AAAI may soon have a solution for the challenge of dipping agency commissions: Shashi Sinha

Sinha, CEO of IPG Mediabrands India will be given the AAAI Lifetime Achievement Award today. attempts to bring out the lifetime learnings of the 'Bhishma Pitamah' of the Indian media industry in this interview

Akansha Srivastava
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AAAI may soon have a solution for the challenge of dipping agency commissions: Shashi Sinha

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As agency commissions plummet to as low as 0.5 to 0.25%, the Indian ad agencies have joined forces to tackle this challenge. Hinting at some near future announcements on this front under the leadership of AAAI President and GroupM chief Prasanth Kumar, Shashi Sinha, CEO of IPG Mediabrands India, told that AAAI will be addressing this issue soon.

He said, “We have made a lot of progress to protect the industry and our own interest. I only speak when there's tangible action. Something is happening on this front and we are moving in the right direction. It all comes from within. If agencies collectively agree not to go below a specified rate, a transformative shift can be expected.”

Sinha further said, “Commissions so low as 0.25% are meaningless. Agencies agree to such low commissions just to bag businesses against the competition. Clients understand this agency’s thought process and make the best of the situation for themselves. As an industry, we need to hold on and tell clients that if they need quality and strategy, they need to pay us well. Even marketers want good quality. This is our problem and not to be blamed on clients.” 

While Lifetime Achievement Awards typically honour industry leaders approaching retirement or who have already retired, AAAI, the apex body of the Indian advertising industry, is making a special exception for Shashi Sinha. Today, the India CEO of IPG Mediabrands will be recognised with this prestigious award.

Thrilled to receive the award, Sinha said, “I am in no hurry to retire. There is still hunger in me.”

Sinha is bestowed with the title of ‘Bhishm Pitama; of the industry, a title he earned as the individual whose words everyone heeds. On being asked how he got this position, Sinha chuckled and said, “While everyone listens to me, I'm not certain they follow my advice. Ashish Bhasin bestowed this moniker upon me during one of the Goafests. A joke between us, when he named me Bhishma Pitama, I reminded him that one should also recall how Bhishma Pitama met his end.”

Nevertheless, Sinha believes numerous individuals are deserving of this title, such as Piyush Pandey, Sam Balsara, or even Vikram Sakhuja. He highlighted the impactful changes brought about by Prasanth Kumar since assuming the presidency of AAAI. "What PK has accomplished is unparalleled; no one else could have achieved it, given his influence and leadership at the helm of the largest ad agency. If the six to seven major ad agencies in India unite for the industry's betterment, positive transformations will unfold, and that's why PK deserves significant credit," he said.

Holding the position of BARC chairman, Sinha believes that a lot is left to be done at the organisation. “There are so many ideas and no lack of money when it comes to BARC. But we get caught up in micro-issues related to ratings coupled with structural challenges. To solve the issue of quality of ratings and challenges associated with landing pages, BARC will soon be introducing Android metres. Even when it comes to digital, BARC has been running the largest set of 12000 digital panels for measurement. This makes us capable of measuring CTV.”

Sinha further said that if implemented, the Data Protection and Broadcasting Services Bill will be fruitful for the industry in the long term. “Unfortunately, a lot of global companies come with the mindset of managing budgets and P&Ls every quarter. They don’t want to think for the next 3-4 years in the present. These things need 2-3 years of window,” he said.

Sharing learnings that have helped Sinha grow on the personal and professional fronts, Sinha said that he’s always believed in the power of teams and the eagerness to learn. “This comes with the mindset that I am not as competent as a lot of other people can be. There are a lot of people who know better than me.”

Moving forward in the interview, he also appreciated the support of his family. He said a lot of industry-level work would not have been possible without the support of my family. “Leading industry bodies involves a lot of effort and time, which many people may not see upfront. Accepting my involvement in industry bodies beyond my regular job is commendable for my family as I remain on the phone and talk to friends even after reaching home. My family is more excited for the awards than anyone.”

Sinha is one of the few who have remained with a single company for so long. In today’s time, it is rare to find people sticking with a company for a longer tenure. Sharing his thoughts on the talent retention challenge the industry faces, he said, “I blame the bosses. Someone taught me very early that people work for people and people leave because of people. If the bosses are good leaders, the company employees will also be happy.”

Watch the freewheeling interview to know more:

agencies Prasanth Kumar advertising AAAI Vikram Sakhuja Sam Balsara IPG Mediabrands Shashi Sinha Lifetime Achievement Award agency commission