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Put consumers at the heart of your digital plan: GroupM’s Samraat Kakkar

Samraat Kakkar, Head Digital, Group M – Team Airtel, in a conversation with Digital Market Asia, talks about how the industry must take digital as an ecosystem rather than a platform and how the Indian market is slowly making a transition in terms of mobile and digital being enablers, rather than a medium. He also talks about how tough it is to compare digital with traditional media as traditional has years of data to link it to a marketing metric and how the brand custodians have to thrive to get some form of currency in place.

Despite the conversations on the growth of digital, marketers are still a bit apprehensive when committing to digital spends. What are the challenges that you face in getting marketers on board?

The biggest challenge is in helping clients understand that digital today is not a medium but an ecosystem that cuts across. Today a consumer journey is fragmented across various digital touchpoints. To get true value out of digital, brands need to put the consumer at the heart of their digital plans and understand consumer journey. They need to stop looking at display, social, search and social as standalone. They need to think of digital and mobile as an enabler.

How do you strike a balance between creativity and technology and how difficult is the implementation?

Our solutions and recommendations always try and deliver a digital experience for the TG, keeping the brief in mind. Today a digital experience can’t be delivered without using technology. The only challenge is that such solutions require planning well in advance.

India did not bag any Cyber Lion or Mobile Lion this year. What do you think the Indian agencies need to do to win international awards for digital creative? 

Award winning work happens when both the client and agency are aligned on the understanding of digital / mobile. Look at the list of winners and nominees at Cannes, for each entry you shall notice that digital / mobile are enablers with the consumer and the message at the heart of it. In India, we are still making the transition from using digital / mobile as a medium to using it as an enabler.

With an expected double digit growth of digital, mobile and social in India, will marketers’ spends shift from search and display? Is ecommerce getting added to spends, and showing any ROI?

I think yes, we shall see a shift in digital spends moving away from more conventional digital opportunities like display & search. With investments increasing in this space, clients are keen to get more value out of these spends. Clients are also starting to understand that there is only so much you can achieve from conventional digital media mix. Also with new platforms starting to monetise, there are new media opportunities emerging that didn’t exist till a year back.

Do you feel ad blocking in iOS9 is the right approach, as it will prevent advertisements of digital media brands from loading? Where do you think the future of display advertising lies?

The future of digital advertising is immense. Till recent past, digital was synonymous with display. Even when newer platforms had started to emerge, they started with conventional display formats. But with changing user behaviour, newer formats are emerging. TV+ or cross screen communication, content, native formats are emerging and clients are willing to pilot with them over a course of time. Traditional digital / display media companies will do well to step back and look at this shift and adapt.

With social media moving ahead to social commerce with ‘buy’ buttons, how do you think brands can leverage social commerce to get more consumers to engage?

What purpose does engagement as a standalone metric serve; is up for debate. Success on digital comes when one looks at it from a fresh lens and not the same lens as TV or print unless it’s a TV+ approach. Instagram and Pinterest are said to be 2 platforms that shall lead the social commerce in foreseeable future. Understand what a successful presence on these platforms mean. Understand imagery, understand the user connect with imagery, invest in creating content and then link it back to your commerce objective. Another thing to add here is internet of things. With physical devices connected to internet, services like IFTTT will give a great impetus to social commerce.

With advertising coming to visual-based platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest, how important is visual storytelling for the advertisers and what are the best practices for every brand to conquer this space?

Humans process visual content 60,000 times faster than text as per scientific research. Also, there are many other pointers as part of scientific research to support that we respond better to forms of visual content. The only best practice is to embrace and commit to a format once as a brand you have decided. And when you are in pilot phase, don’t have a shoe string budget. Give the pilot enough support system where the chances of success are more. Typically, a brand gets on a visual platform, uses stills that are part of a photo-shoot, uploads new pictures once in a while and then the assessment is that the format doesn’t work for us.

Despite digital media’s nature, where ad spends should be measured, the industry lacks a currency of sorts. Does it hinder the growth of spends on digital platforms?

Absolutely it hinders growth. Digital is fragmented into various pillars. You have display that works on CTR’s, you have performance media that works on cost per conversion, you have social media (the organic part) which measures on engagement, shares, RT’s comments etc. A brand and marketing manager is struggling to understand how this links back to his objectives. Weather its brand lift, weather its TOMA or CTB, or final sales. Traditional media has years of data and science to link it back to marketing metric. One can argue that digital is far more dynamic than TV or print. But then as custodians of this ecosystem, we need to thrive hard to get some form of currency in place.

What according to you are three big trends to watch out for digital for 2016?        

There is always a difference in global trends vs local trends. Let’s focus on local trends.

Mobile – This trend will continue to be trend for many more years. There will always be something new around mobile every year that will remain as a trend. But more this year, we shall see big advertisers on digital / mobile finally accept mobile as an enabler and not just a medium to push communication.

Breaking of digital silos – Brands have started to understand that if their agencies for media, social, performance, content etc continue to work in silos, there will always be a limit to the upside value that they can achieve. Hence we shall see breaking down of silos. Big brands will move to bring more cohesiveness in the way their digital agencies work.

Understanding consumer – This is something I have spoken of quite a few times in earlier questions also. Brands will want to have better understanding of digital consumer behaviour, digital consumer journey, how the consumer connects across devices, their on device behaviour etc.