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Upcoming data privacy regulations to make performance marketing difficult for brands, says Harikrishnan Pillai of TheSmallBigIdea

The CEO and Co-Founder of the agency feels brands should focus more on ideas and content as sharper targeting of consumers may not be possible once the new data protection laws come into effect

Harikrishnan Pillai

Brands must create compelling stories as the upcoming regulations around data privacy will make sharp targeting of consumers on digital more difficult, said Harikrishnan Pillai, CEO and co-founder, TheSmallBigIdea.

“Content and ideas will gain marketers’ priority and less importance will be given to performance marketing,” he said.

Talking about the trends that will dominate this year, he said gaming will become the next big thing as far as finding new consumers are concerned.”

“Regionalisation, content marketing and homegrown influencers will also see huge adaptability in the marketing strategy of brands. Every brand is going to start becoming a content producer," he said. 

Pillai said that despite the Covid-19 pandemic, his agency is slated to grow by 50% in the current fiscal. 

“We will be closing the year with 50% more from what we closed last year. The agency has won about 55 assignments in the last few months," he said. 

He said 20% of the agency’s social media revenue comes from TSBI Bharat. TSBI Bharat has clients from Bihar, Punjab and Maharashtra regions where it works for regional content players and brands. Pillai said Hindi requirement has become sharper for brands.

“We are working for non-media brands that are big in the regional space,” Pillai said. 

He said the company expects to grow by 55-60% in the next fiscal as well. 

"While media and entertainment remain to be a dominant part for us, which will continue to grow this year, we will be focusing big on e-commerce and consumer products," he said. 

At present, TSBI has six brands in the e-commerce space. “We have a bouquet of services to offer to e-commerce brands and platforms,” said Pillai.

“For Bharat, we will be targeting a lot of regional clients. We are pegging ourselves to become a full marketing division for films.  We will soon become a one-stop shop for most of our clients. There is a force towards becoming a holistic one,” Pillai said.

According to Pillai, the agency’s focus area is to sustain the current business, expand and build its e-comm and Bharat businesses. “We will form a strong division in e-commerce, holistic marketing.”

“Our studio business is also very important for us. We did about 55 video content/ ad films in 2020. We want to work a strong way in the film and marketing division,” shared Pillai.

Pillai said expertise in tech is going to be another big focus area for the agency in 2021.

The agency has clients from TV channels, production houses, OTT platforms, films, banking sector and e-commerce.

“Our long-term competition is with media tech companies and short-term competitors are ad agencies,” Pillai said.

Pillai said TSBI launched its regional services about two years ago, which gives the agency an upper edge in the industry. “TSBI Bharat has talents who understand how a region behaves and understand those markets.”

Speaking on the impact of the lockdown on the agency’s business, Pillai said, “The first quarter of 2020 had an impact on our businesses, as there was rate slashing of services and shoots were not happening in the M&E sector.”

He said the agency’s business started to pick up from the second quarter. A lot of business came from e-commerce as many brands opted for digital for marketing and to reach out to consumers for their products and services.

According to Pillai, during the lockdown, creator-based marketing became very popular. Production value reduced and creator value increased. “Our studio and creator business increased. International markets started to give us business and we got clients from the US, Middle East," he said. 

Pillai said the businesses with which the agency works are very robust. “Our choice of clients and services over the last many years has helped us.”

On whether he wants to be a part of the network agency ecosystem, Pillai said, “We don’t have any such ambition right now. We like the freedom to choose our clients and the work we do. I think that won’t be possible if we are part of a network. But if we see our goals aligned with a larger agency, then we don’t mind being a part of it.”

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