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Digital agencies struggling due to high dependency on top-tier talent: Amardeep Singh of Interactive Avenues

In an exclusive interview with BestMediaInfo.com, Amardeep Singh, CEO of Interactive Avenues, said that along with achieving a 95% client retention rate, Interactive Avenues onboarded more than 20 brands in 2023, contributing to its 200+ client roster

Amardeep Singh

While the share of digital advertising in the overall Indian ad expenditure surpasses that of TV, digital agencies are still struggling to align their revenue growth proportionally with the increase in digital ad expenditure.

Amardeep Singh, CEO of Interactive Avenues, points out that a key reason digital ad agencies struggle to boost their revenue in proportion to the growth in digital ad expenditure is the considerable reliance on top-tier talent, which is both scarce and expensive.

Sharing one of the solutions to this challenge, Singh said, “Recognising that talent is a crucial asset, it becomes imperative to strategically integrate automation throughout the organisation. This approach aims to enhance productivity, optimise costs, and stimulate innovation. The utilisation of AI/ML-led tools and technologies becomes instrumental in freeing up talent, allowing them to redirect their efforts toward more creative and strategic tasks, ultimately delivering greater business value.”

Along with achieving a 95% client retention rate, Interactive Avenues onboarded more than 20 brands in 2023, contributing to its 200+ client roster, said Singh.

In an exclusive interview with BestMediaInfo.com, Singh said that the agency’s integrated data hub became a major growth driver for Interactive Avenues.

“This hub aggregates vast amounts of information across various business functions, including consumer data from the agency DMP, publisher data, social listening data, search and keyword data, e-commerce shopper data, and client campaign data,” he added.

Throwing some light on the agency’s focus area in 2024, Singh said, “As we step into the upcoming year, we have outlined a compelling vision and growth strategy focusing on deepening our client engagement, increasing automation, integration of AI and ML and expanding our contribution to the advertising industry,”

Excerpts:

How has the year 2023 been for Interactive Avenues?

In 2023, Interactive Avenues experienced remarkable business growth. Aligned with our vision of delivering comprehensive digital marketing solutions, we expanded our presence not only in core media services but also in verticals such as creative, influencer marketing, social media, e-commerce, ORM, analytics, tech development, programmatic, and more. We successfully onboarded 20+ leading brands across diverse industries, contributing to our 200+ client roster, and achieved an impressive 95% client retention rate.

Can you share the major growth drivers that propelled Interactive Avenues forward?

This year, our focus on establishing a world-class integrated data hub became a major growth driver for Interactive Avenues. This hub aggregates vast amounts of information across various business functions, including consumer data from the agency DMP, publisher data, social listening data, search and keyword data, e-commerce shopper data, and client campaign data.

Employing advanced tools and ML algorithms, this data was meticulously analysed to drive intelligent decision-making. The insights from our data hub became the guiding force for all aspects of our work. For example, our content team aligned creatives with trending search queries, social media campaigns capitalised on audience engagement data, planning teams strategize ad placements based on customer behaviour analytics for higher conversion rates, and creative teams refined visual elements using performance metrics to maximise impact. This holistic, 360-degree approach dismantled silos, created cohesive brand experiences, elevated conversion rates, and delivered better ROI.

 Additionally, we introduced innovative tools and frameworks that played a pivotal role in driving growth for our clients:

• Influencer Power Index (IPI): A culture, data, and human insight-driven tool that identifies the most appropriate content creator or influencer for a campaign.

• Carter: A first-of-its-kind e-commerce solution that integrates search, location, category, and competition intelligence, facilitating efficient inventory management at the pin-code level.

• Addressable Content Engine (ACE): A data-driven 'Person-Place-Moment' framework designed to deliver personalised creatives at scale.

Does being backed by a network agency give a competitive advantage over the independent ones?

Absolutely. Being a part of the IPG Mediabrands network has been a game-changer for Interactive Avenues. The synergy and resources that come with being under the umbrella of a global network agency have provided us with unparalleled advantages. Access to cutting-edge technologies, a global pool of talent, and collaborative opportunities with other IPG entities have significantly enhanced our capabilities.

This synergy empowers us to offer clients a comprehensive suite of digital solutions and stay at the forefront of industry trends. The strength of our network is a key factor that sets us apart and contributes to our position as one of the largest and most influential digital agencies in the country since our acquisition in 2013. Our global presence provides a unique blend of worldwide reach and local insights, crucial for global clients. This dual perspective is instrumental in crafting campaigns with a global impact and resonating deeply within local communities. Our established global relationships with major media houses and platforms often translate into advantageous ad placements and competitive rates for our clients.

Could you outline the expectations and objectives set for Interactive Avenues in the upcoming year, along with the agency's overarching business strategy and growth plans?

As we step into the upcoming year, we have outlined a compelling vision and growth strategy:

• Deepen client engagement: Moving beyond traditional media buying and planning, our focus remains on understanding our clients' key business priorities, fostering close partnerships, and jointly achieving success.

• Increase automation: We are committed to elevating automation across all departments, enabling our teams to concentrate on strategic and creative tasks, and enhancing overall efficiency and satisfaction.

• AI and ML integration: Building on our existing utilisation of AI and ML, we aim to develop and deploy customised AI/ML-powered solutions tailored to the unique needs of each digital craft within our agency.

• Contribute to the evolving advertising ecosystem: Recognising the industry's shift in multi-agency pitch dynamics, we are dedicated to collaborating with industry bodies, such as the Internet and Mobile Association of India, to formulate guidelines that empower both brands and the advertising agency fraternity. Our goal is to contribute to the continued evolution of the advertising landscape.

Over the past year, CTV advertising has made significant strides. How do you envision its future in India, considering the existing challenges related to effective impression tracking and attribution?

The future of CTV advertising in India is on a transformative trajectory, propelled by the surging adoption of smart TVs, high-speed internet and a shift in consumer preferences towards streaming services and cord-cutting trends. With events like IPL (free) and T20 WC, adoption will be further increased. The growth is further boosted by India's diverse linguistic and cultural landscape, offering a good opportunity for localised advertising.

However, there are challenges like tracking, attribution and transparency. Technological advancements are paving the way for improved measurement capabilities and standardised metrics, crucial for optimising campaigns and ensuring brand safety. The industry is moving towards a more integrated approach with broader digital marketing strategies, embracing innovative, interactive ad formats and data-driven targeting. This synergy of collaboration and innovation is expected to make CTV advertising a mainstay in India's advertising ecosystem, delivering dynamic, hyper-targeted campaigns and interactive experiences at scale on the biggest screen.

While the share of digital advertising in the overall Indian ad expenditure surpasses that of TV, digital agencies are still struggling to align their revenue growth proportionally with the increase in digital ad expenditure. According to you, why is it happening and how can one navigate this challenge?

This discrepancy can be attributed to several factors. One significant factor is the high dependency on top-tier talent, which is both scarce and costly. Recognising that talent is a crucial asset, it becomes imperative to strategically integrate automation throughout the organisation. This approach aims to enhance productivity, optimise costs, and stimulate innovation. The utilisation of AI/ML-led tools and technologies becomes instrumental in freeing up talent, allowing them to redirect their efforts toward more creative and strategic tasks, ultimately delivering greater business value.

Recent reports indicate that just five companies—Alibaba, Alphabet, Amazon, Bytedance and Meta, comprise over 50% of global advertising expenditures. What factors do you believe have contributed to this concentration of power? Furthermore, what are your insights on the implications of such dominance over the advertising ecosystem?

This concentration of power is fuelled by their adeptness at aligning with consumer trends and delivering sought-after products and services. Furthermore, these companies boast powerful targeting capabilities, enabling brands to reach their desired audience with precision and efficiency.

However, this dominance poses challenges such as potential increases in advertising costs, privacy concerns, and potential impacts on innovation and content diversity. Navigating this landscape requires a strategic approach, emphasising collaboration, responsible data practices, and regulatory measures. This ensures harnessing the benefits of these companies' reach and efficiency while mitigating associated challenges.

How will blockchains and GenAI change the way marketing and advertising happen? Do you think there needs to be a check/body/guidelines on the ethical front in the A&M domain as well?

Blockchain technology has the potential to enhance transparency in advertising and prevent ad fraud. On the other hand, Generative AI is revolutionising the way we create content while enabling a much higher degree of ad personalisation. Yes, like any new technology, there is a definite need for ethical guidelines to address issues like privacy concerns, algorithmic bias, legal compliance etc.

Info@BestMediaInfo.com

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