The medium and message are no longer different: MA Parthasarathy, CEO, Mindshare, South Asia

July 19, 2019 1:04 AM

The challenge in leading this agency is in maintaining the momentum. Since we have clients in every conceivable category, there are some clients we cannot pitch to, because of our existing relationships.

MA Parthasarathy, CEO, Mindshare, South Asia, interview, Mindshare india, YouTube, brand safetyMA Parthasarathy, CEO, Mindshare, South Asia

By Venkata Susmita Biswas

Earlier this year, when media agency Mindshare India was restructured, MA Parthasarathy was named the CEO of Mindshare South Asia. In conversation with Venkata Susmita Biswas, he talks about the evolving media buying business, handling the HUL integrated media buying mandate, digital media measurement, and more. Edited excerpts:

What are the focus areas for Mindshare India post the restructuring?
The challenge in leading this agency is in maintaining the momentum. Since we have clients in every conceivable category, there are some clients we cannot pitch to, because of our existing relationships. So, our focus is on enhancing client satisfaction, and improving our products and talent. That said, we have maintained a decent new business quotient in emerging businesses, especially in the start-up and digital ecosystem.

Broadly, we want to power the entire consumer journey from brand-building to demand generation and demand fulfilment. Therefore, the focus areas are leveraging data, creating, managing and disseminating content, and enhancing capabilities in the digital space.

How equipped is Mindshare Fulcrum to handle the consolidated HUL media account?
Unilever has upped its digital game tremendously in the last five to six years. The company uses digital not just as a media platform, but also as a business tool. Given the scale and advanced level at which HUL is functioning, it needed a highly focussed approach from us. We brought in new talent, undertook a mammoth upskilling project for the entire team, and learnt to adopt an integrated approach for media planning.

The Fulcrum team has grown by about 15-20% to handle the HUL integrated account. We also made a huge investment in automating reporting and implementing media plans. M-Report is the tool that integrates data from across digital platforms onto one place. Another important pillar was building partnerships with relevant players in the digital ecosystem to carry out the task at hand.

Mindshare India has been increasingly focussing on the content side of the business. What has prompted this diversification?
The regular part of media buying is going to get more and more automated; there is no escaping that. The only way for the industry to keep evolving is to be at the cusp of data and content, because today the medium and the message are no longer different; they are one. To achieve this synergy, we are bringing in individuals from outside the advertising agency business to work with us, and have been striking relevant partnerships to bring proprietary data and content tools.

How do you function in the absence of a cross-platform digital video measurement system?
The absence of a single source data dashboard is a universal problem. The need is indisputable, but difficult to implement. When it comes to using digital videos as a way of achieving incremental reach, we at Mindshare are able to devise an AV (audio visual) plan and not a TV plan using a product we have developed. But even this tool uses assumptions and hypotheses to arrive at the plan, since we are using inputs from different databases.

Why are media agencies not taking a stern stand against platforms like YouTube that compromise on brand safety?
It is very difficult to make these platforms 100% brand safe or compliant with viewability standards. A platform where there is user generated content (UGC) has the potential for brand safety issues. A combination of pushing global giants to keep improving their brand safety norms and our own active efforts to whitelist channels where we want to be present will get us as close to 100% as possible.
It cannot be an either-or situation between OTT and UGC platforms. The digital advertising ecosystem is rapidly evolving, so we need to constantly evaluate these platforms and leverage them effectively. Clients will lose out on the opportunity of engaging with audiences if they boycott these platforms.

Media buying is known to be a battle of pricing rather than strategy. Doesn’t that put the business under pressure?
The business is definitely under pressure due to the constant procurement-driven conversations of reducing fees and rates. That said, media buying has now become a lot more strategic. It is not purely price driven, simply because of the complexity due to media fragmentation. The question of ‘how can I get more bang per buck’ has not changed; but the answer is changing. CEOs and CMOs are not just focussing on getting the lowest rate, but also on driving more sales or better brand consideration in the most efficient way.

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