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BW Businessworld

‘The Days Of Channel First Are Over’

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It is a time of great disruption in marketing. Where do you see the shifts in media planning? 
There are so many channels and so many touchpoints to potentially engage with consumers today that I think the day of the channel strategy is rapidly ending. You have to take a much more holistic view of the consumer. It’s not a question of shall we use Youtube or Vine. That’s the wrong way of thinking. The right way of thinking about it is what do we want to do when we interact with the consumer. So the days of ‘channel first’ is going. To be honest, it should have been gone already.

Is the media pie growing or only shifting?
The pie is growing, but I don’t think many marketers are going to have infinitely expanding budgets. Right now, most agencies are just making sure their bases are covered. If we make an arrangement with a new messaging app, it means that one more area is being covered. We have arrangements with Google, deals with Facebook, and all other platforms that are important, but it does not mean we are betting on all of them.

So you are hedging? Is hedging a good strategy? 

It is about coverage. Not hedging. There are many categories wherein a messaging app is not appropriate. There are other categories where you will not use social as the first means of contact with consumers. What we have to do is to look at the consumers’ world. We look at their way of using a channel and go there. Otherwise, we would be chasing the next shiny object forever.
Are you able to keep pace with the consumer?
Yes. It is actually my job to do that.  

How do you do it? Do you do it through Big Data?
Actually no, it’s more through small data. Big Data is important from the point of targeting, re-targetting and trading. But it is small data — what you do as an individual — that’s more interesting. We want to get away from mass targeting and get into individual targeting based on consumers’ preferences. We need to know how you engage with different parts of your world. I think the next couple of years will be about small data.

Where will you get this small data from?

The consumer is more and more connected. As smart TVs come along, we will collect cookies on what you are watching. As Internet of Things come along, we will learn more about individuals. If I know you go jogging at six in morning from your wrist band, but your colleague goes jogging at six in the evening, we will differentiate our messaging time around that behaviour. But that’s a future dream. At the moment it is more conceptual. Data is being collected, but there are not too many good cases of it being used. The challenge is it must be useful, but not intrusive to the consumer.  

What other disruptions do you see?
The whole concept of utility is becoming very important. In the near future, advertising is going to look less and less like advertising. It is either going to look like content or it will be utility. Consumers do not have time to be marketed to, they have busy lives. They want people and brands to help them make their lives easier. And it is up to us to serve stuff that is useful.

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 11-08-2014)