The experiential practice business of Geometry Encompass, an experiential marketing company under WPP, had taken a hit during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. The agency’s shopper and rural practice businesses too went down last year.
On the positive side, the agency witnessed a growth of its content practice. “As we get ready for 2021, I am fairly confident that we will do better,” said Ranjit Raina, CEO of Geometry Encompass.
Experiential and rural commerce are going to be key drivers and the agency has been working on those plans for a while now.
Raina said a lot of companies that were not present in the rural space are now exploring those markets. “We will see a lot more deployment of technology-enabled activations in the rural space. I believe this space can grow by 15-20%.”
Speaking on the opportunities with VMLY&R Commerce, Raina said, “Being part of VMLY&R should be a distinct advantage in 2021.”
The agency recently got merged with VMLY&R to create VMLY&R Commerce. How the merger will benefit both the agencies globally and in India?
In India, we were Geometry Encompass and globally Geometry is now a part of VMLY&R group as VMLY&R Commerce. VMLY&R Commerce will continue to remain an end-to-end “creative commerce company” but gets stronger as it combines the talent and scale of two thriving global offerings. VMLY&R Commerce will operate as a distinct company within the VMLY&R global network. In India, the network is especially strong with the presence of VMLY&R, The Glitch and us. The reporting and operational structures are being worked out but we will pretty much operate cohesively as a group. We will continue to have two brands; Encompass will be part of VMLY&R Commerce. Dual brands help us manage clients and conflicts. In the next few weeks, we will have an operational plan in place.
For brands specifically in India, it will allow us to be truly end-to-end. The skill sets and expertise of all the partners in India— VMLY&R, The Glitch and us—give us a distinct advantage in what we can offer to the brands we work with.
Ad agencies are adopting hybrid models. We saw many mainline ad agencies launching a virtual experience division for their clients. Will it create competition for experiential agencies?
Mainline agencies are starting virtual experience divisions, and experiential agencies are doing creative work. At a certain level, everybody is doing everything, especially this year. What is important is how one distinguishes what one does. I think you need to have focus, and a focused offering is what will stand out.
How was the year 2020 for the agency in terms of growth and business? What was the impact of the pandemic on the agency?
The business was down and that’s no surprise. In some areas, the impact was more severe. Our experiential practice, which is essentially live events, had taken a greater hit than our shopper or rural practice. On the other hand, our content practice grew. As we get ready for 2021, I am fairly confident that we will do better.
Experiential and rural commerce are going to be key drivers for us and we have been working on those plans for a while now. Being part of VMLY&R should be a distinct advantage in 2021.
What are the focus areas of the agency for 2021?
The key focus areas for us are experiential, rural and shopper. With rural driving the revival of the economy, we believe we will see a lot of action in the space. Our rural practice is already talking to a lot of companies that weren’t present in the rural space but are now exploring those markets. We will also see a lot more deployment of technology-enabled activations in the rural space. I believe this space can grow by 15-20%. The shopper practice continues to grow and the 5G rollout should have a lot of impact on shopper solutions that use technology such as AR.
In experiential, we are seeing the evolution of virtual experiences. So far, we have just scratched the surface of the possibilities. In 2021, we will see many more ambitious and audacious experiential campaigns.
According to you, what are the trends that will help shape the Indian advertising and marketing industry in 2021?
As 5G rolls out, we will see a lot of innovation in the commerce space, especially with technology such as AR getting deployed on scale, both online and offline. I also see AR having a profound impact on OOH and see experiential and OOH collaborations.
The other trend is the growth of experiential commerce; virtual experiences that directly drive conversion and commerce—unifying experiences with social commerce and e-commerce.
Tell us three trends that would dominate experiential marketing in 2021?
Voice: Voice is emerging as a very effective experiential tool. In 2021, we will see it grow substantially as more brands embrace it.
Virtual: Even in a post-pandemic world, we will continue to see innovations with virtual experiences from the use of AR, VR and MR to online experiences.
Owned Experiences: More and more brands will want to own experiences that allow them to create and nurture communities.
What is the biggest challenge for agencies today?
Ambiguity and uncertainty are the big challenges, not just for agencies but for all of us. Traditionally we relied on historical data to forecast and predict what’s next. While one never knew for sure, we did have a very good idea. All that changed. We all have to reimagine how we approach problems and solutions and the key will be our ability to stay agile.