Arati Rao
Jul 21, 2011

Regional, Digital, Rural to be key opportunities for Indian advertising

A report from the Wharton Future Of Advertising Round Table - India held in Delhi on 20 July, 2011

Catherine Hays, MD, Wharton Future Of Advertising Project
Catherine Hays, MD, Wharton Future Of Advertising Project

One of the interesting statements heard at the Wharton Future Of Advertising Global Comparisons Round Table was at the very beginning of the day: when Vaasu Gavarasana, now with Yahoo! APAC, and chair of the conference, said, “We’ve forfeited thought leadership in advertising to others in the industry.” With one of the motives, perhaps, to make this right, the conference held at the India Habitat Centre in Delhi on 20 July, 2011, brought together a select group of marketers, representatives of advertising, media and digital agencies, and some other people with an interest in the stream, to discuss the way forward for advertising in the country. The India conference was supported by Yahoo!.

Speakers at the conference included Ravi Rao (Mindshare), Ravi Kiran (Amplitude Open Initiatives, and formerly with Starcom MediaVest), Josy Paul (BBDO), Anirban Chaudhari (Dentsu), Kartik Iyer (Happy), Anant Rangaswami (, and former editor of Campaign India), Raghu Seelamsetty (MediaMind), Sateesh Andra (Draper Fisher Jurvetson),  Sanjay Thapar (Ogilvy), Madhukar Kamath (Mudra Group), Sanjay Jain (Reliance),  GV Krishnan (Lowe Lintas), Kiran Gopinath (Ozonemedia), Sumeet Singh (, Rajan Mehta (Livemedia), Falguni Vasavada-Oza (MICA), Rajesh Sawhney (Reliance Entertainment), Tina Goyal (Novartis), Kedar Gavane (Comscore), Abhishek Arora (Network Play), Vivek Narayan (Clickable), and Tarana Mehta (Webchutney).

Some of the key challenges faced by advertising and marketing in the country highlighted by the attendees at the beginning of the conference were: how to market to the new consumers created by an economy in transition; the long time it is taking for the digital market to become mature; the problem of retaining talent; attacking consumer mindsets, particularly when marketing to the same consumer across different categories; media fragmentation; the “elephant in the room” that is mobile advertising; how brands can go green; the generation gap within the agency and marketing department; the plurality of markets like India; and re-engineering the existing cost structure of agencies.

In her presentation, Catherine Hays, managing director of the Future of Advertising project at The Wharton School, said that as per their conferences in other countries since the project started, there has to be a new way to communicate to consumers: that puts the business objective over the behavioural objective, finds out what is important to people (and not just as a demographic), finds out what idea or story sparks will lead to conversations about the brand, discovers the best set of touchpoints to connect with people, and aims for the organisation and society to be impacted as well through the conversation.

The key trends in India talked about at the conference were:

  • Rise of empowerment through activism (as seen in campaigns like ‘Teach India’, ‘Jaago Re’)
  • Micro cultures now leading to micro marketing
  • The rise of retail
  • The rise of the independent agency in India
  • The rise of social networking and marketing through it
  • The rise of the small and medium enterprise
  • A sense of fatigue with advertising, and a resultant scepticism in the consumer, which makes it all the more important for newer ways to communicate
  • The growth of the Internet and the mobile in India
  • The continuing importance of TV, and the kirana store
  • An increasing focus on Indian languages, thanks to the explosion in media
  • Online buying picking up momentum
  • Rural marketing
  • Experiential marketing
  • Marketers collaborating with many people
  •  Marketing to a single person with time-, location- and context-based advertising

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania embarked on its “Future of Advertising” project in 2008; after India, it travels to China next week to explore trends in emerging markets. The project aims to trace the evolutionary path of advertising that is emerging from the interplay between old media and emerging new media channels and a world in which consumers are the driving force.  

Look out for the complete report on the Wharton Future Of Advertising Global Comparisons Round Table in India in the print issue out 29 July, 2011.

Campaign India

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