On the heels of its newly released Warc Asia Strategy Report, Warc organised its inaugural 'Warc Conversation' in India in association with JWT India.
The event hosted in Gurgaon on 12 December, saw Edward Pank, MD, Warc Asia, initiating the conversation by sharing key learning’s from this year’s Warc Prize for Asian Strategy.
Pank went on to highlight four key themes, drawing from various Asian campaigns. Citing the example of the Grand Prix winner, ‘It’s More Fun in the Philippines’ by BBDO Guerrero for the Philippines Department of Tourism, he highlighted that smart strategy can unlock brand growth. “It could be argued that a slowdown in economic growth in the region will accelerate this trend,” he noted.
The second key theme, according to Pank, was that global brands are seeking cultural connects. He pointed to how the winner of the Special Award, a campaign for Nike China by Wieden+Kennedy around the London Olympics, was actually an extension of an international strategy; but the concept of ‘everyday greatness’ was completely rethought for the Chinese market that blended offline and online seamlessly. “This case shows how some international brands are developing ideas that are flexible enough to be re-interpreted for different cultures,” Pank said.
He spoke about how local brands performed better in the 2013 competition than in previous years, and flagged it as a sign that local brands, and particularly those from India, are raising their strategic game - such as Voltas ‘All Weather AC’.
The fourth key theme he pointed to, was on social media. Noting that social media was taking centre stage, he added, “In 2013, social media overtook TV as the most-used channel in the Prize, both among all entries and in the shortlist. A parallel trend is that low-budget campaigns are performing better than ever before in the Prize. It could be argued that the two are linked: social and other digital channels are giving low-budget campaigns the ability to gain greater scale.”
He added that 63 per cent of Indian cases (campaigns) entered used social media in 2013.
'Budget will always remain a rare commodity'
Post his presentation, Pank moderated a session on “How can brands unlock sustainable growth in 2014” with speakers including Bindu Sethi, chief strategy officer, JWT; Ajay Kakar, CMO - financial services, Aditya Birla Group; Chandrasekar Radhakrishnan, head of communications, Nestle South Asia; Shubhajit Sen, global lead and VP - emerging consumer market, GSK; and Viral Oza, director-marketing, Nokia India.
When questioned about predictions for 2014, in the wake of slowdown, Oza said on an optimistic note, “From where we are, things can only get better.” But added, “It is not about tough times but the volatility that troubles you.”
While Kakar foresaw cautious optimism, he noted, “Budget will always remain a rare commodity.”
Sethi of JWT observed, “We have not interrogated the consumer strongly enough to have a full handle on what consumers do in a downturn.”
GSK’s Sen, meanwhile, underlined the importance of strategy, and said, “The good strategy would be to have a plan B or C in place in case one is staring at a slowdown.”
The discussion then focused on reaching rural geographies efficiently. On the question of how advertisers should evolve to reach bottom-of-pyramid consumers as things go digital, Oza noted, "Brands are challenged in their behaviour shift between offline and online because consumers live in both."
While Kakar emphasised that brands should move from the current 'AK 47' approach (continuous bombardment through mass media) to a sniper-like approach (targeted communication) to target consumers effectively, panelists were in agreement on this way forward to attract consumer during a slowdown.
Radhakrishnan observed, “It is important to understand the differences between one geography and another as each market presents a different opportunity for a brand. Hence, it becomes important to understand and adapt to localise the messaging according to cultural content.”
This was a reiteration of Pank’s theme of brands seeking cultural connections to create maximum impact.
'Need for a cultural shift'
Airing views on the emerging digital medium as a mode of advertising, Sen pointed out, “In India, the brands are not using digital media effectively with the urban consumer. The brands need to let go of the control, especially in the FMCG category.”
Concurring, Radhakrishnan added, “Brands cannot control digital communication. Hence, building a digital culture within the organisation is important. Brands need to have strong processes, define the culture and then leave it to the consumers.”
Kakar observed that while social and digital media is great conversation piece, brands have not got around to creating annual strategy around it.
Agreeing with Kakar, Pank pointed out how brands are now testing different elements in their campaign execution. He said, “Brands are spending 70 per cent of their advertising budget in traditional, 20 per cent in known digital platforms, and 10 per cent is allotted to experimenting with various platforms or mediums. To experiment with the 10 per cent, cultural shift is required in organisations.”
Highlighting how an should agency partner with brand in times of slowdown, Radhakrishnan opined, “The brand proposition belongs as much to the agency as it does to the client. Both must co-create the brief together.”