A GroupM veteran of 11 years, Prasanth Kumar, was elevated to the position of CEO for Mindshare South Asia in February 2015. The milestones since then for the media agency have been memorable, on both award show and account win fronts.
The agency won back its Agency of the Year title at the Emvies. The win was special, as the agency’s successful six-year run was broken in 2014, when it lost the crown to sister agency Maxus. The bull run continued at Smarties India 2015 for mobile marketing.
Kumar attributes the above to consistent efforts across brands. He explains, “This year has been a dream year in terms of awards. We have ensured that we have won at every awards function. It’s nice that our awards are spread across our brands and not just concentrated on one campaign or one brand. This proves that there’s a lot of good work and there’s an effort put in by our team. There’s been energy, talent, innovation and motivation that has added to the entire performance. We have enough preparation that comes before the recognition.”
Putting out the work on all brands has taken a conscious effort, reveals Kumar. Even if a campaign did not involve huge spends, all the work being studied helped identify innovation across platforms, he notes.
Also among awards are a lot of Mindshare’s digital work. Kumar reasons that conversations around the medium have increased, and points out that digital wins too have been across brands. Marrying new digital practices and technology after scouring the universe with what’s best for the brand – that’s paid off, he says. Resources deployed in digital have increased manifold, too.
‘Fixing’ a linear structure
Kumar says that his innings began with a few ‘fixes’. “I opted to fix the team, get the right talent, get them to do the right things and looking at some diversified skills – these became important in this journey. It was never like I was an entering a new system. I’ve spent 11 years in GroupM and I’d worked across most of the Mindshare clients closely and was familiar with them. It was like knowing many things and not knowing few things which helped in the discovery stage. We’ve had some good times over the last year,” says the CEO.
He adds, “One of the goals was to ensure that the Mindshare team reaches its potential. We wanted growth in terms of the product perspective – we wanted to get the product firing as per expectations. We wanted to get Loop across offices and offer it to clients. So for all of this to be done, we needed a structure than enables it. So, we brought in a linear structure. We have self-equipped four units – Fulcrum, North, West and South – with a clear focus on product, digital and content. The talent is encouraged with more freedom to experiment and innovate. All of this has been done to essentially get us good, inspiring growth across all our brands. This has helped us to grow.”
On talent, Kumar explains that most key appointments have been from within GroupM. He adds, “It wasn’t only about bringing new talent in from outside. It was about getting the right people placed for the right job. From the time I was getting into Mindshare (from February onwards), we’ve got some talent from different agencies within GroupM.”
On the new business front, the agency claims to have added 28 new clients. Kumar says, “We have had a good list of new business wins as well. We have had a good set of e-commerce clients coming in. We also bagged the ‘Make in India’ account. So we have touched about Rs 850 crore in new business (annualised client spends). I hope we win more businesses and touch Rs 1,000 crore by the end of the year.”
While the agency aims to bag the integrated media mandate, the CEO revealed that a couple of new wins were for digital alone.
The ‘Loop’ room
In May 2014, Mindshare launched ‘The Loop’, a physical space within its office billed as data-infused ‘war room’, in Gurgaon. ‘Loop Rooms’, which house multiple screens, monitor data from over 100 sources in real time, helping make media decisions using the live data feeds, are now a part of each of the agency’s offices in the country.
Kumar elaborates, “It’s not a separate unit. It’s the heart. Fundamentally, real-time planning and real-time marketing, is at the heart of the conversation. What is important is that the Loop enables it. It’s a product that enables us to look at things and how changes are happening. People from the team know how to use it. There’s a digital team coming in and listening. It shows you different screens of different practices – paid, owned, earned. Now we have it across all our offices. There are clients wanting to come and be in the Loop to see how things are real time and how they can be made in real time. There are different partners who want to come in there. It’s not just a media team and the client; it’s about looking at some digital partners, creative partners. You need all stakeholders to come in. It is appreciated, and more clients are doing this. At least two or three clients have said that they find this interesting and they want to spend more time in the Loop.”
Changing media dynamics
No media conversation is complete today without discussing the impact of digital on print and TV. When it comes to print advertising, Kumar cedes that measurement does play a valuable perspective in the buyer making a choice. However, he points out that print players can underline the value they bring over other media, and in concert with other media. The media landscape today allows for a campaign to live only on one medium, notes Kumar.
“It is important for us to sit together on those categories and see where print can actually help and come up with more innovative ideas, inventory thought and initiatives. The pace of the growth will put the challenge, which means the business model of print will be questioned. We have to recreate packaging benefits to clients,” he adds.
Growth, opportunities and challenges
With Mindshare already managing a high number of businesses, opportunities for growth could be limited. But Kumar doesn’t see category saturation as a hindrance.
He surmises, “There are lots of opportunities. The world of marketing is evolving. This means that the methods of marketing and media expertise will keep changing. Whether it’s in digital, data or both, it’ll have larger implications on media. We see a large opportunity in evolving ourselves and that’s why our tools are more future-ready. We do have a large list of clients; we have more offices than anyone else in the country. Every brand is looking at growth every year, and it’s a good thing that brands are looking to grow. So, we can focus on these brands and grow. There are evolving challenges and opportunities in spaces like digital and data-centric thinking. We see the future more and we are already ready to get onto that future.”