Tanmay Mohanty, CEO, Publicis Media Services, Publicis Groupe India took over the reins of the global agency’s media business at the beginning of the pandemic and in the past two-and-a-half years, Publicis Media India, under his leadership has acquired clients that are ‘digital first’ and ‘think of solving the consumers’ problems in the long run.
In an interview with BestMediaInfo.com, Mohanty said, "Just before the beginning of the pandemic, we had landed the account for Hero MotoCorp. So, the first three-four months went into the setting up of the team which was a difficult task as our people were at home. But post that, we had to plan not just locally, but globally as well, for what was coming and determine how prepared we were for it.”
He also emphasised that Publicis Media India has been a digital-first organisation traditionally, hence the company decided to scale its strength which constitutes data from both viewpoints- platforms and media.
“The idea was to bring analytics and real identity into focus and thus with the Epsilon acquisition, Publicis’ focus changed from how cookies and mobile identification works to a more market-focused point of view as to how that changes with a person and their identity on the internet,” he said.
He also went on to add that Publicis Groupe India is also focused on how they can keep analytics at the core of media services. Given their performance background, Publicis Media India identified that commerce gained significant momentum in the past two-and-a-half years, hence they picked up on performance and commerce with an aim to be the first company that came to the client’s mind when they thought of commerce.
“For the last three years, our focus has been on how we make sure that we can report back to the client for every rupee that we spent on the market,” he said.
Commenting as to how the agencies under Publicis Media India fared in the current year in his opinion, Mohanty said that the respective agencies have performed quite well and have landed and retained some big clients like Meta, Abbott, Stelantis, Nestle and PepsiCo in the past two years.
He added that Publicis Media India is very selective in terms of the clients that it takes on, rather than participating in every other pitch. “We are focused on clients that are looking to truly future-proof, transform and pivot their businesses.”
Mohanty said that Publicis Media India is always open to clients that are innovative, future-first and ROI-driven and that is what is common with each client of Publicis Media India, be it Meta, Eureka Forbes or ABinBev, etc.
“They’re all focused on the new world of marketing, be it in terms of building a cookie-less world or Web 3.0 or the metaverse. These are all areas that we are well-geared up for,” he said.
Commenting as to how Publicis Media India is looking at the ad-tech and mar-tech end of the business in 2023 with the Metaverse gaining momentum, Mohanty stated that two or three things are happening simultaneously.
“Not just in India but across the globe, consumers are increasingly becoming conscious as to who has their data and in which manner it is being used, be it platforms, government or anything they are interacting with,” he said.
Mohanty also added that in the past decade the advertising scenario has changed and become more inclined towards programmatic and real-time personalisation as that is where the context lies.
“All platforms, be it Google, Facebook, Amazon, TikTok, Paytm etc. have their own data and we want to make sure that our clients’ media budget is spent on the aspects that it's supposed to be spent upon.”
“When those platforms don't give out data since their consumers are looking for privacy owing to the cookie-less world and Web3.0, from a 2023 point of view, our focus has been on doubling down on the real identity,” he said.
This doubling down on the real identity can be attributed to how Publicis Media’s clients operate in a world where they know their audience by using the consented data of the consumer and it is not easy.
Citing an example, Mohanty said, a bank knows who their customers are, but what they don't know is what is the potential of their consumers to buy more, lend more or even sell more.
“Real identity for us was about knowing at which point the consumer will react to a communication, be it paid or earned but not owned media,” he added.
Summing up the current year for Publicis Media India, Mohanty emphasised that the current year was all about how their large clients think from an earned and owned media point of view.
“Our focus was to determine which touchpoint should we use to expose the consumer to a certain communication and which touchpoints should be used for marketing, be it when the consumer walks into a shop, goes on to their website or even opts for watching a movie,” he said.
Additionally, he also pointed out that commerce has also changed in the past few years, and it is no more about what the team is able to deliver to Publicis’ clients just on big platforms like Amazon or Flipkart, but also thinking of what the future of retail media will be with Jio and other data providers coming into omnichannel.
“We need to think as to how our team uses that data and build plans which are based on real identity while also understanding who the growth audience is and how do we get them to buy more or bring in new consumers for our clients. Thus, from a mar-tech point of view, our focus was to automate the entire process for us and our clients,” he said.
When asked as to what some of the trends were that he witnessed in the market in 2022 and how they will be the pillars of the growth journey in 2023, Mohanty said that from a macro point of view, two or three big changes are happening currently.
“While the type of content is not changing, the place of content consumption has changed, and it is no more restricted to traditional mediums but about consuming content on the go. As a result, social interaction and media are also changing and thus we are looking at opportunities which allow clients to interact not just at an individual level by being present on traditional mediums, but also looking at social categories that work for them,” he said.
He also emphasised that the TV landscape is also changing and the penetration of CTVs is rapidly increasing so much that most households are opting for multiple TVs out of which one may be a Smart TV and the other might be a traditional one.
As a result, Publicis has been planning and understanding the consumption pattern, measurement metrics, etc. with reference to people who are consuming individualistic content versus people who watch content with their families, he said.
“There seems to be a rise of micro-content which essentially means that while people still want to see an ‘x’ Netflix series or watch an ‘x’ movie, they are also hooked on to smaller content like Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, etc.,” he said.
Mohanty also emphasised that decoding the aforementioned challenges will be the pillars of Publicis Media’s growth journey for 2023.
Upon being questioned as to what some of the objectives would be that he has set aside for Publicis Media for 2023, Mohanty replied, “We’re still grappling with how India and the world economy are working amidst several headwinds but in the next year, we’ll be looking at two things mainly. One is how can the team think of commerce and creativity together. Secondly, our focus will be to add more digital-first clients to our kitty.”
“When I say commerce and creativity, it’s not just commerce for media or creating content, but how can we bring an experiential commerce and deliver it to the clients at scale,” he added.
Since Publicis Media believes that in the next few years, clients across the board will look at ROI in terms of every penny of the money spent and how it changes from a short-term to a long-term prospect for them, all the recent account wins of Publicis Media have been a bunch of digital-first clients, Mohanty highlighted.
Mohanty also went on to point out that what stood apart for him this year was how the cultural dynamics and the team’s learning changed during and in the post-pandemic world. The way Publicis Media approaches the market has also changed for good, as per him, as the agency is now looking forward to clients who don’t want to solve a single problem at hand in the short-run, but how can they solve it for a longer time.
“This has been a record-breaking year for Publicis Media as some of the best clients moved in. The account wins during the first half had been a lot of new-age clients, but the second half had added a lot of digital-first clients in our portfolio,” he said.
In a move to ensure that the best talent stays back in the media agency, Publicis has also changed its policy for talent acquisitions and is now not just restricted to hiring from top institutes, but from across India.
“Since the culture of Publicis has always been more focused on training and being digital-first, the focus is on how through these training can each individual grow closer to their goals, ranging from when they come in versus when they are in the system for some time,” he said.
When questioned as to how he foresees the media landscape changing with regards to the purported threat of global recession kicking in, Mohanty said that from an India standpoint, it is a ‘wait and watch’ game for both Publicis and their clients.
“From a media point of view, the problem is not at the supply side of the mediums, but more at the supply of quality content which opens doors to various touchpoints,” he said.
He also went on to point out that from the client’s point of view, Publicis focuses more on ‘verticals’ like banking, automobiles, etc. because it makes it easier for them to translate their learnings from one client and implement it for the entire vertical which also helps them in retaining talent, rather than pitching to several categories at one time.
Additionally, Mohanty also pointed out that Digital OOH as a medium is picking up owing to the culture change, but he added that since marketers didn't spend much on digital OOH it is still going to take some time to grow fully.
“Today as people have stepped out, the ROI seems to grow faster there but we’re still struggling with the scale and personalisation since the measurement in India is not very brilliant from an OOH point of view,” he added.
In Mohanty’s views, both traditional and digital mediums will continue to grow in 2023 in terms of media spending, but some of the new-age components which will see a significant rise will be e-commerce and earned media like short videos.
He also emphasised that in distress times such as recession, clients become more focused towards the ROI and thus the lower funnel objectives become more important for them apart from brand building. “But large clients perceive it as the right time to do brand building as competitors and smaller players don’t play at that time,” he added.
“From a social point of view, what we have been seeing so far is that the traditional mediums are seeing a transformational shift in terms of providing solutions for upper funnel objectives to the lower funnel ones,” he said.