Sandeep Goyal
Dec 11, 2017

Blog: 2017 – in the rear-view mirror; 2018 – on the windshield

In the first part of his series on ‘2017 – in the rear-view mirror | 2018 – on the windshield’, Sandeep Goyal invites young industry leaders, Ravpreet Ganesh and Rana Barua to write in their views

(L-R) Ravpreet Ganesh and Rana Barua
(L-R) Ravpreet Ganesh and Rana Barua
Good bye 2017. Welcome 2018. 
Another year gone by. A year that had its usual ups-and-downs. While the aftermath of demonetisation continued into 2017, GST later in the year brought in its own set of challenges and complexities. I invited some young industry leaders, and some not-so-young industry veterans to write in on ‘2017 – in the rear-view mirror | 2018 – on the windshield’. 
Rana Barua, the CEO of Creativeland Asia Group, was till recently the President of Contract Advertising. Rana and I go back nearly 20 years now. I got Rana to join Rediffusion from Ogilvy or Lintas, I can’t really remember which. Rana was bright. More importantly, Rana was possessed. His soaring career trajectory is evidence of his spectacular growth in the profession over the years. As a young leader of the industry, Rana’s views obviously count for a lot. 
Ravpreet Ganesh is the Executive Director of Publicis Capital. I had the privilege of being her first boss. She joined us from campus at Rediffusion. Grew very quickly to be a pillar of the Airtel business. Ravpreet again came to work for me when I set up Dentsu in India. She was in fact one of my first employees in the new venture. Ravpreet then spent many years at Leo Burnett. Ravpreet is one of Indian advertising’s rising stars. 
Rana Barua, CEO, Creativeland Asia Group
“If the world is in a state of D.I.S.C.O, we must master the dancing steps”!
2017 will truly go down as one of the most eventful years, for all of us. It had to be. Coming on the heels of demonetisation the industry overall was totally in a state of shock and unsure of where it was headed. Advertising budgets were slashed, launches postponed, sales numbers dramatically revised, hiring in industries frozen. The first quarter of 2017 was figuring more about the present and guessing the road ahead and how to reshape. It was about relooking at forecasting, budgets, costs, while getting ready for the impending roll out of GST which started another cascade of changes, habits, questions, doubts in the later part of the year, which continues to do so as I write this.
The year gone by was historical in terms of changes by galore. Yet, the smart became smarter and the poor – sadly poorer. What I mean by smart is that brands like Jio, Amazon and PayTM became household names and changed consumer behavior overnight. Closer to my industry the media agencies have become stronger, future ready and understand the meaning of deployment of budgets & ROI truly. They are mastering all forms of mediums, efficacy, aware of target audience stickiness, availability, loyalty, can explain the digital space & the nebulous presence bluntly & clearly. They have data science, consumer insights & behavior, understanding of each medium. And the meaning of an integrated agency means – Media first, Idea next. Which I firmly think is the future! Know the target – figure which medium the consumer spends the maximum time – have an idea – roll out captive communication.
In 2017 agencies have also had conversations around integration, mergers, costs rationalisation, collaboration, digital, sports (IPL), Bollywood (celebrities) among many others. What it has lacked because of the new world pressure is fun, creativity, ideas, innovation & admiring each other’s raison d’etre. It’s become transactional – guess it had to be, especially if the economy was under pressure and all clients impacted on targets & ambitions. 2017 has been tough no doubt, with everyone realizing you can’t take anything for granted. And that has raised the challenges multi-fold since apprehensions are high. Yet, 2018 looks like a better year and I will explain why.
I am summing it up by saying the world will remain in a state of D.I.S.C.O. and to succeed & move ahead, we must master the DISCO dancing steps! So, let me unfold the meaning of D.I.S.C.O. and how 2018 will stare at us:
D = Data | Disruption | Dreams: 
Data will be at the foundation of all. Realms of that which will compound beyond imagination and become our backbone. Disruption a manner of living. Everything that’s a given or habit will change into newer forms. Dreams will continue to be a reason to believe nothing is impossible. And make us and especially the young strive harder to achieve greater heights and targets – albeit practical ones.
I = Intelligence | Innovation | Ideas:
Intelligence is now a common word and AI sounds fascinating but is scary since its potential is gargantuan and can create an upheaval of sorts thus impacting our lives quickly. Innovation funnel will become sharper and only brilliantly relevant innovations will see light of day. Without innovation, products will become a me–too and lose its connect with the consumer. Ideas must be nurtured, don’t kill them. Ideas will continue to play an integral role in ensuring we remain focused on our task of enduring brands & consumers having a relationship. 
S = Search | Service | Story Telling:
Search is a way of life now. Ask and I can search. Search will dictate smartness over intelligence and create a new breed of individuals. Service will become a key stakeholder in every company. Define and be truthful to the service at large –it will result in loyal and grateful customers. Story telling is becoming critical to keep the audiences engaged. Few seconds or minutes, Phone or the IMAX screen, it’s all about an interesting, engaging story that keeps them hooked.
C = Content | Consumer | Change:
Content is required in truckloads! Yes, it is and the sooner all of us realize the better. The good news is that there can never be any end to generating content. It is limitless which means reels and reels of work creation for consumers who want more. Consumer remains the King! And will continue to benefit all that he experiences. And there will be experiences of multiple level and forms waiting as always while each brand will try to magnify and win them. Changewill remain a constant. In interaction with brands, our habits, behavior in life, food, shopping, the way we consume media. Accept it – change is coming every day – let’s just embrace it and rejoice the best possible way.
O = Objective | Opportunity | Options
Objectives will need to be sharper and time bound. While the end has to be defined one must be flexible to revisit the objective midway to see the progress. And if need be redraft the objective. I say this because Opportunityin many forms will be knocking at any given time with the changes in the worldly order, and a fixed objective in today’s world should not make one feel deprived of not enchasing on such opportunities. Options is now a given and an ante in any category. Food, shopping, cars, ideas, clothes, colors, sizes it’s all about options. So be prepared with many more options to win this battle of loyalty. 
So, as we master our dance steps, here’s wishing each one of you a wonderful year ahead. 2018 will be a stunning year and indeed a time for D.I.S.C.O.
Ravpreet Ganesh, Executive Director, Publicis Capital
Economic Disruption was the name of the game in 2017.
Industry and individuals suffering from the twin blow of demonetisation and followed by a hastily thrusted GST saw most business trying to cope with the downturn of revenue and consumer spending.
There was hardly any breathing space as markets cleared old stocks in trade and manufacturing went on a tremendous go-slow. And advertising felt the blow of this in terms of retrenchments and decreasing margins.
The economy has started seemingly limping back to normalcy in terms of economic indicators but at the ground level no much change is being felt.
In spite of all this India is touted as one of the fastest growing economies (top 3) in the world by the IMF and is supported by Moody’s rating of new government measures and GDP growth of 7.5 to 8% predicted.
Assuming all macro indicators working in India’s favour, a growth of corporate earnings of 20-25% with a normalisation of profits will see organisations support expansion organically and diversify into new areas.
These would help the advertising business come back on its feet on sounder footing and look forward to positive growth numbers in double digits.
Having said that, the challenges faced would be of a different order. The expectations of industry from their communication partners would be far more demanding.
With integration of communication across various diverse media platforms and the exponential growth coming from the smart phone and mobile usage, the “content” shifts required to match new consumers tastes would be the challenge to the advertising industry.
Creative teams need to re-learn to work with people possessing different skill sets and provide solutions at a very fast pace.
Agencies would be demanded to solve many a client problem, which may not be in the communication domain.
All said and done, there will not be a better time for change in the mind set of typical agency than NOW.
Those who invest and embrace it will come out winners. 
A great time ahead. Happy 2018.
These are all interesting perspectives from leaders who will count in the year ahead. Which is why it is important to know what they think and why they think what they think. 
This is the first of the year end pieces. More will follow from industry seniors before we say bye bye to 2017. 
I have my own views on what happened in the year gone by. I also have my thoughts on how 2018 will pan out. I will however retain my prerogative to be the last to express myself. 
(Sandeep Goyal has been 33 years in the advertising and media business. He has seen many sunrises and many sunsets. He thinks year-end assessments are good as a report card; year-beginning predictions are a good road map to new destinations.)


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