Digital has made media planning more exciting: Prasanth Kumar, GroupM

GroupM South Asia CEO Prasanth Kumar believes the ongoing digital transformation is a unique opportunity for media agencies to understand consumers and deliver tailored solutions for clients. Kumar, who will soon complete three years at the helm of GroupM South Asia, spoke to exchange4media about the changing media and advertising landscape and its implications for the industry.

Edited excerpts:

What kind of changes has the pandemic brought to the media agency industry?

The digital space has become more evolved due to the pandemic. Areas like e-commerce, influencer marketing, and social platforms have seen a major acceleration. From the consumer’s point of view, knowledge of new consumer habits has become essential. Today, our ability to learn more about consumers from different sources has become much more interesting. Our goal was to apply all of this learning to marketing. We have imagined new solutions for our customers. A lot of work has been done to build capacity and attract more talent. What also became essential was working closely with customers by understanding their business and providing them with the right solutions.

How has the client-agency relationship evolved over the past two years?

With all these changes and evolutions, it is important to understand how the customer ecosystem has changed. The focus on D2C platforms and accelerating commerce from a customer perspective has become very critical. The ability to integrate and deliver integrated solutions ranging from content, communications, etc. targeting consumers has become important.

There’s a lot more responsibility on both sides to understand consumers and then apply those learnings to creating marketing solutions. For us, it’s been a fantastic journey through all of this because we were very involved in understanding and learning about the evolution of the business from a customer perspective. It also gave us the opportunity to get up to speed and apply that to client businesses and learn from it.

Culturally, dealing with so many changes and adapting was a great vigilance for all of us. Our team has done well in adapting to these changes. We have also been buoyed by the enthusiasm and encouragement of customers.


Have clients’ expectations of their partner media agencies changed in recent years?

With the changing media landscape, the tasks are also changing. The ability to shape the future becomes a responsibility for us. Being proactive in directing customers has become critical. Data technology has also become a critical aspect as many new age players enter old age categories and old age categories play in new subcategories.

Innovation and the speed with which we are able to deliver solutions to customers has also become very important. In all of this, the ability to be proactive has taken on greater importance. It is also useful to offer predictive information based on all knowledge of the data. This is how things accelerated from the customer’s point of view. I also have to point out that most of the clients got more involved, which allowed us to do much better.


Has media planning become much more complex with the emergence of digital?

Media planning has become more exciting, thanks to digital, thanks to the knowledge we have today. We have many more opportunities today. Information from multiple sources allowed us to propose more radical solutions. This enthusiasm encourages us to offer marketing solutions to our customers. The ability to find solutions and to think more deeply has expanded. We are in a very exciting phase and these things do not come very often. There are many opportunities in data, technology and content.

So I wouldn’t say it’s complex because digital has challenged media planners in a very positive way to do different things.


What kind of capability have you built in the last two years in the wake of digital acceleration?

It is an ongoing effort. We are fortunate to have a very large team across different brands and practices. Emphasis was placed on learning and development and on platform expertise. Fundamental basic learning is not enough as there are multiple digital platforms across search, e-commerce, social and OTT platforms. We need expertise in different platforms. We have collaborated with platforms and partners in addition to having our own development aspects.

Over the past two years we have built a team of 1000 and an offshore hub has been activated from India. It’s still a great story for us. If you look at it from a WPP perspective, it’s even bigger. We have over 4,000 to 4,500 employees on hubs that we do for offshore clients. This is a new capability that we have built.

So learning and developing is one area, learning together as a community is one area, working with and leveraging partners to get each platform’s expertise in one area, and business understanding is another area. . We have also expanded our offerings. Our e-commerce solutions have become deeper and more scalable. In the content area, we’ve done a fantastic job in influencer marketing. Although we haven’t had too many sporting events, the sporting division has consolidated and strengthened since we had the Indian Premier League (IPL).


Given the digital onslaught, what do you see as the future of traditional media?

In the Indian context, there are many opportunities for everyone to coexist. What has also happened is that the pandemic has widened the channels for everyone. For media platforms, the content is the most important aspect that plays, although the format in which the content is used is how the media is decided.

According to our report, all mediums are growing. We work with each media partner to find the best possible solutions for our clients.

One of the things we see on TV is the growing connected TV set. Today, every broadcaster has an OTT platform. This is a big area to watch.

Today’s print offers great opportunities as it delivers fantastic content daily. Again, you have to look at how they leverage all of their strengths and develop them into multiple formats. There are also innovations in existing formats that are not about page volume but about representation and creating beautiful pieces that appeal to consumers. Print publishers’ digital platforms are also gaining ground.

Likewise, internet radio is a fantastic opportunity for radio actors. On Out of Home (OOH), there is Digital OOH (DOOH) which presents itself as an excellent solution. Digital should not be considered in isolation, it becomes an opportunity for each space.

Going forward, what are GroupM’s top priorities as an agency?

Our priorities are how to prepare for the future. For us, it all starts with people because we are a people business. When I say prepare for the future, the first question that comes to mind is: are your people ready for this?

Therefore, it is essential to build capacity, to help people play in the appropriate space and to encourage them to do different things. We also focus on data and technology, particularly in areas such as commerce, addressable content and performance. Here again, we work a lot not only on people but also on tools and products in order to offer unique solutions to our customers.

Another key area for us is how to support our clients in this transformation. We have clients who run large, traditional businesses. Then there are the customers who are just new and there are the intermediate customers. We have a large team of experts in each of these areas. Our goal is to provide the best possible solution to our customers.

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Cathy W. Howerton