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Not Young, But Never Old

Prasanth Kumar, CEO, Mindshare South Asia, asserts that every step the agency has taken is with the client in sight, and that the biggest differentiator in has always been talent

Photo Credit : Umesh Goswami

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In the last decade, the marketing sector has fast evolved to become central to a company’s agenda towards achieving its business objectives. Combine that with the advent of the fourth industrial revolution that has made it clear that to thrive, businesses must work as ecosystems, and not as individual organisations. We are faced with an industry where a company’s success is defined by the strength of its partners. This reality has cascaded on the media and marketing services discipline as well, demanding the agencies of the future to take roads less travelled.

For Mindshare India, the way forward is in keeping laser sharp focus on two aspects: being client-centric and putting talent first. Prasanth Kumar, CEO, Mindshare South Asia, asserts that every step the agency has taken is with the client in sight, and that the biggest differentiator in has always been talent. “Especially the younger talent,” he says, adding, “this will continue to be an area that the agency will disproportionately invest in.”

The Rise Of The Agency

The growth of marketing as a function has upped the expectations from the role that agencies play. Part of the media holding company GroupM, Mindshare has seen the whole metamorphosis of agency-client relationship in India. The media agency crossed the 20-year milestone this year. This also means that the media agency business itself is now officially two decades old. In this time, among all that has changed, one of the most noteworthy has been the tighter handshake between the agencies and their clients.

“It is eventually about the value that you contribute,” reflects Kumar. “The only job we have is to solve a challenge for the client and if that is the only job, then the onus is on us to comprehend the overall situation and create the right solution. The more effort we put in, the more we understand the business and the more we become part of the clients’ journey. We are no longer just the agency team but we are the extension of our clients’ own team.”

Hindustan Unilever and Mindshare, which  crossed the milestone of 20 years of partnership this year, is a rare industry example. Nike, PepsiCo and Diageo are few of the other decade long relationships.

“Clients involve us in solving challenges. Every client wants to win and we try to bring in success by being involved at different levels. Much of it comes from working beyond the brief. The industry itself has changed to give us more opportunities to do so. We are not just restricted to working on a plan anymore but because we use data to understand the consumer and give those insights to clients, it allows us to come with novel ideas and engage clients in various discussions. This fosters trust, belonging and ownership,” explains Kumar.

No Business Is An Island

Mindshare reiterates the need to understand the importance of the ecosystem. “Twenty years ago, everything was different. We did not have as many channels or specialised media. A very large part of the last two decades has been about developing an ecosystem that has made interactions more meaningful,” says Kumar. He recalls that 20 years ago, media was at the tail-end of the advertising value chain. A few years ago, it moved up to a more mid-level position. But today, it is at the forefront.

“Media agencies are leading the conversation now because the ecosystem around is casting a much wider net in the impact it has. Research and data was our natural strength and we invested in understanding the consumer in deeper ways,” adds Kumar. This is one trend that he sees accentuating with time. Even as newer kinds of competition come in the fray, Kumar believes that betting on certain areas will keep Mindshare future ready and relevant.

The DDC Approach

Mindshare was perhaps one of the first agencies to embark upon a ‘value-add’ approach. This essentially means that with the growth of digital, Mindshare looked at investing in areas that would prove mission critical for marketers in connecting with consumers. The 2018 version of this approach is dubbed as DDC: Data, Digital and Content — the three areas that played a massive role in making Mindshare one of the most awarded agencies globally and were instrumental in its incremental revenue growth.

Elaborating on the award wins, Kumar says, “We are the only media agency in the world to have won a Glass Lions Grand Prix at Cannes Lions. Mindshare India was number two globally in the Gunn Report. Five of our clients were named ‘Marketers of the Year’ on several forums this year. To me these are validations of our approach that also motivate us to push forward harder.”

Despite the dull economy and several external challenges that adversely impacted advertising expenditure, Kumar says 2017 was “another good year” for the agency. Apart from industry recognitions, Mindshare also added over $100 million in its new business billing. Much of the business has come from non-legacy media, especially digital. For a media agency, this metric is significant because as consumers’ digital adoption increases, media spends will shift to newer media. Agencies that recognise this are not only directing marketers in the right direction but are also better prepared for a digital dominant future.

“Our offer FAST is shaping stronger and there is growth in programmatic consumption of our clients,” informs Kumar. The year 2017 also saw Mindshare focus on content creation notably. The agency has an award winning transgender pop band ‘Brooke Bond Red Label 6 Pack Band’, which led a movement in its wake. The agency also created Marathi movie Guru as part of a content partnership between its client United Spirits’ Bagpiper Soda and Eros International; it did similar work with Kannada movie Chowka. It also created the talkshow named No. 1 Yaari, which was driven by an association for Diageo. Mindshare leveraged various elements in the narrative and format of these shows for its clients.

“We are investing in automation, accuracy and in overall excellence, and in 2018 we will have a more significant emphasis on e-commerce as well,” says Kumar summarising the agency’s 2018 game plan.

Talent Transformed

Mindshare has given a shout out to its people power at every possible platform. Its biggest learning in the last 20 years has been the understanding of the role that the human capital of the agency plays.

“In the entire transformation story, the biggest aspect is how talent is changing,” says Kumar. He explains that Mindshare has trained, developed and invested a lot in talent. Much help has come from being part of GroupM. If two years ago, 20-25 per cent of the agency’s people were proficient in data, digital and content, now this number is at 35 per cent. Kumar believes that next year it could be even 50 per cent, and all of this is due to the training, and the constant addition of diverse talent and skills in the agency. “This also means that there is so much more that people can do than just strategy, buying, research and planning in an agency now,” explains Kumar.

The agency’s 20-year celebrations has been largely about celebrating its talent team. Spread over three days, Mindshare organised activities around the values of speed, teamwork and provocation. It connected its staffers from across offices for the celebrations in the spirit of promoting ideas and best practices exchange within its offices.

“It is not just us who completed 20 years but the industry itself. As a business, we have all evolved. At Mindshare, our strength has come from finding relevant, comprehensive and effective ways of developing solutions. This in turn, has driven innovations in the sector. For the next two decades too, this has to continue and will continue since this is critical to grow leadership. This is how we will build on our wins. We will continue to be restless and paranoid in creating a better future. It is a responsibility that we have towards our clients and towards the industry,” states Kumar. 


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