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Local platforms have a lot to catch up as Google and FB will continue to enjoy lion’s share, says Wavemaker’s Shekhar Banerjee

In an interaction with BestMediaInfo.com, the Chief Client Officer and Head, West, Wavemaker India, says homegrown platforms have to stand the test of effectiveness before they can earn advertisers’ trust money

Shekhar Banerjee

Agency-client relationship will grow stronger in a post-Covid world as recovery is likely to be slower and both parties will be more dependent on each other, feels Shekhar Banerjee, Chief Client Officer and Head, West, Wavemaker India.

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“Our dependence on each other will grow, recovery will be a slow process and we need to work together in two areas — higher accountability for every penny spent and build bespoke solutions that solve a specific client challenge and not just requirement of advertising inventory, he told BestMediaInfo.com in an interaction.

Banerjee said the agency’s role will be bigger than just planning the media.

“Our clients are leaning more on us. As an agency, we are learning faster given our exposure across multiple industries. We are now consulting our clients beyond the ambit of media plans. They want us to be their trusted advisor who can positively provoke them and their current operating norms, even drive agendas that accelerate their organisation’s transformation.”

Excerpts:

Several international brands have announced they would stay away from social media advertising. Facebook, Google and other social media giants control over 80% of digital marketing spends. How should local platforms capitalise on it and what is your assessment about the prospects of their gain?

Google and Facebook will continue to enjoy the lion’s share of digital adex. They have built audience capabilities and measurement frameworks that assure advertisers of their spends. Over the last three years, both platforms have built enough used cases that help us quantify the ROI. If there is anything that could chip away in future from their share it is the ecommerce marketplaces and their DSPs. So while the local platforms, including homegrown AVOD platforms, have a strong tailwind, they have a lot of catch-up to do. First, the local platforms need to shed the mindset of reservation buys and premium inventory. Advertisers are targeting audiences and it is one connected ecosystem. So local platforms will have to build a robust self-serving platform and that means sharing a lot more about their platform then they do today. They will have to stand the test of effectiveness, which means a lot of investment in AB testing and analytics and finally the right balance between effectiveness and efficiency. Market leaders are already challenging the pricing norms.

The social media giants, including Google, have created their own ecosystem, including a “walled garden” sort of measurement system and brands had no other option than to buy them because of their sheer reach. On the other hand, all other platforms are struggling in the absence of a unified measurement system. Will this status quo end?

This is not a simple problem of sharing information. Two things will happen in this space. One is ‘more accountability’. We are already seeing large platforms working very closely with Wavemaker and our clients to build a robust measurement and attribution process. Second, we will observe ‘more silos’. We will see more varied platforms and no unifier of data. The responsibility will lie with our client to work closely with their agencies to build a connected audience ecosystem that not only identifies but also activates. 

More importantly, we don’t need all the information that is behind the wall; we need the right information to maximise our client’s growth. To the contrary, I have often seen information/data overload and advertisers are not able to make sense of this data crowding. At Wavemaker, we have invested before time to build these capabilities. We are today consulting and even building turnkey projects around audience management and activation. Solutions such as Ads Data Hub & BigQuery will further boost the adoption. This will not only address the issues of data privacy but also help us define causality of events and chart growth framework.

There is this sentiment in the industry that agencies, be it creative or media, have handled Covid situation better than media companies in terms of salary cuts and job losses. Doesn’t the other angle hold true that media houses latched on to the opportunity for course correction more efficiently than agencies when it comes to downsizing non-performing businesses, which may benefit them in the long run?

We should remember we all are in the same storm and not the same boat. These are very tough times, top priority for every business is to manage cash flow and cut losses to the best. All brave businesses have moved fast to manage cost and run a tight ship till the storm passes. We will see a very different industry on the other side. Covid-19 will have lasting impact on the choices we will make and for that matter what our media partners deliver. We all are making tough choices between investing for the future versus non-performing.

Social media giant such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter survive on free content from Indian publishers. When the content is able to generate eyeballs, then they share some revenue with publishers, which is always opaque. IBF members such as Star, Viacom18, Zee and Sony separated long back. There is a growing sentiment that other publishers too should follow the same formula to aim big. What is stopping them to do that?

We need to break this into two different issues. First is about revenue sharing on content published. These platforms have a defined revenue sharing model. If that suits the content producer, they will use it else they will not. The choice is with the producer. Let us not forget that a lot of new-age content producers and influencers have been discovered because of these platforms. It also comes with a very low entry cost/barrier and that should also be accounted when the producer is taking the call on revenue. Second part of your question is for the already scaled and seasoned content aggregators or distributors like TV channels. For them, the choice is about retaining their audiences and build platforms for the future.

Frenemies is the word; you can but not live without each other. The boundaries of content consumption has blurred. People are consuming long-format content on mobile screens. At the same time, the number of connected TVs in the country is skyrocketing and the phenomenon is also powered by YT. So while publishers may not choose to host their content on YT or FB, they will continue to reach and engage with their audiences on these platforms. The reverse also holds true.

New normal is the buzzword these days. What will be new normal in media planning and buying post-pandemic?

New normal is now an overused buzzword. At the core, we are talking about human truths and they don’t change. So we need to analyse the behaviour changes but also use caution to predict what will stay or become the new normal. As Kotler had quoted in the very first page of his marketing bible, ‘The future is not ahead of us. It has already happened. Unfortunately, it is unequally distributed among companies, industries and nations.’ Good news is that we are already seeing strong signals on what trends are here to stay and what are shifting. As a global network, Wavemaker is spending disproportionate time in exchanging this knowledge between countries and all our clients. We have weekly recovery dashboards by markets and our global practice experts are synthesizing these information to build industry-specific roadmap on recovery along with choices on media. There is no one-size-fits-all recommendation on media; this is a lot of grunt work and as an expert we are helping our client to pick what is relevant and ignore the noise in the system.

What will be the new normal when it comes to client relationship for media agencies?

There are no frameworks or best practices to tide through this crisis, our clients are experiencing this more than us. Our clients are leaning more on us. As agency, we are learning faster given our exposure across multiple industries. We are now consulting our clients beyond the ambit of media plans. They want us to be their trusted advisor who can positively provoke them and their current operating norms, even drive agendas that accelerate their organisation’s transformation.

And what will be the new normal in the relationship of agencies with media houses?

Our dependence on each other will grow. Recovery will be a slow process and we need to work together on two areas – higher accountability for every penny spent, and build bespoke solutions that solve a specific client challenge and not just requirement of advertising inventory.

Info@BestMediaInfo.com

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