SoCheers, the digital-first advertising agency, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. Therefore, BestMediaInfo.com spoke with the Co-Founders to know their take on the shifts in the digital ecosystem in the past 10 years, what has stood out for them in the last decade, the challenges they faced, and more such concepts.
On the question of what led to them setting up the agency, Mehul Gupta, Co-Founder and CEO, SoCheers, shared that one fine day he and Siddharth Devnani, while commuting to work, had the realisation that they always harboured an entrepreneurial spirit.
“After extensive brainstorming, research, and development, and recognising our affinity towards digital marketing, we thought of exploring various facets of the ecosystem. And, digital came naturally to us and we were drawn towards helping brands launch and thrive on digital,” he recalled.
He went on to add that as time passed, the agency kept growing bigger and therefore adding newer services to make SoCheers- a full-service, independent creative digital advertising agency.
On that note, he also went on to add, “Our objective has always been to design campaigns that endure and to relish the process of creating them. By ‘endure’, we mean leaving a lasting impact. As our name suggests, we are the #CheerSquad that revels in every project that comes our way.”
As per Devnani, Co-Founder and Director, SoCheers, every day is a new challenge when it comes to digital advertising and from an industry standpoint it is a continual challenge to keep pace with the ever-changing dynamics of digital and its consumers.
“In order to stay relevant, it is crucial to constantly evolve our strategies and consequently, developing innovative ideas on a regular basis can sometimes be difficult,” he opined.
He went on to emphasise that SoCheers strives to be top of mind for individuals who value both management proficiency and creative thinking. He said, “With our majority of the workforce comprising GenZ and millennials and considering their opportunistic mindset, we at SoCheers ensure that the work environment is thriving and that our people enjoy their time and grow here. Hence, we consistently work towards making it better and better.”
Elaborating on the USP of the agency, the co-founders also went on to state that what actually sets SoCheers apart is that the agency loves what it does, is inquisitive, believes in transparency and collaborative working, empowers and trusts employees to make the best decisions for themselves and their clients, believes in ideas over patterns and people over processes, holds pride in the work the agency creates and loves to celebrate.
In Gupta’s opinion, the agency does not believe in just building a digital presence for brands but also in providing immersive experiences coupled with driving business goals, ‘breathing life into brand goals’ and ‘Making it Happen!’ through everything content- albeit DVCs, films, influencer marketing, interactive microsites, engaging content or even creating that ‘WOW’ factor that gets everyone talking.
Moreover, Devnani also went on to recall that earlier on, persuading a brand to adopt digital marketing felt like a daunting task, akin to scaling a steep mountain without any gear or support as despite the amount of time spent on digital, brands were putting in minimal efforts to keep their audience engaged.
“Our objective was to bridge that gap by creating engaging content for the users. Hence, we aimed to not only win brands over but also to deliver the best possible results for them,” he said.
Additionally, Gupta also stated that a decade ago, the digital space was just beginning to gain momentum, and coming from a background where both he and Devnani have always been immersed in all things digital, it was only a natural fit for them.
“In fact, before the inception of SoCheers, we had already accumulated years of expertise and experience, and taking that leap of faith has proven to be a success,” he added.
He also went on to state that the agency recognised the inflection point in the digital landscape and helped brands embark on their digital journey and that in doing so, the one challenge that they faced in the early years was to convince brands to increase the allocation to digital, as brands somewhere were sceptical on results, unlike how in today’s day and age everyone is convinced about the impact digital can have on the brand communications.
Devnani added that having known that the advertising industry evolves rapidly, SoCheers also realised that it needed to move quickly, despite the co-founders wanting to start small and slow, taking one step at a time.
“We started off with just a handful of interns, a small apartment, and a few clients and projects and we both take pride in saying that we have done good work and our organic growth is indeed a testimony to that. Still, we have larger dreams to make a bigger impact in the industry, along with onboarding as well as nurturing the best of the talent internally,” said Devnani.
Sharing his views on one of the things that he loves the most about his entrepreneurial journey, Gupta emphasised that for him, it is the opportunity to constantly learn new things from different industries, categories of brands, and campaigns along the way as he finds the excitement of exploring diverse sectors and gaining insights from various perspectives truly invigorating.
Similarly, for Devnani, what essentially drives his entrepreneurial journey is the fact that both Gupta and he are creators at heart and are happy to create an ecosystem or platform for their teams to thrive personally and professionally while building brands and getting the best of the campaigns out there.
“Our success so far can be attributed to our strong leadership team and support system. We would constantly endeavour to be the go-to agency for influencer marketing, digital advertising, media buying and planning, and leave a lasting impression on all our brand partners,” he emphasised.
Touching upon the short- and long-term goals of the agency, he shared that SoCheers is consistently focused on exploring new sectors, services, and geographies and doubling down on diversified strategies along with building healthier systems internally for driving high efficiency and impact in parallel for clients.
Additionally, Gupta also went on to point out that the agency is very clear in its aim to do meaningful work for brands at a global level and thus it ensures that the campaigns rolled out are recognised across geographies. He said, “We want to make a name in the worldwide agency sphere and roll out campaigns globally, despite the challenges of not having established global tie-ups.”
He added that from a strategic perspective, SoCheers is focused on increasing its growth in two ways, improving the team's efficiency and revenues and over the next five years the agency's concentrated effort will be on creating marketing and advertising that is meaningful and impactful along with bringing together a team called SoCheers Spark to evaluate and execute campaigns that fulfil these criteria.
The agency has launched SoCheers Spark recently, and as per the co-founders, it is a strategically planned move.
The co-founders also emphasised that over time, SoCheers’ advertising campaigns have reached billions of people, and the agency believes that it's time to leverage this potential for creating a positive impact.
“Therefore, by creating a brand mark, digital can motivate people to take action and effect positive change in the world. Increasing awareness and interest in issues that can benefit society represents the next step in making a meaningful impact. As we celebrate ten years in business, we are thrilled to embark on this journey,” they stated.
Elaborating on the functionality of the same, Devnani said, “Our cutting-edge capabilities drive success for our clients. Additionally, we have launched SoCheers Spark, wherein we will be using our experience and reach to drive impactful cause-driven campaigns.”
“This department will assess campaigns outside of SoCheers and strive to create a difference in the markets we advertise in, even if it means changing perspectives. Through these efforts, we are confident in achieving our goals and making a lasting impact in the industry,” Gupta added.
Commenting as to what kept their boat afloat in the decade-long journey, he stated, “It is our people! Collaborations are at the core of everything we do.” With this, he also shared that collaborating with passionate and enthusiastic people in an extremely innovative and efficient manner is something that SoCheers holds in the highest regard.
“While we acknowledge that any expanding enterprise needs certain processes and systems, our emphasis on valuing people above all else allows us to be more adaptable, imaginative, and triumphant in all our endeavours. Also, we are always focused towards sustaining a work environment that is comfortable, and empathetic for the ones who give us their energies and time as we consistently believe in putting ‘ideas over patterns’,” he added.
Commenting on the agency’s growth in the last decade, Devnani shared that they now have over 200 professionals across Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru.
“Our retention numbers are also a mark of our strong culture. We currently have 9 people who’ve been with us for over five years, and 17 who’ve been here for more than three years. Moreover, we’ve had interns who have been with us for over six months, some even staying for a year, which is unheard of in the industry. It is also not unusual for us to have people come back to the organisation after leaving, which is a testament to the culture we’ve built, even when put in comparison to the larger industry,” he shared with pride.
Upon being questioned as to how is the agency identifying and leveraging trends for good in terms of the digital landscape, Devnani replied that SoCheers proactively studies and leverages evolving digital marketing trends as they believe in data-driven insights for brand-customer connections.
Sharing an example of the same, he mentioned that the agency had launched its own Data Intelligence and Analytics (DIA) division to deep dive into the data around trends and the science behind what works in the ever-evolving digital content space along with integrating AI technologies along with leveraging Social Listening, Data, Research and Analytics for impactful campaigns.
Commenting on the industry trends, Gupta also mentioned that influencer marketing and video storytelling have seen significant growth and will continue to evolve in the coming times. He went on to add that SoCheers has a strong expertise in both these areas through the agency’s Influencer and Outreach vertical and SoCheers Films.
“We have been early adopters of influencer marketing and aim to seamlessly integrate influencers with brand positioning. Similarly, we have capitalised on the shift towards video content with 'SoCheers films', as brands and platforms move away from static content,” he added.
When questioned as to how the tables have turned in the digital marketing arena in the past decade, Gupta replied that the shift has been significant from a point in time when digital marketing used to constitute only 10% of the overall marketing budget, and it was often considered a secondary medium that replicated traditional marketing communication on digital platforms.
“However, in the last four-five years, there has been a massive boom in digital marketing due to increased accessibility to the internet and smartphones. More people are accessing digital platforms on a daily basis, and digital marketing has become an equal contender in campaign and content strategy plans, with an average allocation of 30-40% or more of the marketing budget,” he added.
Furthermore, he also went on to add that the type of content that goes out on digital and traditional platforms is now given equal importance and that SoCheers, being in the right place at the right time, has witnessed and benefited from this shift.
Additionally, Devnani also pointed out that with the outbreak of Covid-19, there has been a significant increase in daily social media usage, leading to a rapid adoption of digital marketing and advertising in the past five years.
“Many start-ups as well as larger brands have shifted most of their spending towards digital, relying on digital agencies due to the immense potential of the digital space. This accelerated growth has surpassed the expected trajectory of digital marketing. From our inception, we recognised that digital was at an inflection point, which is why we have been proactive in helping brands embark on their digital journey, and we continue to strive towards that goal,” he said.