Brands are reviewing aspects like apps, platforms, customer experience, increasing online distribution
Recently, WPP further consolidated its agency brands under the VMLY&R network — Indian digital creative agency The Glitch and global creative commerce agency Geometry have both been brought under the VMLY&R network. Anil Nair speaks to Venkata Susmita Biswas about the network’s vision, keeping pace with the changing advertising ecosystem, increase in digital uptake owing to the pandemic, and more.
Mark Read, WPP’s CEO, has spoken of a ‘radical evolution’ roadmap for the network. Where is that headed? What is the idea behind the consolidation of agencies we are seeing?
More than radical, evolution is the keyword for me here. The pandemic has disrupted many business models and life models that we took for granted. This means that agency networks like ours need to keep pace with the changes in the ecosystem. This is the era of the digital economy. Today advertising is like a stream of consciousness. Consumers are constantly ‘connected’ from the point they wake up until they go to bed. We are moving into a phygital existence where actions in the physical world are augmented by digital interventions and vice versa.
We are working on addressing the changing brand building paradigm for this connected ecosystem. Between VMLY&R, The Glitch and Geometry, we have full-funnel solutions which include storytelling, creating content at scale, data-driven marketing, commerce, and retail and experiential marketing.
Could we expect leaner teams and rationalisation of other costs?
It is still early days. For now, it is totally business as usual. In fact, we are seeing this as a stepping stone to do bigger and better things. We are looking at growth, rather than any kind of rationalisations.
The pandemic seems to have accelerated digital transformation. What areas are brands now keen on developing?
Some practices that brands have adopted during the pandemic will continue post-pandemic. Brands are reviewing aspects like apps, platforms, customer experience, etc. Some are looking at renewing their loyalty programmes, increasing online distribution, and seamless integration of online-offline commerce. The pandemic has also catapulted commerce into a life saviour for many brands. Brands were dragging their feet on matters like these, putting them off for the next quarter. But that is no more the case. They are using the pandemic to make rapid strides in testing new models and pivoting. The effects of this will be seen later, and brands will reap exponential benefits in three to five years.
Are FMCG brands also rethinking their digital plans?
The customer experience of FMCG brands is not just cast in stone, but is also at the mercy of the larger retail sales ecosystem. Unlike, say, banks, they are not entirely in control of their value chain. That said, FMCG brands are trying to look at every possible opportunity to influence or touch a consumer’s life, either through content platforms, social commerce or social networking, to educate and engage with consumers. FMCG brands understand the importance of creating their own channels and frameworks, and not being dependent on third-party networks to reach consumers.
Does this mean agencies like yours are able to go beyond advertising budgets and offer more than just branding-related solutions?
We consider ourselves to be a marketing agency rather than a creative agency. A lot of the fresh initiatives are coming from different budgets at the client’s end. Brands are looking keenly at a few areas like customer experience and first-party data. Everything from a brand’s app, website, call centre, e-commerce, and after-sales touch points are part of the overall customer experience. Martech companies, consultancies, system integrators and networks like ours are offering these. Additionally, the conventional digital advertising budgets are growing.
The theme has largely been one of empathy. We observed during the initial part of the lockdown that people were suffering from dental problems, but could not access their dentists. So, in 20 days, we rolled out a platform called ‘Dentists for Me’ for Colgate. When TikTok was still around, Marico created a campaign called Champi Beats for its brand Parachute Advansed. This was to encourage people to bond with their loved ones during the lockdown over a ‘musical’ head massage.