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Clients expecting more accountability for lesser remuneration is the new reality, feels Soho Square’s Sumanto Chattopadhyay

In an interview with BestMediaInfo.com, the Chairman and CCO of Soho Square said that Indian agencies were trying to embrace the future by tinkering marginally with legacy systems and practices which won’t work

Sumanto Chattopadhyay

No amount of algorithm or data-driven intelligence can deliver results if the clients don’t pay enough to ad agencies to retain good creative talent, feels Sumanto Chattopadhyay, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Soho Square, an Ogilvy group agency.

Highlighting the future trends that the industry may face, he said, “Clients are going to ask for even more accountability, and they are going to pay us less. Agencies that refuse to accept this reality will be out of business. “No matter how sophisticated the data-driven algorithm is, but it cannot replace the creative talent,” Chattopadhyay added.

He also said that Indian ad agencies were not future-ready as they were not adapting themselves to the new realities.

“We have to have the courage to reimagine and reinvent ourselves in a deeper way. We have to apply our creativity not just to our clients’ brands but also to defining ourselves in the new era,” Chattopadhyay said in an interview with BestMediaInfo.com.

Talking about the growth strategy of Soho Square, he said that the agency was poised to post a solid growth and the agency’s focus area for 2019 and will use more of technology while investing more in nurturing creative talent.

Highlighting the rising importance of content marketing in the media plan, Chattopadhyay said that it can deliver excellent results if there’s great storytelling mixed with intelligent brand integration. “Branded content works well when it matches the brand’s core proposition,” he said.

Excerpts:

How has the year 2018 been for the agency and what is the growth target for next year?

We have had a good year, despite the trying times the industry is in. We have grown over the previous year, and strengthened our relationships with key clients. We are looking at a 10-15% growth next year over the current year.

How do you intend to achieve this growth target?

We are planning the launch of a new proposition to our clients in 2019. We believe this will set us apart while giving our clients a competitive advantage. Another driver is the Ogilvy pedigree. It is what gives us our culture of excellence. Of course, that is just a starting point. From there, we carve out our own independent identity. The agility of a smaller agency is one component of that. We also plan to get into partnerships with organisations that have skill sets that are different from ours. These would have a positive impact on our approach and our creative product in the coming year.

What are the goals that you have set aside for the agency?

Our goal is to use technology, but not see it as the main event; use data meaningfully, but not drown in a sea of it. Ultimately, our sights are set on riding the crest of the creative wave. One study claims that creativity multiplies the value of your marketing budget by a factor of 11. Even if we add a judicious standard deviation to this figure, it still makes the point that creativity can have a massive impact. Thus, creativity has to be at the heart of things. Data and artificial intelligence can help us reach the right consumer at the right moment perhaps, but it is creativity that is going to help brands make a lasting impact. Nurturing the talent to enable that is my goal.

What are the major trends you are seeing that will shape the future of the Indian advertising industry?

There are two interlinked trends: clients are going to ask for even more accountability, and they are going to pay us less. Agencies that refuse to accept this reality will be out of business.

Having said that, marketers beating down fees simply because they can is ultimately a lose-lose situation for all. Talent is what you are paying for — or not. So you can save money in the short run but in the long run you are sickening the goose that lays the golden eggs. And the most sophisticated of data-driven algorithms is not going to be able to replace her.

What are the key decisions that have been taken in the agency this year?

Finding the right talent and nurturing it is the key to our success. As an agency, it is the only asset we have. Basic as it might sound, reminding ourselves of that and recommitting ourselves to it is, for me, the key decision. Doing things with greater nimbleness is the other key. Simplifying approaches — or dispensing with clunky legacy systems — is helping us achieve that. The third key is developing the flexibility to produce excellence on budgets that are not necessarily excellent. This determines both how we work and whom we collaborate with.

Ultimately, we want to create value for consumers. So that is where our commitment is. This entails being interested in culture and behaviours, technology and psychology; helping us to see our consumers as flesh and blood human beings, not just as buyers of our brand. That’s the way to make our message unforgettable. And to make people fall in love with our brand. 

What are the challenges that the industry is facing?

Our industry seems to be at a somewhat stretched-out inflection point. It is not changing fast enough, not adapting itself to the new realities quickly enough. In many ways, we are trying to embrace the future by tinkering marginally with legacy systems and practices; this won’t work. We have to have the courage to reimagine and reinvent ourselves in a deeper way. We have to apply our creativity not just to our clients’ brands but also to defining ourselves in the new era. 

With the rise of branded content and content marketing, how do you intend to stay abreast with the changing needs of the clients?

We recognise the direction in which the world of communication is moving. We have been preparing for it. 2019 will be the proving ground. 

It is worth noting here that the key ingredient of successful branded content is storytelling. I hear content marketers say that for successful content marketing, the brand should fit subtly and seamlessly into the content — i.e. into the story. My submission is that this ought to be the case in traditional advertising as well. In fact, that is the approach that great creative agencies have always tried to take. Great storytelling with intelligent brand integration runs in our blood. The time has now come to adapt this skill and calibrate it for branded content and the varied forms it can take.

Ultimately, whichever form the communication takes — be it broadcast television commercials, digital video ads, branded content or xyz — let’s not forget that it’s about telling an engaging story.

An example of work we have done in this sphere: the ‘I Can You Can’ web series hosted by Milind Soman. It is a part of the campaign of brand Nicotex to help smokers quit. It features the journey of six people to the Everest Base Camp. The group includes three smokers who are trying to conquer their personal Everest of quitting smoking. They are supported by three ex-smokers who accompany them on the journey. This kind of branded content works well because it matches the brand’s core proposition.

Info@BestMediaInfo.com

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