the impact of GST and demonetisation, Saluja said that 2017 was not a year of growth and was a year for consolidation and optimisation.

Over the years, the company’s vertical, Bang Bang, has produced iconic spots for brands such as Ikea, Google, Pepsi, L’Oréal, Sony, Unilever, Indigo, Netflix and dozens of others with Ogilvy, JWT, Lowe Lintas, Dentsu Taproot, Wieden + Kennedy, BBH and many other agency partners.


What is your annual turnover like?

There is a very clear saying that, ‘Revenue is vanity, profit is sanity and cash is reality.’ The year 2017, overall, was not a year of growth. At present, our focus is on building the bottom-line and to be a way more profitable company than we have been in the past. Our top-line revenue is in the range of about Rs 50-60 crore.

How has the advertising industry evolved over the years?

 The advertising industry is not the same anymore. Anybody who hasn’t really moved forward or re-engineered the way of thinking and approaching the customer is going to die a horrible death. So, the past five to 10 years have seen more changes than the last 50 years. Earlier brands focused on likes and engagement. But, this is not the case anymore. The clients are not bothered about million followers on their page. They want to know how it is transforming their business. So, we focus on content for business impact. We use content to move consumers to the funnel, from awareness to all the way to purchase.

Any significant changes in the ideation process and work culture?

The agency division is not a linear workflow anymore, it is circular now. Things that used to take 15-20 days are now done in 24 hours. As the time has changed, everything has become fast and there is no time to carefully craft a beautiful film that’s going to win the awards. There is a separate space for that. According to me, it is important for one to be able to shrink things to 24 hours.

Nowadays, every brand takes the path of activism. But sometimes there is a dissonance between the message and what the brand actually preaches. Do you think brands should take activism a bit more cautiously?

Causes and activism by brands have to be related to the core value. There is an entire school of thought that focuses on purpose, ‘what you stand for as a brand and what are you trying to do.’ People don’t want the products to stand for something radical. The product and the cause should make sense to the consumers; otherwise it will put them off. I think it is a great opportunity for brands to avoid cause or activism and just focus on the functional ads.

Any other trend you can see in the industry?

There is a general movement towards realism because people have learnt that authenticity is very important. So, in the quest for authenticity, brands are looking for realism. Consumers can easily make out if a brand is authentic or not. Another trend that is popular is the docu-style of filmmaking.

How is AI shaping the future of advertising?

It is not. In the next few years, AI will be able to give us more refined data on personalisation, on targeting, basically on the analytical level. The most common AI use is chat bots. They are the dirtiest form of AI. They are not very impressive. In the forthcoming years, AI will be able to take data and make future predictions more widespread.

What is your take on in-house production houses?

This is not an era of protectionism. The best form of defence against competition is to be more competitive. So, if agencies are able to take production in-house and clients are working with these agencies, then obviously the production houses must be doing something wrong. But at the end of the day, one thing that agencies can’t hack is talent.

Budget has always been an issue in advertising. How do you strike a balance between budget and quality?

We have never compromised on quality for the sake of money. Earlier, we lost money on many projects simply because we wanted to make the project look good. But, we never tried to make too much at the cost of quality. When it comes to digital production at Sooperfly, there is a different approach; we don’t look it as how much money we are making for each video. Our focus always remains on adding value to the client and whether we are able to deliver quality to the world for every single piece. However, we definitely keep in mind whether the business is a profitable one as a whole or not.

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