'The fundamental truth of our business is talent and that cannot be nurtured overnight’: Ashutosh Srivastava

‘The key to adoption of mobile as a platform is its integration with everything else,’ says Srivastava, in conversation with Campaign India

'The fundamental truth of our business is talent and that cannot be nurtured overnight’: Ashutosh Srivastava

Ashutosh Srivastava, chairman and CEO, Asia Pacific, and global emerging markets group, Mindshare, was in Delhi to present an opening keynote on ‘Leading the agency evolution: Meet the growing demands of the new media centred around mobile’, at a Mobile Marketing Association India forum. Campaign India spoke with the man who is also global leader for products/services and talent development at Mindshare, on the sidelines. Excerpts:

Mindshare Mumbai was recently named the ‘Media Agency of the Year’ at Spikes 2012. What leads to success stories such as this one?

It is most important to have a long-term perspective, rather than a tactical one that promises short-term gains by grabbing what’s on someone else’s plate. The most fundamental truth of our business is talent and that cannot be nurtured overnight. At Mindshare, we have a focused approach on how to pick and develop talent in accordance to their inherent capabilities and make them domain experts and able leaders. Amongst several emerging markets, India most often provides intellectual leadership.

Some (businesses) have a strategy to get people and clients by hook or crook for tactical benefits. But most don’t succeed.

What is Mindshare’s mobile strategy?

The key to adoption of mobile as a platform is its integration with everything else. Like in most other new-age mediums, there are enough specialists who can create a clever idea but it never goes beyond tactical use as it is not connected to all else that the clients are doing. To get this right, we have people who understand mobile as a technology to bring in domain expertise, and then we have marketing communications experts who marry this knowledge with the art of storytelling. Mobile, then, does not work in isolation but is part of the big idea that is brought to life on multiple platforms.

We are also investing aggressively in enhancing our ability to handle data. Huge amounts of data that consumers generate is put in one place and then used to derive actionable insights and measure success of various campaigns through sophisticated tools. Clients often get surprised by our ability to read data as well as an IT consultancy service. We are slowly deploying it through our offices, as it is an expensive proposition on that scale, but in the next five years it will completely change the face of marketing.

We also constantly evangelize the platform internally and with our clients, forging partnerships with key players like Google. Mobile, like the more traditional mediums, needs to be scaled up. Agencies can no longer just view it as an add-on platform for unique and niche users used to carry out tactical campaigns. We need to mandate mobile search and display as an integral part of every campaign.

You spoke (at the forum) about the need for ‘bold clients’ to truly evangelize the medium. Any from your portfolio that are true ‘digital bravehearts’?

Some clients have it in their DNA and some just don’t. For Nike, marketing is all about advocacy from consumers. Their strategies are formulated based on a simple premise - to do what people are doing. It is not about just creating a TV commercial but more about creating a cult. They grab and ride on every technological trend that they see their consumers adopting.

Hindustan Unilever, which used to be accused of being traditional and slow, has made a concentrated top-down effort in this regard. Their recent Axe mobile campaigns in India and Thailand are proof enough. On the other hand, there are FMCG clients whose eyes cloud over at the mention of mobile. They do not realize that housewives they are targeting are increasingly engaging with their social networks through mobiles or other connected devices.

Feature phones versus smart phones – where would you advise your clients to move their budgets?

It essentially depends on who they are targeting. HUL, while promoting Lifebuoy, would tap feature phones while for Dove and Axe, they would engage the target audience through a smart phone campaign. Many experts are ringing a death knell for feature phones with the advent of high-end mobiles.

However, it is only in India that feature phones have gotten a bad name due to misuse of spam that invades personal space. Otherwise, they are highly efficient means of engaging low-income, elderly and tech-averse consumers.

First it was you, then Gowthaman (Ragothaman) and now Vikram (Sakhuja), India has become a fertile ground for sprouting global leaders. What has led to this rise of Indians on the global stage?

India, in itself, is a great training ground and teaches craft skills to deal with the unknown and complexities at every step. Further, we Indians are inherently wired to adapt and grow in any surrounding.

I can speak from a WPP perspective. There is a concentrated effort to identify and nurture leaders where people who have potential - domain expertise, a broader skill set, deeper understanding of everything rather than a superficial one, ability to not just create fancy programs but also execute them with scale, team management and sensitivity to take everyone along - are identified and groomed to take on roles of client leaders. They become trusted partners and advisors to clients while scaling great professional heights themselves.

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Campaign India
Campaign India
8 August 2014