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2019 will be complicated yet fruitful for us: Yashaswini Samat of Grey Group India

In an interview with BestMediaInfo.com, the Chairman and MD, Grey Group India, talks about the agency’s plans after Autumn Worldwide’s acquisition and how the industry needs to figure out how to create the right communication to fulfil today’s consumers and brands’ needs in a way that is financially viable

Yashaswini Samat

With 2018 in its last leg, Grey India is impressed with its performance this year. The agency started the year with wins and is also ending it on an excellent note with more wins. Yashaswini Samat, who was recently elevated to the position of Chairman and MD, is quite content with the agency’s growth this year.

“We won a Cannes this year and our works have been visible and talked about. Overall, it’s been a good year with some quality work and some good wins as well.”

For Samat, the biggest opportunity and vision for next year is to work on the integration of Autumn Worldwide with RCM, Grey’s activation wing, to make a creative block in the market powered by creatives from the agency. With a vast talent pool, coupled with RCM and Autumn’s huge digital capability, Grey hopes to achieve its goal.

Samat feels 2019 will be a complicated yet fruitful year for the agency. With Autumn Worldwide’s acquisition, the agency now has a large footprint in the digital segment. However, the industry’s instability poses a concern.

After taking over from Sunil Lulla, Samat has taken some key decisions in the agency, the first being the acquisition of Autumn Worldwide. “With Autumn, we are going to explore how its data insights will empower our creative and ensure creative quality that we have. Our concentration has become more consumer-focused with the real data that Autumn brings on the table,” she said.

The agency has also strengthened its creative talent pool and planning team. Samat said, “We invested a lot in our planning. We have hired senior leaders in both our Delhi and Mumbai offices. We have Suvikrant Maira in Delhi and Nishant Saurav in Mumbai.

Though Grey has cut down its digital target in the last few years, but with the acquisition of Autumn Worldwide, the equation will change. In terms of media spend, the numbers are inclined towards TV.

Excerpts:

How has the year 2018 been for the agency in terms of growth and revenue?

The year has been quite good for Grey. We started the year with some big wins and we are ending it with a couple of wins. We also won a Cannes and our works have been visible and talked about. Overall, it is been a good year with some quality work and good wins as well.

What is your growth target for the next year?

2019 will be a complicated year. With Autumn Worldwide’s acquisition, the agency now has a large footprint in the digital segment. We are still figuring out the process as the industry is not in a great shape. Largely, I am really looking forward to next year.

After you took over from Sunil Lulla, what are the key decisions that you have taken in the agency?

One of the biggest decisions is the acquisition of Autumn Worldwide. With Autumn, we are going to explore how its data insights will empower our creative and ensure creative quality that we have. Our concentration has become more consumer-focused on the real data that Autumn brings on the table. We have also raised focus on the quality of our creative pool and invested a lot in our planning, though a little smaller than what it should have been. We have hired some senior leaders in both Delhi and Mumbai office. We have Suvikrant Maira in Delhi and Nishant Saurav in Mumbai.

The biggest opportunity and vision for next year is to work on the integration of Autumn Worldwide with RCM, Grey’s activation wing, to make a creative block in the market powered by creatives from the agency. Hopefully, the clients will be excited about it.

What are the driving factors that will help you achieve that target?

The agency has a great talent pool be it is planning, creative or account management. We have RCM with understanding of the activation market and making things happen deeper in rural India. Moreover, with Autumn, we have a huge digital capability, both in terms of data and insights, social, reputation management, tech and apps. The combination of different capabilities together will help us reach our goal.

After Autumn Worldwide, are there any new acquisitions in the pipeline?

There is no plan at this moment.

How much does digital contribute to the overall revenues for Grey?

Grey over the last couple of years has cut down its digital target. But, with Autumn, we have a different plan. However, today, digital and non-digital cannot be separated, the whole world is digital. We still do TVC, which is more expensive both in terms of production and media cost than digital. Instead of separating, we are focusing on totality and the kind of talent we get. In terms of share media spend, TV is still higher.

What goals have set aside for the agency?

I would focus on continuing the creative quality and win more awards. I am also emphasising on winning a couple of big pitches and do fabulous work for our current clients.

Do you think that awards give an edge while winning mandates?

It definitely does. I think awards are about doing good work on current clients. What potential clients see is the work done and awards won. Then, they feel more compelled to give work to the agency.

Where does Grey India stand among its sister Grey agencies worldwide?

India is a rising business and Grey India is an important part of Grey Worldwide. We have small office compared to New York or London. But we are an important one which holds a huge potential growth market.

What are the challenges that the industry is facing?

There are many challenges at present. The industry is still figuring out the rise of the model that balances building and creative depth with the whole digital revolution and ensures how both can be consumed. The clients are struggling because there are lots of agencies that do big brand thinking but don’t understand the new media. On the contrary, there are lots of digital agencies that understand the platform but are not creative in brand building. This has led to the fragmentation of media, which has created a fatigue in the market, resulting in the need to do ads more frequently. The industry needs to figure out how to create the right communication to fulfil today’s consumers and brands’ needs in a way that is financially viable.

We need to really work on improving the quality of work, thinking and understanding the world of new consumers and a new digital model so that we can be the people to whom the clients look up to as the true knowledge holder in this field.

Most of the agencies are complaining about clients shifting more often. What do you think is the reason behind it?

It is a mix of two things. Firstly, lots of digital agencies and small agencies look exciting for a short term. They offer their services cheaply. So, for clients, it’s an incentive. Secondly, somewhere, as an industry, we were slow in keeping pace with the change in the needs of the consumer world. This resulted in clients feeling that they were not valued. So, the bottom line is that they need to feel that they get value by agencies.

From the clients’ side, sometimes they take the cheaper route. But, in the long run, it is a failure. So, I think both sides need to be a little more responsible. We need to make sure that the clients are being valued and the clients also need to think of long-term partnership and good quality thinking instead of quick cheap thinking.

What is your view on clients’ approach to stealing ideas?

It is quite terrible and unfair because they are basically doing the pitches to get ideas and then use the cheapest capability or their own agencies to execute. People should realise that by doing so, they are harming the industry because if the ad industry dies, it is not good for their business as well. People do need to be honest and have integrity in this business.

With a growth in content consumption among consumers, the advertising budget pie of brands is also shifting to branded content and content marketing. How do you intend to stay abreast with the changing needs of the clients?

Content marketing is a vast subject. People are experimenting with this continuously. Frankly, a lot of content has no connection with the businesses. However, some clients and agencies have cracked how that content work for the brands. Grey and Autumn together will be doing a lot of work in this segment. Depending on the marketing or communication strategy, there is a whole world of content available for the brands. We don’t shy away from partnering with outside agencies. As an agency, we should realise that in today’s world, we cannot do it alone.

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