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Digital has outpaced print to become the second largest ad medium in India: Anand Bhadkamkar of Dentsu International

In a conversation with BestMediaInfo.com, the CEO of Dentsu International India shares the advertising outlook for 2021

Anand Bhadkamkar

Digital will grow at 20% in 2021 while print will be able to touch the pre-Covid levels only by 2022, said Anand Bhadkamkar, CEO, Dentsu International India. 

“Digital will be the driver for growth across businesses in 2021 and will remain as the core focus for Dentsu International in India as Covid-19 has accelerated the digital transformation,” he said.

Bhadkamkar said digital is the only medium that has grown in 2020. "The Dentsu network is targeting a growth faster than the market and it will be supported by its strength in digital," he said. 

According to him, ad spends in 2020 were down by around 16-18%.

While other traditional mediums have de-grown in 2020, they will recover in 2021 but are not anticipated to reach the 2019 levels till 2022, Bhadkamkar said.

He said that in traditional mediums, spends continue to be higher on TV, especially in GECs and news genres and regional channels, but getting back to the 2019 levels will still take a year's time unless there is some further positive momentum in the current year.

“While print is coming back stronger, it too will take time till 2022 to get back to the 2019 levels. Digital has outpaced print in 2020 and has become the second-largest medium after television and it will continue to be a growth driver for the advertising industry and ad spends, taking the larger share going forward,” Bhadkamkar said.

Bhadkamkar said over the year 2021, there will be a 10-12% growth in ad spends but it will still be lower than 2019. “We expect a double-digit growth in 2021 over 2020’s advertising spends.”

Dentsu International in India is investing more in high-growth areas and in businesses with higher potential and opportunities. It will invest in businesses where there is demand and need. “We are repurposing and retooling our teams accordingly,” Bhadkamkar said.

“The digital journeys of everyone—consumers, brands and companies —got accelerated in the Covid year. We are working and will continue working with our clients on their digital transformation journeys. Some of the areas we are working on are providing ad tech and martech solutions, content, creating personalised experiences for consumers, helping and partnering with clients on their e-commerce requirements and providing data solutions. The 3 Vs — voice, video and vernacular — will continue to remain priority focus areas in 2021 as well,” said Bhadkamkar.

Dentsu globally announced the rebranding of its international operations as Dentsu International from Dentsu Aegis Network with focus on simplifying the network’s structure. The endeavour is to get Dentsu’s capabilities to the clients in a simple and nimble manner. The overall focus is providing access to all Dentsu capabilities to clients without any challenges of silos.

“Our network is idea-led, tech-enabled and data-driven, and these remain a key to our solutions as we partner with clients in solving their business problems. Creativity remains at the core of what we do. Content, creating personalised experiences, UI, UX, martech, adtech and data solutions will be major drivers in our growth plans,” he said.

Brand consolidation is underway and from 160 brands, the network is consolidating to six global brands, mainly Dentsu Mcgarrybowen, Carat, Dentsu X, Isobar, i-Prospect and Merkle and the plan is to complete it by 2022-end.

For India, the agency would be consolidating from its existing brands to seven. The seventh brand will be Posterscope (OOH) as the network sees strong OOH capabilities in the market through Posterscope and Milestone.

“One advantage for us in India is that historically we have been quite strong on digital, with the medium comprising almost 50% of our business. Even outdoor business has been quite strong for us, so we will have Posterscope as the seventh brand. The leadership at the teams will start consolidating soon,” Bhadkamkar said.

While DI is consolidating the brands, the core capabilities being delivered by the businesses remain and will get further consolidated. The whole idea is that the network gets the best of its capabilities to clients and they get easy access to resources, network and talent, irrespective of whichever brand or agency they are working with.

Bhadkamkar said globally Dentsu announced almost 12.5% headcount reduction but in India, it has started the journey on optimisation of resources much in advance.

“Historically we have been working as ‘One Dan’ for providing solutions to clients, but this move further makes the access to One Dentsu at the global level for our clients as well. As we progress on this journey over the next two years, this will provide further opportunities as well for our talent in the market,” said Bhadkamkar.

Ever since the lockdown started easing up, the network in India has been bouncing back faster than anticipated.

“In India, when the pandemic hit and with the start of the lockdown, we anticipated de-growth and altered our projections. But our digital brands and some of our businesses have done much better over 2019. To name a few, Dentsu WebChutney, Merkle Sokrati, Dentsu X, WatConsult and Fractal Inc have performed well in 2020 despite the challenging business environment. Our digital strength and capabilities have helped us in faster recovery and IPL, coupled with the festive period, helped us recover faster than originally anticipated. However, on an overall basis, the recovery to pre-Covid levels will be a gradual process,” said Bhadkamkar.

Speaking about A&M trends in 2021, Bhadkamkar said, “With Covid, consumer behaviour has undergone a change. There is a big shift in consumer preferences and how they behave and react. Brands are focusing on purpose-driven advertising and marketers are looking at getting that across for their brands. The journey is more towards how we get personalised experiences for consumers and solutions across to clients.”

According to Bhadkamkar, the Covid situation is showing a positive trend and with vaccines coming, it should help improve consumer sentiment and confidence, which will aid the recovery in 2021.


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