In-depth: How are CTOs, CDOs and CIOs spearheading the new shift in Indian adland?

Experts emphasise that owing to the breakneck pace of technological advancements happening across the globe, the role of Chief Technology Officer, Chief Innovation Officer and Chief Digital Officer has become all the more important at agencies

Shreya Negi
New Update
In-depth: How are CTOs, CDOs and CIOs spearheading the new shift in Indian adland?

(Left - Right) Vishal Jacob, Preetham Venkky, Niraj Ruparel, Siddharth Bhansali

Keeping pace with the technological advancements across the globe, the Indian adland has invested heavily in technologies and continues to explore new avenues in addition to its focus on data and analytics to create personalised and focused marketing campaigns. 

Some of the recent campaigns such as Shah Rukh Khan My Ad, The Unfiltered History Tour and Sachin’s #FutureFearless, amongst others, have notably exhibited the potential of AI-powered tools and creative partnerships in the advertising realm, and the opportunity that it has to offer when backed up by stellar technologies.

If we take a glance at the various nomenclatures for the role of creative technologists in both independent and network agency setups, it is evident that the ones who deal in selling products majorly will have a Chief Technology Officer, whereas those dealing in services will have a Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Digital Officer, etc. Having said that, today we see roles such as these playing a key role in revolutionising the way agencies operate and thrive in the digital age. 

As a result, decided to gain a comprehensive understanding of why is it only now that the role of a creative technologist is gaining prominence and what it really means in terms of roles and responsibilities.

As per Preetham Venkky, Chief Digital Officer, DDB Mudra Group, the role of a CDO is typically more-business focussed as the job is also to guide in terms of how technology can be used to gain top-line growth in addition to bottom-line growth. All this has to be done while giving a competitive edge over other agencies and the added advantage of reckoning the technology stack that clients may need to work on in future.

“Since agencies are mostly service-driven organisations, the role of a CTO is often considered slightly below the CDO in the agency ecosystem because if an agency has two professionals- a CTO and a CDO, the roles and responsibilities of the two would eventually double up. As a result, we don’t have a CTO in DDB Mudra Group,” he stated

Additionally, he also shared the opinion that despite the different nomenclatures for the roles of a CTO, CDO or even a CIO, their primary responsibilities for most parts (at least 70%) is the same as it has a lot to do with giving a technology-based advantage to the firms. 

In his view, the responsibility of choosing the right kind of tools to improve efficiency and productivity, which then delivers on ROI, lies on the shoulders of the person overseeing the tech side of things. As a result of the same, they often look at certain technology investments which are focused towards giving them a competitive advantage.

Commenting as to why is it only now that the role of such technology professionals is gaining importance, despite being there in the ecosystem for a long, Venkky stated that because there is a significant change in technology adoption and market shifts every ten years (mainframes in the 1980s, PC and laptops in 1990s, internet in the 2000s, mobile phones in 2010s, AI in 2020s), the beginning stages mostly require someone who is both tech-savvy and has the ability to guide the organisation through the process of adoption.  

“The roles of a CDO, CTO, CIO, etc. have always existed in the agency ecosystem, but it was just that in some cases it was not really at the forefront, especially during the middle of the cycle. In the middle of the cycle, they always tend to gain prominence because they are the ones who guide the organisation through the new era,” he clarified. 

As per Niraj Ruparel, Head of Mobile and Emerging Tech, GroupM India, and Emerging Tech Lead, WPP India, it has become increasingly important for businesses and individuals to stay abreast of the latest developments in order to remain competitive with the constantly evolving technology’s breakneck pace.

However, for many people, the prospect of keeping up with the rapidly changing tech landscape can be daunting, and that, in his view, is precisely where individuals like him, who are passionate about technology and its potential, can play a critical role in inspiring and empowering others to embrace the future of tech.

“The role of a creative technologist is to combine creative and technical skills to develop innovative solutions, often within the realm of digital media and technology which typically involves working at the intersection of art, design, and technology and possessing a unique blend of expertise in areas such as programming, interactive design, user experience (UX), and multimedia production,” he said.

He also went on to add that agencies today need to blend creativity and technology effectively, and in order to do so they need to embrace collaboration between creative and technical teams to foster innovation and unlock new possibilities, invest in upskilling, leverage data to make informed decisions and stay agile.

As per Vishal Jacob, Chief Digital and Transformation Officer, Wavemaker, too, the role of advertising has always been to drive a positive disposition to a brand and the means to create this positive disposition in today’s age is by creating great experiences across every single consumer touchpoint - which is why data and technology are playing a very critical factor in creating these experiences.

“As a result, advertising agencies have had to invest in skillsets that can look at consumer data and leverage that for better consumer insights and campaign activation,” he said.

He also went on to add that with more media and advertising spending moving towards digital, it has become imperative for brands to acquire customer data, create the right infrastructure to store this data, enrich this data with customer attributes and create an activation plan for multiple use cases in marketing and beyond.

“To land this one need to have a good understanding of technology, a keen business sense and a grip on the organisational culture. Manoeuvring the organisation in this direction needs a sponsorship at an exco level and as a result, most organisations feel the need to have a CDO, CIO, CTO, today,” he added.

According to Siddharth Bhansali, Founder, Noesis. Tech, and Chief Technology Officer, Zoo Media Group, the role of a CTO has become indispensable due to the pervasive integration of technology in our lives and coupled with consumers engaging through digital touchpoints, ad agencies must extract insights for impactful, personalised advertising. 

In his view, the CTO serves as a vital link between technology and marketing, facilitating understanding and adoption of the latest technologies and shaping up the agency's strategy to navigate the digital revolution and develop competitive solutions by gaining deep consumer insights through leveraging data analytics, AI, and automation amongst others.

“By fostering a culture of innovation, the CTO encourages teams to experiment, ideate, and push the boundaries of advertising in the digital era. With a culture of innovation, the role encourages experimentation and pushes the boundaries of advertising in the digital era,” he added. 

A key reason why the demand for tech-savvy roles is surging in the current times, in his opinion, is that tech-driven initiatives are now the linchpin of strategic growth, especially in terms of personalisation, automation, and analytics. 

“With the advent of AI, machine learning, and big data analytics, CTOs can glean valuable insights about consumer behaviour, market trends, and campaign performance by deploying technologies to enable hyper-targeted campaigns, predicting consumer behaviour, and gauging campaign ROI with precision whilst ensuring data integrity and privacy, fostering innovation, and driving digital transformation,” he said.

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