DAN Interviews

Programmatic will play an increasingly bigger role in buying: Ashish Bhasin

Author | Alokananda Chakraborty | June 15,2015

Programmatic is not very big in India because digital is still a very small portion of the overall advertising pie. Also, not many agencies have invested in understanding digital, Ashish Bhasin tells Alokananda Chakraborty

Dentsu Aegis had consolidated its India business under you. What benefits do you see coming from the move?

Globally, as well as in India, we now have one profit and loss (P&L) - that is our strength. If you see globally, in its original form, communication used to be bundled - creative, media etc used to be under one roof. Then, somewhere along the line the whole process of unbundling started and you had media, digital, public relations and so on. Clients started demanding specialisation and so agencies offered specialised services under different verticals. In fact, agencies now offer super-specialisation - so under digital you have social media, search and so on. But you have to understand that while clients want specialisation, they don't want the hassle of dealing with a whole bunch of people who work in silos. You see, in a silo each specialisation would want to protect its own P&L and would hard sell its own offering.

In contrast we follow the principle of one country, one P&L. We have 1,700 people, of which 700 alone are engaged in digital. So we can offer liquid talent and we can offer an integrated solution keeping the clients best interest in mind, not what each P&L wants to sell. I believe that it is our unique selling proposition.

Every advertising agency worth its salt is focused on digital and every advertiser is looking to divert monies from traditional to social, or so the advertising fraternity would like us to believe. Why and how social media can, in fact, be an effective marketing tool?
See, if we look at it as digital versus tradition, we would be taking a very short-sighted approach to the whole change that is taking place. We are already in the middle of a digital revolution, in a few years we will stop talking about digital and traditional, everything will be digital and the mobile is at the forefront of that change. You know the background - handset prices are falling, data costs are coming down, 3G and 4G is here. It won't be more than 18-20 months before we see the mobile revolution sweeping away everything in its way. The tipping point is when smartphones become 30-35 per cent of the overall mobile market. So we are just about a year-and-a-half away from a complete digital explosion. We would like to be prepared for that change and so we don't treat the mobile as an indulgence like other Indian agencies do.

As an advertising industry veteran, you would have seen a lot of changes first hand... one of the biggest changes that rarely gets discussed is the change in how advertisers purchase ad space, especially in digital. Today programmatic buying is a big thing in markets like the US and UK. Has programmatic arrived in India? What do advertisers and their agencies need to consider to make programmatic buying work for their communications plan?
Digital has changed everything, not just media buying and selling. An earlier generation would look at the city pages in the newspaper to look up the moves that are running, then go to the theatre and buy the tickets. Now you would look up that information on your tablet or mobile phone and buy your tickets on bookmyshow.com. That is the digital native way of life and that has made media planning and buying a tad more complex like it happened when you moved from terrestrial to satellite channels-you had 300 channels, 24 hour programming; so you needed different software, optimizer and so on. Now, suddenly, it is not 300 channels but 3 million. So you need completely different skills and software because a lot of it is happening real time.

Programmatic will play an increasingly bigger role in buying. So last month we launched the Amnet trading desk to facilitate the programmatic way of buying and selling. It is a algorithm-based technology, which was created in response to the technology-driven revolution in digital media buying. We use a sophisticated technology stack to target your precise audiences and to deliver better business outcomes.

This is one step towards a more progressive and personalised approach. It will combine people, data and technology to deliver real time, targeted ads to the most relevant consumers. The idea is to offer clients a more efficient buy with the help of a team of experts who specialise in platform-based media buying.

Programmatic is still not big in India because digital is still a very small portion of the overall advertising pie. Second, not many agencies have invested in understanding digital. Amnet is a first of its kind solution to offer the kind of data inputs that increases the effectiveness of our clients' digital media investments.

You see with so much data floating around, is there any need for advertising research? What value does it bring to the table in any case because advertising is supposed to be more art than science? Developing emotional connections is still the best way to achieve brand success…
Of course, and the need was never greater. In media you would typically have two kinds of inputs - qualitative data that a TAM or BARC would offer, but the bigger need is consumer insight. In an earlier era, when you spoke of an SEC A consumer, you could safely assume their reaction points would be similar. Today, they have very different reaction points. So you need mammoth-scale research to unearth such insights that can make your communication strategy work that much harder. That's why we have chosen to invest in our own global proprietary research, Consumer Connection System, on a huge scale, in India.