Ashish Bhasin
Oct 10, 2017

'Agencies as they are today, will not exist five years from now'

Today is the Indian edition of Media360. In this column, the author looks at the crystal ball and predicts the future of media and the agency

'Agencies as they are today, will not exist five years from now'
As far as media habits are concerned, the consumer is changing very rapidly and in many ways this disruption is being driven by digital. Digital is changing the way consumers are interacting with any medium. If you take print as a medium, the consumer is interacting with the same brand on his phone or laptop. Television is becoming digital, radio is becoming digital. The disruption this will cause is that some of the established media brands in English print will definitely face a slowdown. You are already seeing it in magazines where the slowdown has hit and they are becoming pretty niche in their operations.
On the other hand, India will be the only country in the world where newspapers and print readership will keep increasing, as literacy grows and disposable income increases. In the next five years in India, everything will grow. When the tide rises, all boats will rise. But the rates of growth will be substantially different from medium to medium. 
Digital will grow the fastest, regional print and TV and outdoor will grow reasonably well. All other media will have a slowdown. English print and magazines are already facing the headwinds. Magazines will become very niche and the special interest segment of magazines will succeed, while the general news magazines will be far and few in between. However, regional print will continue to grow for a while as new readers are in the tier-2 and tier-3 towns and smaller villages. The English print is reaching some level of saturation and will become less relevant as to those readers news is available on the internet, much faster, much better. 
The agency view
Media services will be significantly transformed by digital transformation and data. We already get 38 per cent of our group’s revenues (DAN in India has about 26 agencies across creative, media, outdoor, PR, events, digital and others). The eight digital agencies of the group already contribute to 38 per cent of revenues. When we look at the next year’s projection, it looks like it might cross 45 per cent of revenues. Almost half the agency is going to be driven by digital. 
That’s something that is going to happen for everybody. Search and performance will keep increasing for a long time as it reflects the consumer’s behavior. Today if a youngster wants to purchase a movie ticket, the process has entirely moved online. They do not have a physical or analog connect in that sense.
The way we know the agency today, will not exist five years from now. Fifty percent of the jobs that exist today, will not be there five years from now. It’ll be a different set of jobs. A lot of mechanical jobs will get automated. We have a lot of work going on in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Analytical and idea based jobs will become more and more important. Things will become more data driven and clients will ask for more accountability. The need of the hour for businesses is ROI and accountability. 
Digital disruption is going to cause a fundamental change in the way the advertising model works. In digital, there is a thin line or no line separating creative and media. This will cause a complete change in the way we are used to working. 
The holy grail of advertising, where advertising will be able to track wastage and eliminate it, will be achieved in 10-20 years, in my lifetime. If I am targeting a consumer, I should be able to serve the ad to them with zero wastage. What’s the point in showing it to 5,000 people when I want to target only five of them. From the creative angle, I should also be able to customise the creative for them. In the next five years, we will move several steps in that direction helped by AI and machine learning.
(Ashish Bhasin is the chairman and CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network, South Asia. These are excerpts from his chat with Prasad Sangameshwaran.)    
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