Ashish Bhasin shares his thoughts around AdSpends seen in the Indian and the global ecosystem, how festive season will impact the industry, his new role at RD&X, and a lot more.
In conversation with Ashish Bhasin, Co-founder and Chairman, RD&X and a veteran in the A&M industry with over three decades of experience, we attempt to understand how technology as a whole will have a great impression on the industry. Ashish speaks about platform-based and how the Indian A&M industry needs to be a lot more ambitious.
Can you give an insight on AdSpends seen in 2022? Who are the biggest spenders & which mediums are getting a bigger share of the pie?
Digital is by far the fastest growing media which I had predicted years ago when it was minimal. Looking at 2022, globally, out of the total AdSpends more than 60% are now digital. In India, the figure is lower, but the growth rates are high. As 5G happens, as more and more Indians participate, by 2025, digital will emerge as the largest medium in India as well. At the moment, TV is the largest medium. India is going to be a rare market, where it isn’t going to be one or the other but one and the other. This means, it will be TV and digital.
Overall, 2022 will be a good year, we should see double-digit growth AdSpends in India. The crucial period to watch will be the festive season because more than 40% of the annual spends in India happens between Ganpati and New Year.
There are some sectors which are evergreen in the Indian advertising market and FMCG is one of them. Then there are some sectors which shine some years and go down the next. But the consistently performing sectors like FMCG, automobiles, and e-commerce companies continue to be steady and will continue to be the top spending sectors.
The economic conditions worldwide & back home are getting tougher. How do you think this impacts the festive ad spends? What can the industry expect from the festive season this year?
We are definitely going through turmoil globally as well in India. The big problem is actually inflation, because of this globally and in India, the interest rates have increased and slowed down the pace of economic growth.
However, I’m optimistic that a large domestic market like India will be able to do better than most other parts of the world. With an added year of good monsoon, rural demand may pick up more than we actually anticipated.
What kind of advertising and marketing trends are we seeing of late? Do you see concepts such as WEB3, NFT or Metaverse as a long-term thing?
Advertising in India, is at the cusp of change and this change doesn’t happen suddenly in a day but is a gradual process. Quite clearly, in the future of advertising, digital is going to play a huge and important part. More importantly, this future is going to be platform based. The reason being, that by 2027 it is anticipated that the digital advertising industry globally will cross a trillion dollars. This rapidly growing industry will require a lot of technology to provide a solution. It won’t be possible to manually tackle this industry. Therefore, the industry will need a platform and tech-based solution.
At the moment one of the problems is that the consumer is surrounded by walled gardens like Google and Facebook. But when a client advertises, they want to see a 360-degree and unified view of a consumer.
The future of advertisement will be a platform-based, unified, tech-based solution where there’s minimum wastage in the line of advertising all the while understanding the consumer and the data.
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How has the role of agencies changed in a brand's life post-pandemic? In this growing clutter & competition, what do you think brands expect from agencies?
Agencies are very important partners for clients. Most traditional agencies have fallen behind in the use of technology. The line is blurring today, you may have tech companies providing some solutions that agencies could have, and should have been providing. Agencies understand the brand & consumers better, but they don’t invest enough in technologies to be able to process big data and to be able to provide to make a tech-based solution.
I think agencies need to buck up in that area and get much stronger and deeper into tech. This is something they are struggling with because their mindset is very service oriented rather than tech-oriented. The ones that won't be able to adapt, will eventually perish.
What are your plans in your new role and what about it excites you the most?
I always like new adventures and building things when they are in a challenging stage. There are two kinds of managers - one is maintenance managers and the others are adventurous ones. I find myself being more excited in the latter part. I’m very excited about it. I believe the future of advertising is going to be platform-led and I hope to be able to mentor our team to be a leader in this platform-led unified industry.
Where do you see yourself & RD&X in the next one year?
A year or two down the line, I think that we should have turned our thinking to a much more global approach. One of the problems with advertising is that we don’t see the larger opportunity the world has to offer.
Just like how it was seen in the 80s, IT companies became one of the best in the world. I think this opportunity exists in the lanes of advertising and marketing as well.
We have the best talent and technology, but somehow the country has not been able to capture that as well as the IT industry has been able to. I hope to see RD&X on that route, establishing itself as a platform-based leader in the unified advertising and marketing technology space and equally flying the Indian flag and lying on the foundation.
You have worked with bigger networks in the past. Now working for a startup, what do you think is the core difference in experience?
The most important thing when you go through different chapters of your life is to see what skill sets you want to bring along and which will make a difference and the things that you leave behind. The things that work for a 12,000 people organization, will not work in the same way in a 30-50 people organization. The most important thing for a leader to do is to sharpen these skills that will help him.
As a marketer and industry professional, what is that one skill you wish to acquire
I have got decades of experience and the biggest skill that you need to acquire is to unlearn as you re-learn. Because when you are building your tomorrow, you can’t be phased out by the things that you might have learned decades ago.
A message for the industry…
As a country and as an industry we need to make use of tech in the ad & marketing industry 100 times more than what we are doing now. Be a lot more ambitious than we are, because at the end of the day after having a population of 1.4 billion, India is still a USD 10-11Billion advertising industry. Comparing it to US or China, India has a long way to go. We are sometimes constrained by our own ideas, ambitions and visions.
I would like the industry to get more ambitious and think a lot bigger than it is currently doing; embrace a platform-based solution as the way forward in the digital world.