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Emotional data will be more relevant than big data in 2021, feel BBDO India’s Josy Paul and Suraja Kishore

In an interaction with BestMediaInfo.com, the top brass of BBDO India say emotional data will lead to more authentic work, with big data and other tech tools playing more of a supporting role

(L) Josy Paul and Suraja Kishore (R)

The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed BBDO India to create new digital brand experiences for its clients. The sudden rise of the digital customers has forced the agency to realise the importance of omnichannel readiness.

Speaking to BestMediaInfo.com on the trends that are likely to dominate 2021, Josy Paul, CCO-Chairman and Suraja Kishore, CEO at BBDO India, said, “We will see a comeback of brands wanting to take a stand, and build consumer trust.”

Talking about the role tech will play in consumer communication this year, Paul said, “Big data is allowing agencies and marketers to have pointed conversations with consumers, but emotional data will become more relevant. I believe this will lead to more authentic work, which is rooted in human confessions, not just insights. Big data and other tech tools will expand the power of this new reality.”

Kishore said despite the pandemic, the agency has been able to strengthen its profitability. “We have been more profitable than last year,” he said.


How was 2020 for the agency?

Kishore: We are completely overwhelmed as we overshot our targets for 2020. We have been more profitable than last year.

There was a sense of collective resilience and nobody felt that they were alone, whether it was our clients or our leadership team at BBDO. Each one of us was striving for more.

We found comfort in breaking new ground with our work; in getting new business, and in hand-holding existing clients.

In fact, Covid-19 has worked for us as an unexpected ingredient to solidify and say that the only thing we have is the love for our work, for each other and the community we belong to.

The impact was that it shifted the ground from just being operationally heavy to being anchored in values that we believe in, whether it is with brands or people.  

Do you think the agency has been disruptive in its work for the clients?

Paul: We were born in 2008, in the height of the recession. Disruption is built into our DNA.  So, when the lockdown happened, we took it in our stride. Of course, there was anxiety, but we gathered ourselves quickly and focussed on what we were good at — The Work, The Work, the Work.

The pandemic, for us, was about being responsive. It’s exciting what happens when you respond to the moment and to the context, and are not governed or overly influenced by a fixed set of rules. There was a built-in fluidity in our organisational structure that allowed us to handle the disruption and be more responsive.

We kept our creative wheel well-oiled. We saw that everyone was working in full force and our own creativity was being well used. We were re-inventing ourselves and, in the process, we began to re-invent the system.

2020 was a challenging year for businesses. How did you manage to sail through?

Paul: To me, at a time like this, creativity is sensitivity in a world where no one is listening.

We were empathetic to our clients’ issues. We spent more time listening and knowing more about their situation. That was the most important.

Sensitivity and mindfulness were also at the forefront in our relation with our own people internally, and with our larger leadership team. Together we seized the changing scenario and made it work for us.

We started putting new codes to our life and a new order to our work, and we had to accept that nothing is sacred and that we have to keep an open mind. It didn't matter where we were coming from; we had to look at it from a new perspective, the present.

What will be the agency's focus areas and overall target for 2021?

Kishore: For 2021, the focus will be to embrace the inherent culture of BBDO even more than in previous years. Our philosophy of going back to the roots, to be the agency which cannot be defined and going back to our original mission of doing such works which have never been thought or done by anyone else before.

We are keen to work with categories which were launched in 2020 and with clients we have never collaborated with before. We want our roots to sprout in places where it has not been before and find and create that ecosystem. 2021 is about discovery!

In 2020, we launched BBDO circle where we collaborated with new unrelated partners to solve problems for clients. We are even more excited about nurturing BBDO circle and BBDO groundswell in 2021.

As an agency, we would like to focus more on input - which is on our performance. If we focus on input our profitability increases, our targets overshoot and we would like to repeat that passionately in 2021.

These are the times when every pre-planned marketing and advertising strategy had to be modified and changed completely. All the agencies put their best foot forward to help the clients. How has your journey been in this regard?

Paul: The pandemic was pushing us to create new digital brand experiences for our clients. The sudden onslaught forced us to realise the importance of omnichannel readiness as more and more consumers were consuming digital channels at an unprecedented scale. The media and content world were changing at the speed of the virus. Our creative response to the new dynamics became our single-minded focus.

Clients' budgets have shrunk significantly. This essentially means you spend a lot to earn more. How have ad agencies adjusted to the new reality?

Kishore: Everybody in advertising gives more than they get. In advertising, we are emotionally wedded to making brands happen, to find out why consumers do what they do, how we can make people fall in love with the stories that brands have to say.

Has there been a remuneration which has been accurate in the 25 years of my professional career? Absolutely not! The conversation of monetisation of what we create for brands has been part of many research studies, many models have been tried. It has not been fair play so far and has further challenged.

You need your lighthouse of values to decide where you will draw the threshold.

As long as there are a market and demand for it, you can decide where to draw the line. As an agency head, I would decide a certain threshold, beyond that if our values will be compromised then we will not do that business.

There will be always a premium for quality and we have seen that even in lockdown situations and as an agency we will go that way.

The definition of marketing is constantly changing. What would be the key trends in 2021?

Paul: We know that big data is important and that is something that is allowing us to have pointed conversations with consumers. But emotional data will become more relevant. What we mean by emotional data is that the raw and real universal emotions that human beings are going through will become the change agents. I believe this will lead to more authentic work, which is rooted in human confessions, not just insights. Big data and other tech tools will expand the power of this new reality.

Kishore: In a trust-deficit world, we will see a comeback of wanting to take a stand, and build consumer trust. It will make a shift from short-term strategies of brands to a long-term more understanding where they deposit trust on a daily basis to be a robust brand.


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