Special Edition: Independent in the Era of Convergence (2024)

Wave after wave of technological innovations, and later, the pandemic, brought Digital to the forefront of the advertising and marketing worlds. The unprecedented pace of transformation has led to traditional network agencies and independent digital players finding themselves in a situation where they are faced with challenges and opportunities of similar quantum. Yet, this story was spurred by the safe assumption, or rather a hypothesis that opportunities for independent digital agencies in this era of convergence will outnumber the challenges.

But such a hypothesis begs expert insights. In this special edition story, we made an attempt to dig out some answers from people who are in the thick of things. The question really is – how agencies, both new and old, are reacting to the overwhelming Digital innovations that we are now getting exposed to?

Independent Digital agencies of the present are unlike those of a decade, or even five years back. In times when the media, messaging, and measurement have all converged, it is rather tricky to even tell Digital, Tech, and Creative from each other. And yet these agencies are navigating the path quite seamlessly.

Sure, there’s an overdose of technology in all forms of storytelling, including advertising today, but has that hampered creativity in any way or has it given it a direction? What does a successful campaign mean today? Where are the independent Digital players investing their minds and monies? How has their Digital DNA played out to their advantage in the current scenario? We, at IMPACT, surely had a difficult time curating such insights from the best in the industry on what it means to be ‘independent in the era of convergence’.

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THE UP AND DOWNSIDE
One of the things that stands out in this discussion is the fact that many of these agencies today are part of homegrown agency networks, of which they are the flagship brands. Their growth has been concomitant, mutual, and remarkable at the same time.

Special Edition: Independent in the Era of Convergence (2)Arnab Mitra, Founder and Managing Director, LIQVD ASIA points this out as the most distinctive feature of present-day digital agencies. “One of the big changes that we have noticed in independent players today is that they are no longer playing the short-term game where the goal is to build something to eventually get acquired by a large network. Today we want the WPPs of the world to emerge out of India. There’s more pride and ownership.”

He further states that Digital is a rather complex and layered business as opposed to traditional agencies. Mitra’s thoughts are echoed by JRK Rao, Co-founder of Rage (now ADK Rage) and presently a Director on the board, who thinks that this complexity has translated into an advantage for them. “The traditional agency business, typically, has a huge focus on media that is about creating ads and placing them on a third party platform. For us that is just a small part of the business, and that too comes much later. Our starting point is not the third party media but the brands’ owned properties. So clearly we have an advantage over the traditional agencies in terms of owning the work that we do,” he says.
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Special Edition: Independent in the Era of Convergence (4)White Rivers Media, the agency that hacks subcultures to build recognition for brands has grown from a team of 80-100 to over 400 creative professionals through the pandemic years. This growth is indicative of the strategic capabilities and competencies that it has built in terms of studio production, influencer marketing, consultancy, and research among a suite of other services. Shrenik Gandhi, Co-founder & CEO, says, “We have increased the depth of services, and also scaled up the team accordingly. Through all of this, agility has emerged as a big positive for us, or should I call it, ‘Agility at Scale’. We are currently large enough to create an impact, and not so large where we can’t move fast. So, we are enjoying the best of both worlds.”

Special Edition: Independent in the Era of Convergence (5)Vikas Chawla, Co-founder, Social Beat believes that with consumers becoming more impatient and distracted, creatives also need to work a lot harder, quicker, and efficiently, which is where a digital-first approach is good. “Unlike a TVC, Digital involves designing a campaign across multiple touch points such as in-app advertising, creative pieces for social media, influencers, etc., and all this needs to come together, even when the former may remain the focal point. So, a digital-first video asset works much better for overall campaigns,” he says.

Chawla adds that such a digital-first approach is still difficult to achieve for larger agencies. “That’s because the quantum of creativity that we need to generate is very high. For some of our brands, we churn out as many as 500-600 creative assets, including videos. We are able to do it because we are more agile, and we have the right teams that give us an edge over others. These two are the biggest reasons why brands still prefer to come to us.”
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Special Edition: Independent in the Era of Convergence (7)Unmisha Bhatt, Co-Founder, and Chief Strategy Officer, Tonic Worldwide also maintains that as the media landscape entails multiple touch points with the consumer, the final goal is to use these platforms to your advantage across the funnel, from awareness to consideration to action. Over the last five years there has been an increase in time spent on digital (more rapidly during the pandemic) with search, social, YouTube , OTT , WhatsApp, and gaming being the key go-to platforms for most consumers and brands.

“With more segmentation, targeting and engagement possibilities, Digital platforms revolutionised the marketing mix and gave opportunities for a full funnel on Digital and better cost effectiveness. Digital-first agencies with a focused approach deep dived and brought these platforms and consumers closer to the brand and business. We see it more as an opportunity than as a challenge. With our core being Digital, and with Gipsi (our unique research arm), we are able to bring consumer understanding to brands, and hence the approach is more strategic in nature and platform agnostic. This naturally and seamlessly translates across platforms depending on the role of the medium,” she says.
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Special Edition: Independent in the Era of Convergence (9)“Opportunities are almost endless,” states Pranav Agarwal, Co-founder of Sociowash. He says that upon recognising the growing convergence of Digital and traditional methods, the agency is betting on “an integrated approach from a Digital-first perspective. From working with meme pages to micro-influencers, great traction is being generated for brands, resulting in real value generation. Some of these avenues are disregarded by big networks due to scale issues and other limiting factors.”

Agrawal reasonably points out the challenges as well. “Especially with high-volume media buying, network agencies are able to undercut the independent agency quotes drastically. They are able to do so because of high-volume deals already being established between networks and publishers. This is a big challenge for independent agencies, and usually a chasm that needs to be crossed if they want to play in the big leagues,” he concludes.

Special Edition: Independent in the Era of Convergence (10)Ambika Sharma, Founder and MD, Pulp Strategy Communications also considers this a problematic issue. She states, “Large traditional networks foraying into Digital have built a capability for Digital media buying. They can build value for large budget clients with the sheer ability to consolidate media buys at scale. It squeezes independent agencies who do not have such a volume.”

The opportunity for independent agencies lies in being able to stand out in this complex digital landscape, Sharma says. “Brands expect a ‘native to digital’ strategy and the capability to execute. Creative strategy and content combined with newer revenue streams of AR, AI, Influencer Marketing, and Offline Micro Disruptions provide an even playing field where we are at an advantage against many larger network agencies. Digital is an agile ecosystem, and it needs both agility and perseverance to succeed. This is an advantage for younger, smaller teams who have a mindset trained on Digital. Large traditional agencies are not well adapted to the agility that digital demands.”

Special Edition: Independent in the Era of Convergence (11)Speaking on the same lines, Nimesh Shah, Head Maven, Windchimes shares that there are two sets of projects in which they have faced difficulty winning over network agencies. “First, when a brand launches an integrated campaign in which digital is a small part of a more significant marketing spend. The second scenario is when the brand expects online and offline campaign execution in multiple countries alongside India.”

The equation is balanced by a plethora of opportunities, given a large number of people using Digital and the conversations taking place on it. It is playing a far more critical role for brands, thereby becoming the primary communication platform for categories like F&B, Health & Nutrition, and Automobiles, where it builds brands and generates business. For other sectors like Real Estate, Loans, etc., it plays an essential role in lead and business generation,” adds Shah.

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“We have further leveraged our learnings and understanding of the consumer set. It has been a natural progression for us. Unlike ad agencies, where they build new teams that would cater to their client’s digital requirements, we have become the natural go-to partners for new clients and further strengthened our relationship with existing ones. Our independence allows us to partner faster with new technology providers for our clients. Our nimbler and decentralised structures also enable our team members to close deals faster with vendors and solution partners,” he states.

Special Edition: Independent in the Era of Convergence (13)With the blurring of lines between traditional and digital advertising, multi-channel advertising has become a significant opportunity for independent digital players to offer cohesive messages across various platforms, says Mehul Gupta, Co-Founder & CEO, SoCheers. “We have been able to specialise in digital marketing strategies and adapt quickly to changes in technology and consumer behaviour, thereby being able to offer innovative and effective solutions to clients who are increasingly prioritizing Digital. Data-driven insights from our in-house DIA (Data Insights and Analytics) allow us to create targeted campaigns based on consumer behaviour. This enables us to give our brands a detailed understanding of what works and what does not. Additionally, Influencer marketing and content have become a vital aspect to engage audiences,” he says.

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With all the evolution, advancement, and expansion of the ecosystem come various challenges. Sharing a uniquely, interesting observation, Gupta states, “Agencies bring diverse perspectives from various industries, making them invaluable partners for businesses. Although, some tasks are better handled in-house, agencies excel in reaching consumers through ORM. However, as brands expand their marketing teams, they may pull talent from agencies, posing a challenge. Despite this, agencies remain valuable partners when treated as creative collaborators, bringing effective solutions to business objectives and challenges. Brands that involve agencies in their decision-making often benefit from innovative and efficient solutions.”

Special Edition: Independent in the Era of Convergence (15)Abhishek Punia, Co-founder - ARM Worldwide and CEO armCommerce thinks that the primary hurdle lies in the realm of reach. According to him, “Global agencies possess an extensive arsenal of tools and resources that independent agencies often lack access to. Consequently, financial investments by independent agencies are required to bridge this gap and gain access to such resources.” On the other hand, the most significant opportunity arises from the autonomy enjoyed by independent agencies. He says, “With no rigid hierarchical approval process, independent agencies enjoy a highly dynamic and efficient workflow. Independent agencies excel in their ability to swiftly execute tasks, exhibiting remarkable fluidity and adaptability. Global brands frequently turn to them for the completion of time-sensitive projects or tasks.”

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ON THE SAME PAGE
Given the drastic transformation in AdTech and MarTech, as well as the ability to track and measure returns, brands are also trying their best to keep pace with the ongoing Digital evolution. Among the experts we spoke to, there was hardly an exception when it came to an increase in the number of clients they are working with as their sole Digital partner. This includes both traditional as well as new-age brands. Another similarity is that marketers are more aware, educated, and precise or articulate regarding their expectations and the RoI(s).

As a result of the growing client demand for complete ad-marketing solutions, many agencies have had to add new capabilities or scale up existing ones. It would be incorrect to say that only the traditional agencies suddenly woke up to the power of Digital. Independent players are also realizing the need to bolster their creative and strategy, alongside their Digital competencies.
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Working with some of the country’s best entertainment, FinTech, FMCG, D2C, and Web3 brands, WRM has been witness to “the entire ecosystem - whether it’s the agencies, brands, or vendors - evolving in terms of awareness, empathy, and agility,” remarks Shrenik Gandhi. “We are seeing more and more brands coming to us for integrated marketing campaigns with a digital-first approach.”

SoCheers launched its Data Intelligence and Analytics (DIA) division right when it observed the emergence and strengths of data mapping, shares Mehul Gupta. “It helped us to dig deep into the data around trends and the science behind what works in the ever-evolving digital content space along with integrating AI technologies. Before this we launched our in-house films division, ‘SoCheers Films’ to effectively tap the video marketing space. And so on and so forth with content marketing and influencer marketing as well as ‘SoCheers Spark’ now. It helped us not only in expanding our horizons but also in building our talent pool. Today we have 200+ creative individuals helping us create all the amazing work.”
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Talking in a lighter vein, Agrawal of Socio Wash says, “Client expectations can always be compared to the Everest - hard to scale, but so satisfying once achieved (humour intended).” He tells us how clients are expecting them to think and execute 360 degree campaigns, with a mix of video, digital, OOH, Influencers and sometimes traditional as well.

“I see this as a healthy trend and I’m all for it. It is challenging to sometimes mold digital ideas to have non-digital legs, but that is a challenge we are always ready to face head-on. We were, perhaps, thinking ahead of the curve, but we wanted to build in new services before the absolute need for it arises. We are still looking to extend our umbrella to new services across the integrated space and are adding new creative minds to the hive to have a well-rounded and multifaceted team,” he adds.

Windchimes’ Shah tells us about the agency having to strengthen its creative team with more exposure to multiple communication formats. “Digital has become a primary platform in most categories. The films that used to be made ‘only for Digital’ earlier, are being simultaneously aired across platforms now, with TV being a minor concept. So, we had to strengthen our creative team. Further, corporate communication projects have led us to bringing onboard people with a more journalistic bent of mind. This is required to draft communication for corporate launches or to fight off crisis scenarios.”

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Today clients expect their digital agency to partner with their marketing teams to unify the customer experience across digital channels and plan for a long term strategy for marketing while delivering with agility towards current goals, says Ambika Sharma. “This means that the digital agency has to think beyond just social media or SEO.
Privacy guidelines, accessibility, diversity goals, immersive experiences across channels are expected from us as a full stack digital agency, which has necessitated a change in the company structure. We need to invest in teams that are R&D focused, like a technology company, and at the same time have planning teams which are built like the traditional media agencies of the old days. Our Buying teams need to excel at navigating and managing the influencer landscape as well as searching marketing execution. These are interesting times, the game has changed in both delivery and talent.”

Punia of armCommerce states that from an agency perspective, the digital ecosystem has witnessed a paradigm shift towards specialization and independence with each facet within the digital landscape evolving into a distinct and self-sufficient unit. “Recognizing this trend, armCommerce was founded with the intention of providing specialized services delivered by experts in their respective fields. This approach has enabled independent agencies to thrive and excel. In fact, within our ecosystem, I have engaged in conversations where individuals within independent agencies have transformed their operations into separate business units, further emphasizing the trend towards specialization and independence.”

LIQVD ASIA’s Mitra shares how clients are asking them more intelligent and technical questions, unlike previously when they would treat Digital as a mere extension. “Foreseeing such challenges, we have always followed the practice of recycling the majority of our talent pool every few years, where we build an expertise and then dismantle it to build something new again. That’s why it is important for us to have such people in our teams for whom Digital is a way of life.”

Catering to the savvy client is also a top priority at ADK Rage. “Today the clients are keen on building long-term associations with their customers using Digital, and so there’s much more brand building happening on the medium. More brand values are being communicated not just through advertising, but through experiences as well. We are happy that brands are eventually coming closer to what our perception of digital is; much more tech, much more perceptive marketing, and not plain marketing or advertising alone,” says Rao.
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Talking about how Social Beat is trying to keep ahead of the marketing automation and AI trends, the two big frontiers for the industry, Chawla shares, “we are currently working on the end-to-end funnel, right from the time brand awareness is being built to somebody becoming a loyal customer, so that we can play an important role across the entire spectrum. To this end, we have partnered with some global companies including Salesforce to be able to optimise tools that will actually integrate marketing more seamlessly, rather than just looking at media or creative.”

Summing up for Tonic Worldwide and the industry at large, Unmisha Bhatt remarks, “Integrated communications will be evergreen and technology is evolving to be the enabler for brands and consumers. This translates to cost effectiveness and evolution in the way agencies and brands operate. For e.g. integrated agencies used to have resources and manpower for artworks and size adapts. Today there are multiple tools and platforms available for size adapts which saves time and resources. There are programmatic platforms which enable integration of digital OOH and enable changes in OOH communication in real time. There are possibilities of serving weather-based ads and activity-based ads which make communication more contextual and relevant for consumers. There are video platforms which enable personalization of films at scale. Technologically and Digitally there’s always going to be something new every day; previous few years saw short video format platforms, last year was metaverse, this year it’s ChatGPT. As a Digital-first integrated Agency, we keep up with technology and are agile in adopting it and are confident to see more success in our campaigns for brands bringing better results.”

Let us now take a look at the top 10 independent Digital agencies of India, and their impact on the industry.

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Pratik Gupta, Co-Founder, Zoo Media & FoxyMoron started the Digital marketing agency, FoxyMoron, along with three friends in 2008. Apart from FoxyMoron, Zoo Media also has a Digital transformation consulting agency, DoyenOink Consulting; an influencer, creator and talent agency, Pollen; video content solutions agency, The Rabbit Hole; creative technology agency, Phosphene; among others. In 2021, the network entered into a partnership with XP&D to build the bridge between Offline to Online to Offline (O2O2O) experiences. In 2022 it launched Metaform, a Web.3.0 Service. In this interaction, Gupta discusses his vision for the company.

Q] The pandemic has radically changed the outlook for the industry in the last five years. What are the new challenges and opportunities in front of you today?
This shift has been marked by the development of more specialised teams. This was not the advertising model that was initially built to support integrated formats. Therefore, bigger brands are now asking for consolidated service offerings, and Zoo Media’s business model is adapting to meet this demand. Additionally, AdTech and MarTech trends are continuously evolving, while content and media practices have changed significantly. For example, first-party data, understanding user journeys, and creating integrated strategies seem like the continued goals for advertisers, both evolved and new.

There are many challenges today. Digital agencies are trying to build an integrated narrative, but they struggle because they are not integrated by design. We’re presently investing heavily in creating what we call the ZooOS (Zoo Operating Systems), where we’re taking our ‘integrated approach’ and building SOPs and a technology backbone to enable us to be the agency of choice for leading brands. The industry is also facing a shortage of great talent. There is great talent available, but all of it is dispersed and is in super-high demand. As for opportunities, organisations today have fewer people working on brands than ever before, and the mediums that brands have to look after are on the ‘forever rise’. The lines between digital and traditional are blurred due to this, and also because brands want to intertwine the offline and online consumer journeys. For Zoo Media network agencies, it’s the greatest opportunity to use our integrated design and move to provide best-in-class Digital services across specialized agency units.

Q] What are some of your immediate goals?
At Zoo Media, our next big goals are bridging the widening O2O2O gap with XP&D, digitizing sports obsessed communities (to be accomplished through our strategic partnership with TCM Platform, one of India’s foremost sports rights management firms), and expanding to international soils. In 2022, Zoo Media expanded to the international market with the opening of two new offices, one in New York in partnership with DAWN, which is a collective of more than 15 independent marketing services agencies specialising in data science, advanced analytics, and econometric measurement, and the other in Dubai where we introduced our flagship brand, FoxyMoron.

ABOUT THE COMPANY

FoxyMoron is a flagship full-funnel creative and performance digital agency of Zoo Media Network, which comprises 11 agencies and over 250 employees. Founded in 2008, the agency provides solutions towards building future-ready brands on Digital platforms, through an integration of content, technology, and media, using data-backed tools and practices. In a span of 14 years, FoxyMoron has won over 200+ awards for various campaigns across categories. It has teams in Bengaluru, Mumbai, and the Delhi NCR.

LIST OF SERVICES

• Creative tech
• Media publishing
• Video content production
• Digital transformation services
• Influencer marketing

NOTABLE CLIENTS

P&G, Kellogg’s, YouTube, Kingfisher, Manyavar, TVS iQube, Aha, A.O Smith, San Disk, Uniqlo, Netflix, Amazon, L’Oreal, Ikea, Hershey’s, Colgate, Burger King, Hindustan Unilever, Pepsi, Dream 11, the Aditya Birla Group, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

BEST CAMPAIGNS

#RipYourEx - Wrangler

The Greatest Hack - Burger King

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Chaaya Bhardwaaj, Founder & MD, BC Web WIse is a pioneer and thought leader who is committed to mining Digital opportunities to grow businesses. Her decade-strong experience as business journalist with Business World and Business Today fuelled her belief in Digital as a game changer for Indian businesses. She sits on the jury of prestigious awards such as the GoaFest and other leading Indian and global award forums. In this interaction with IMPACT, Bhardwaaj reveals what a successful campaign looks like, and discusses future trends.

Q] How would you describe campaign success?
‘Sunsilk Gang of Girls’ is on the top of the list as that was not just innovative and disruptive, but we did it at a time when Digital did not have many adopters, and we could roll this out in 9 countries. It also gave us global recognition, as we won our first Gold at The Abby Awards for it. I also love the Pentonic Pens campaign for its relevance. At a time when the world is talking about ChatGPT, we built our own OpenAI-led search bot for it. The social conversations around it are fantastic. For the HDFC campaign, the brand received 10k plus leads organically within the first month of its launch.

Lubrizol has been one of the most gratifying campaigns for all of us. The ‘World Water Day’ provided an opportunity for the brand to start its journey in familiarizing end-users with the brand name. We crafted a campaign `Share-a-litre’ that aimed to provide sustainable solutions to Umberwadi village in the hinterlands of Maharashtra. The campaign was a huge success, thanks to the heartening response from netizens across India. We are currently running the second leg of the campaign, and hoping to touch at least one more village in Bharat.

Q] What are some trends that you see as dominating or creating the future?
First, Digital integration across the funnel – with digital dominance comes content. Addressing every part of the consumer journey, and creating a hyper-personalised ecosystem that delivers results across the funnel. Then you have data science + the art of communication – as it gets tougher to hold on to our consumers today, there is a growing need for a well-balanced act between data and humanising communication. Third is tectonic shifts – web 3.0 comes with its store of amazing new technology, and Generative AI is likely to change the way we do things. Consumers may make the shift into the metaverses and may no longer search or socialize on the existing platforms in their current form. Think experiences, IoT, AI, Voice, and all that encompasses Web 3.0.

ABOUT THE COMPANY

Established in 2000, BC Web Wise has a team strength of 150+ across Mumbai (HQ), Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata and 20 other locations in India. The agency boasts over 200 metals. In 2007 it launched its second agency BigITuna to manage the growth and competing client business, and in 2008 it launched a film production house ‘BC Web Wise Productions,’ predicting the growth of video content in the Digital media industry. In 2019, BC Web Wise got global recognition as one of the top 25 most creative agencies by Design Rush.

SERVICES

• Strategy - Consultancy, Research, Whitepapers, Case Studies, and Innovations
• Performance - Media, Content Marketing, and Search
• Campaigns and Content - Social Media, Video Production, Online Reputation, Innovations, ATL, and BTL
• Analytics - Single View Dashboards, Exclusive Insights, Latest Tools, and Technologies
• Platforms and Experiences – Apps, Websites, Ecomm, Gamification, Web 3.0, Metaverse, NFTs + ATL and BTL solutions

NOTABLE CLIENTS

Samsonite, SBI Card, Voot Select, Hero MotoCorp, HDFC Ltd., Veedol, Linc, Gatsby, JK Lakshmi Cement, and Zee Learning.

BEST CAMPAIGNS

  1. Sunsilk Gang of Girls
  2. rogueai.in - an in-house developed AI based search engine for Pentonic Pens
  3. The brand launched the-first-ever Instabranch in early 2022 for HDFC, where customers could interact and apply for a loan on Instragram
  4. The `Share-a-Litre’ Water Day Campaign that aimed to provide a sustainable solution to Umberwadi village in the hinterlands of Maharashtra.

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Ahmed Aftab Naqvi, Global CEO and Co-founder, GOZOOP Group is a first-generation entrepreneur, and a sought-after investor for startups and advisor for CXOs. He is a jury member for prestigious awards such as the Cannes Lions Awards, and Digital Abby’s at GoaFest. Naqvi has had the distinction of being invited as a ‘Champions of Change’ to interact with the Prime Minister of India by NITI Aayog. Rohan Bhansali, Chairman & Co-founder, GOZOOP Group, during his investment banking stint at J.P. Morgan saw an opportunity in the digital space and chased his entrepreneurial dream by starting Raastudios, a web application development company in 2008. Later it was acquired by the GOZOOP Group in 2010. Under Bhansali’s leadership, GOZOOP Group increased its presence to Dubai, Singapore, and New York in a span of 3 years and also acquired Red Digital in July 2013, and iThink Infotech in July 2014.

Q] How are you navigating the changing media landscape?
The shift to Digital has necessitated a corresponding change in marketing strategies, as businesses must now create compelling campaigns that are optimized for different devices and platforms. To achieve this, the contemporary marketing department must integrate the imaginative aspect of the field, which involves leveraging compelling narratives to tap into individuals’ desires and aspirations, with the technical side of data analysis, digital engineering, and analytics. These two domains do not always align effortlessly, and it will require a visionary approach from businesses to unite creative marketing professionals with technical personnel.

Q] What is the next big frontier in marketing?
While businesses and nations are navigating the AI and ML waves, it may be another chapter in the larger Internet narrative. We believe the integral step would be a collective effort towards sustainability and ethical marketing. Consumers are increasingly conscious of their impact on the environment and society, and expect brands to act responsibly. As such, businesses that prioritize sustainability and ethical practices in their marketing efforts will be better positioned to attract and retain customers in the long run.

ABOUT THE COMPANY

Founded in 2008, GOZOOP Group today has 400+ employees, 700+ clients, 1000+ awards, 300+ brand experts, 350+ partners, and a presence in the Middle East, Singapore, and North America. The Group’s inorganic growth was accelerated with acquisition and integration of 5 leading agencies. In 2015 it added mainline capabilities to start delivering a 360° integrated services.

SERVICES

• Strategy - Business & Brand Consulting, Product & Consumer Research, Branding & Identity Creation, Brand & Campaign Planning
• Content - Social Media, Public Relations, Influencer Marketing, Blog Marketing
• Design
• Technology - Brand Websites, E-commerce Solutions, HubSpot Marketing, Zozolo Loyalty Programs
• Performance - Media Planning and Buying, Performance Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
• CX - Digital Command Centers, Customer Experience Management, Data & Insights, ORM, Amazon Response Management
• Production - Brand & Corporate Films, Photography, Live Event Coverage, Customer Testimonials

NOTABLE CLIENTS

Taj, Saint-Gobain, Dell, Tim Hortons, Mashreq, Tata Steel, BookMyShow, New Zealand Tourism, Viacom18, and Toothsi

BEST CAMPAIGNS

#NoPlaceLikeHome for Asian Paints: Increased brand engagement by 228%,

#IamPositive and #StopTheSearch for GNC: Increased sales by 34%,

#AntiRoteDay for Dell: Brought about a tectonic shift in the way teachers and parents in India educate their children

#AmiKKR: Made a cricket obsessed nation fall in love with a city again

#HumHongeKamyaab: A national initiative during the onset on the COVID pandemic.

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Shradha Agarwal, Co-Founder & CEO, Grapes started her career with Zoom Entertainment Television as the Digital Affiliation Manager in 2008, and has now amassed over 15 years of experience in the domain. Her entrepreneurial journey began in 2013 when she joined forces with Himanshu Arya (Co-founder & Chief Mentor) to launch Grapes Digital, which has now been rebranded as Grapes. Having had a stellar 2023 so far, she plans to further expand Grapes’ offerings, and set up an office in Bengaluru by the end of this year. In an exclusive interview with IMPACT, she says that her other big goal for the year is to achieve a strong double digit growth on the bottomline.

Q] Tech or creative, what comes first for you?
I believe that we have developed our finest products when we integrated strong cultural insights with technology. Last year when NFTs were all the rage, we created an NFT that uniquely mapped DS Group’s journey on their 95th Founders’ Day. It focused on portraying the message of long-standing brand legacy through the latest technology in order to best resonate with the audience. Similarly, deepfake is another technology that found several interesting use cases recently. In a campaign for WION, we leveraged tech to create fake videos that brought the audience’s attention to the very real and adverse effects of fake news.

For the #SaluteTheFarmHER campaign, we targeted Google’s algorithm with an aim to bridge this gap in online representation of women who make the majority of the workforce on Indian farms. By collaborating with over 50 media houses and requesting them to use images of female farmers in their agriculture-related stories, we populated the internet with such images. At the end of the month, there was a 30% increase in female farmers’ representation on Google Images search results for the keyword ‘Indian farmer.’

Q] What are your thoughts on AI; how can it be put to use creatively?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is definitely the big thing right now. Even though it has gained everyone’s attention recently, it is still only the tip of the iceberg in terms of potential applications. I’m especially excited about leveraging AI for regional and vernacular marketing. In today’s times, it has become necessary to market to a highly localised audience and build connections in a non-generic, hyper-focused way. I believe that AI would be indispensable for such micro-targeting. Technology at large will see more seamless and organic integration into the creative executions of advertising and marketing campaigns in order to drive maximum impact.

ABOUT THE COMPANY

Headquartered in Delhi, Grapes has offices in Mumbai and Bengaluru, with a cumulative workforce of more than 250 passionate and highly skilled professionals. It was launched as a website development company, and in 2015, the agency started offering digital marketing services. Today it offers a gamut of integrated communications services (digital and offline), with an aim of providing a comprehensive set of solutions under one roof.

SERVICES

• Owned: Website Design & Development, Ecommerce Development, Mobile App Development, Marketplace Development, Social Media Management, Branding and Strategy, and Internet of Things (IoT)
• Earned: Influencer Marketing, Online Reputation Management (ORM), Content Development, User-Generated Content, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and Public Relations
• Paid: Media Planning & Buying, Performance Marketing, Ecommerce Media, and Programmatic Marketing

NOTABLE CLIENTS

JBL, Dabur, DS Group, Adani One, Mankind Pharma, Hindware, CP Plus, Eicher, Faces Canada, Statiq, Zupee

BEST CAMPAIGNS
DS Group’s 95th Founders’ Day and the #SaluteTheFarmHER campaign.
WION awareness campaign against fake news

Special Edition: Independent in the Era of Convergence (25)

Angad Singh Manchanda, CEO & Co-founder is a global entrepreneur and an expert in Digital Marketing and Advertising. He began his advertising career at the age of 19, and has since worked with multiple agencies in varying roles. As the CEO and Co-founder of Chimp&z Inc, Manchanda oversees larger campaigns, pitches, and global projects for some of the world’s most prominent brands, including Mondel?z International, UNICEF, Discovery Entertainment, TLC, Tata Play, and f*ck. His ambitious vision has propelled the agency to expand its operations across India, USA, and Canada. Lavinn Rajpal, MD & Co-founder is a seasoned entrepreneur with a penchant for finance, business strategy, and operational management. After obtaining his Master’s degree in Advanced Cinematography and Photography from Mumbai University, Rajpal co-founded Chimp&z Inc in 2013, where he leveraged his expertise to shape the agency’s robust business model. As the Managing Director, Rajpal oversees the agency’s performance, finance, and tech teams, actively involved in every decision-making process to ensure that the organisation’s goals and performance are met.

Q] What is your next big goal for Chimp&z Inc?
With three worldwide offices, we are now ready to expand globally and become a chosen advertising partner for advertising communities all over the world. It would be an honour for us to work on global brands, and in the process strive to be one of the first Indian independent agencies to have notable campaigns and experiences in international campaigns.

Q] What are the big changes that you foresee for the ad-marketing world?
Audio marketing is one of the biggest changes that we will see in the advertising industry for the next few months. As global conglomerates like Apple are investing heavily in audio formats, India will also witness its trickle-down effect soon. Productive AI is here to stay and will gradually become a part of our everyday execution at agencies and even clients will welcome this change. Motion and visual content will become shorter in length and the content will be led by product promise rather than just using influencing channels. UI and UX trends will be led by minimalism and simplicity.

ABOUT THE COMPANY

Chimp&z Inc is an award-winning digital-first advertising & marketing agency and a subsidiary of Merge Infinity Global Network. It is now a 250+ employees network of global consulting firms, including a production house ‘Griffin Pictures Worldwide’, a performance marketing firm ‘Saber Tooth’, an AI & Machine Learning-driven SEO analysis tool ‘Search Munky’, and an ROI-driven digital agency ‘Yellophant Digital’, all under the umbrella of Merge Infinity as the parent entity. With a revenue of around 3.75 million USD, Chimp&z Inc is focussed on expanding its presence in India, North America, and Canada.

SERVICES

• Digital Integration – Digital & Creative Strategy, Social Media, Branding, Web UI & UX, E-commerce
• Performance – Media Planning & Buying, Performance Marketing, Marketplace Management, Affiliate Marketing, SEO, and Content Marketing
• Chimpfluenz – Digital PR, Influencer Marketing, Online Reputation Management & Strategy
• Ad Film Production.

NOTABLE CLIENTS

Tata Motors, Cartoon Network India, PVR Cinemas, ALT Balaji, Capgemini, Pogo TV India, Nivea, Parachute, Jeevansathi, Warner Media SEA.

BEST CAMPAIGNS

Tata Play World TV Day 2019 Campaign: The success of the campaign motivated the brand team to turn it into an intellectual property that has been running for four consecutive years.

Tata Play Brand Transition Campaign (2022)

Discovery India’s #ManVsWild with PM Modi Digital Campaign

Discovery India’s #ThalaivaOnDiscovery Song with Rajnikanth

SERY Cosmetics Brand Film Campaign

Special Edition: Independent in the Era of Convergence (26)

Harshil Karia, Founder, Schbang is a serial entrepreneur, social worker, and musician. At Schbang, he manages a team of over 1000 people and serves 200 of the top 1000 companies in India, along with large brands in the UK and the Netherlands. Additionally, he spends his time and energy on building ‘Level’ along with Ranveer Allahbadia, aka BeerBiceps. Level is a technology that unlocks the Superpower of the Mind using techniques like Neurotested meditation and mind-muscle workouts. Karia also runs a skilling programme (currently in Y3) via Schbang to teach 5000 people coding and Design. Apart from his entrepreneurial ventures, he is an avid musician. In this interaction with IMPACT, Karia analyses the evolving media landscape, and more.

Q] What’s your understanding of the way Digital has evolved the media landscape in the last five years?
Digital has evolved the media landscape in a massive way in the last five years with three major contributions – 1. The ability to hyper-target, both by location and interest, which seemed impossible earlier. Hence, the ability to be more precise has become sharper. 2. An increased ability to track convertibility with tools available today, such as tracking and analytics platforms or marketing mix modelling. It is easy to create a linkage between spending and the growth of a business. 3. The mix of media has gotten a lot more diverse and interactive. Outdoor and print media can happen through display, television through in-stream video, and there are a variety of interactive formats.

Going ahead we will see smart AI or SMarTech, permeating every element of the marketing funnel and putting tremendous power in the hands of the marketers creating those funnels.

Q] What is Schbang’s proposition going to be in this changing ecosystem? What’s your next big goal?
The next goal is to remain steady on Schbang’s global expansion, while strengthening our proposition in the Indian market. In addition, Schbang has opened an office in London, UK and the goal will be to develop a value proposition there. In India, Schbang is a preferred creative partner. We are also the media partners for many clients and will continue to strengthen our proposition further. In addition, we aim to become a strong omnichannel solutions partner for brands where we provide both above-the-line and below-the-line advertising.

ABOUT THE COMPANY

Schbang is a creative and technology transformation company that has grown to house over 1200 creative professionals in the last eight years. Initiating its global expansion last year, Schbang has opened offices in London, UK, and the Netherlands. As the agency focuses on marketing technology and digital transformation, it has formed key partnerships with Google Premier, Adobe Solutions, Hubspot, Zoho, Moengage, and ONDC to strengthen its value proposition. Schbang clocked 125cr. in revenue in FY21-22, growing to 175cr. in FY22.

SERVICES

• Social media management
• Production
• Digital transformation
• Influencer marketing
• Media buying and planning
• Research

NOTABLE CLIENTS

H&M, Cipla, Amazon, Domino’s, Tata Consumer Products, Johnson & Johnson, Britannia, Hindustan Unilever, Jio, Ashok Leyland, Marvel Entertainment, Akasa Air, and Mattele

BEST CAMPAIGNS

H&M #BrighterThanEver for the launch of H&M’s festive collection

Mumbai Police #JustOneHead in collaboration with Mumbai Police and Mumbai traffic police.

Date Crown King Of Dates- ‘The King Of Dates’ campaign was created to expand the brand’s awareness and penetration in the Indian market.

Britannia BisCafe launched through four films starring Karan Johar that position the product as ‘coffee’s better half’.

MSD omnichannel #DontGetCaught by HPV campaign (ongoing)

Britannia’s #WorldEmployeeAppreciationDay film - a LinkedIn-first film

Special Edition: Independent in the Era of Convergence (27)

Prasad Shejale, Founder & CEO, LS Digital is an IIT Madras alumnus who founded the company in 2007, and grew it from a small team to a high performing result-oriented group employing 1000+ professionals. The company is working on becoming a global player in helping brands use Digital as a catalyst. Shejale is a lover of ‘All things Digital’. For him, Digital is a huge universe where each marketing tool and platform plays its vital role in benefitting the client’s needs. If you catch up with him during his break for a cup of chai, he will let you in on his secret love for display and search marketing. His passion for Digital Marketing and a sense of understanding people makes him a unique entrepreneur who knows how to transform an effective idea into a successful campaign.

Q] How has the significance of Digital changed for marketers today?
Digital has revolutionised the media landscape by enabling service providers to differentiate themselves and accelerate brands’ journeys with well-established roadmaps. We started the journey in 2006 when Digital was a nice-to-have medium, mainly focused on a few Digital channels. Digital marketing was (and in some cases now too) equated only to Media. Today, Digital is not just another channel, but it is a catalyst that makes consumer journeys easier and helps brands grow. Digital is one of the most critical touch points.

Q] What’s the one thing you see shaping the future of marketing in a big way?
Data has become an indispensable element in Digital Marketing transformation, and its importance cannot be overstated. With the proliferation of Digital channels and the ever-increasing volume of data generated by customers, companies that can effectively harness and leverage data stand to gain a significant competitive advantage. However, it’s important to note that the effective use of data in Digital Marketing transformation requires a sophisticated data strategy and robust data infrastructure. Companies need to invest in technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics to effectively analyze and interpret data.

ABOUT THE COMPANY
LS Digital (formerly Logicserve Digital), brings together over 1000 experts across three companies – LS Digital, Langoor, and F1Studioz to empower brands with over a decade of work experience across various platforms like search, social, and mobile that enables the company to deliver high-quality brand experience. Over the years, the company has built tools, systems, processes, models, and talent to help brands use Digital as a catalyst. It has adopted what is called the ‘Digital Marketing Transformation Framework’ that incorporates 6 core areas of expertise, namely, media, UI/UX, digital-first creative, data & insights, customer experience (CX), and tech & innovation. LS Digital realized in 2022 that it needed the best specialists in these fields, and to achieve this goal, Langoor Digital (a CX company) and F1Studioz (UI/UX Company) joined the Group.

SERVICES

LS Digital offers a range of services across six areas under its ‘Digital Marketing Transformation Framework’
• Media
• Creative & Communication
• CX
• Data & Insights
• Tools – Adtech & Martech
• Tech Innovations

NOTABLE CLIENTS

HDFC Life, Axis MF, Redbus, Canon, Casio, Glanbia Nutrition, ClearTrip, Kellogg’s, Pepe Jeans, Dunzo, Matrimony, Cultsport , Wakefit, USDC, SmartCoin, Taneira, Club Mahindra, South Indian Bank, Kotak Cherry, Tata Capital, Piramal Capital, Coto World, More Retail

BEST CAMPAIGNS

Canon - Bring Drama and Magic together for the launch of Canon EOS R6 Mark II

EuroKids- Creating awareness about the Right Start for toddlers with EuroKids

HDFC Life - Bano apne bachon ke #HarSapneKaAadhaHissa for HDFC Life YoungStar Udaan Plan

‘Unwanted Gyan Se Savdhan’ for Mankind Pharma’s Unwanted 21 Days

Special Edition: Independent in the Era of Convergence (28)

Himanshu Arora, Co-Founder of Social Panga is a serial entrepreneur and a seasoned advertising professional with 16+ years of experience in working on leading brands. In 2006, he founded his first company that was a content platform for cinema lovers. His second venture (2010) in the ed-tech space was recognised by Economic Times – Power of Ideas & IIM Ahmedabad. Arora was also associated with Google Launchpad as a mentor for the growth track, and with Facebook for initiatives like ‘She means business’ & ‘Grow your business’. In an interaction with IMPACT, he talks about challenges and opportunities for independent agencies, and more.

Q] How has the playing field for brands and Digital agencies changed in the last five years or so?
Today, Digital footprints are across multiple channels and not restricted to a few platforms, hence it gives us an opportunity to focus on all kinds of target groups and not restrict to a few. As a brand, it is crucial to be responsive to the rapidly evolving Digital Marketing landscape, which presents numerous opportunities to adapt your business and strategies to remain competitive and drive growth within your industry. The pace of change in Digital Marketing is faster than ever before, and it’s essential to stay agile and adapt quickly to succeed. We have seen a lot more traditional brands adapting agile Digital strategies to keep up with the D2C trends, and more often the strategies are Digital-first in terms of planning as the medium is able to give marketers a more focused reach, helps build frequency, and engage better.

Q] What are some of the biggest challenges and opportunities in front of independent agencies today?
First, ‘the myopic trap,’ where agencies miss the big picture for the brand, and end up focussing on one or two specific campaigns. We wish to break away from such a trap, and be the custodian and partner in approach. Second is the ‘service offerings trap’ where agencies are often comfortable selling what they have at the moment to offer rather than what they can do to solve the problem/ uplift the brand through the right advertising approach. This is why we see many brands opting to engage with multiple agencies to get one integration done. We have moved away from this as we saw a clear opportunity. You come to us with a brand problem, we will define the solution and services required to execute that solution, going above and beyond in service and results. This has led us to move away from a mindset of ‘client/brand servicing’ to being a brand solutions team. The team members are designated as ‘brand solution managers’ with the sole job to forefront those solutions, with media being in the backdrop.

ABOUT THE COMPANY

Social Panga is an award-winning, digital creative marketing and advertising agency with presence in Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Delhi. It boasts a 100+ clientele and a team of 300+ mafias trying to change the ‘cookie cutter’ agency model to a solution-driven approach. Started in 2021, its in-house video production wing “The Yellow Shutter” has shot more than 65 advertising films in the last 12 months during which time the agency on-boarded over 65 new brands.

SERVICES

• Digital Content Creation and Social Media Marketing
• Brand and Communication
• Media Planning, Digital Media Buying
• Video Production and Photoshoot
• Audio Production
• Influencer Marketing and Creator Ecosystem

NOTABLE CLIENTS

Nestle Maggi, Bosch, Manipal Hospitals, Yatra, Fujifilm, MARS, Mankind Pharma, P&G, National Geographic India, Cipla, & Pepperfry

BEST CAMPAIGNS

Manipal Hospitals - Guardians of the heart

Mamaearth’s Valentine’s Day Campaign

Emami - Healthy & Tasty Durga Puja

Karnataka Tourism - Valentine’s Day Postcards

Special Edition: Independent in the Era of Convergence (29)

Harikrishnan Pillai, CEO and Co-founder of TheSmallBigIdea has led various brands before starting his own entrepreneurial journey. Pillai holds an MBA and a diploma in Innovation and Design from Sweden. He is an early-stage investor and a speaker on youth issues, innovation and leadership, and the need for industry-academia connect. He has been a jury member for Promax India and India Radio Forum for multiple editions. Manish Solanki, COO and Co-founder, TheSmallBigIdea is a detail-oriented professional with 15 years of intensive experience in Content, Design, and Technology. Solanki began his career in client servicing with SSC&B Lintas and Publicis Ambience, and moved to CRISIL Ratings as Brand Manager for SME Ratings. He later entered the television sector with ZEE TV and Times Television Network (International Business).

Q] What are some of the current trends shaping the future of Digital Marketing?
Manish: Digital marketing is an ever-evolving landscape, and staying ahead of the trends is crucial for businesses that want to remain competitive. By focusing on video content, performance marketing, immersive experiences, AI-powered tools, and voice search in regional languages, Digital marketing agencies can help businesses reach their audiences more effectively, and drive long-term success.

Q] What are some of the challenges and opportunities in front of you today?
Hari: The biggest challenge that Digital agencies are facing today is the availability of right and abundant talent. The education ecosystem is not prepared to handle the training needs required for this profession and the quality of learning on the job is not consistent. For this exact reason, training and development is one of the key focus areas for us at TSBI. Another challenge is that ours is an extremely diversified business. It’s very difficult to build expertise in all facets of this diversity, and therefore, strategic collaboration and relevant acquisitions are the way ahead.

The opportunities are myriad, especially for Digital agencies. Campaigns are becoming Digital-first and over the years Digital agencies have cracked the code on a great, holistic creative narrative. While the mainline agencies and network agencies are working on building Digital capabilities, there is a fine balance of clients who prefer to work with firms with a Digital-first mindset.

ABOUT THE COMPANY

TheSmallBigIdea is a full-service Digital agency with offices in Mumbai and Bengaluru, serving client requirements in India, US, UK, the Middle East, and Africa. Over the past 9 years, they have established a robust clientele in Media & Entertainment, E-commerce, BFSI, Retail, Tourism, Sports and Education. Their proprietary creative-tech tool ACE has enabled brands to arrive at campaign messaging by integrating insights from social sentiments and enterprise data. In November 2019 the agency launched its regional offering ‘TSBI Bharat’ that has successfully bagged a regional clientele and orchestrated campaigns in Bhojpuri, Punjabi, Marathi, and Malayalam.

SERVICES

• Social Media Management
• Video Content Production through TSBI Studios
• Digital Media Planning and Buying
• Social Listening and ORM services
• Augmented and Virtual Reality amongst other ancillary marketing services

NOTABLE CLIENTS

Zee Network, Viacom18, Disney Broadcasting, Warner Bros and Warner Music India, Dharma Productions, Ajay Devgn and Ajay Devgn FFilms, Seychelles Tourism, Bahrain Tourism, Sandu Pharma, Pepe Jeans

BEST CAMPAIGNS

‘Tu hai Taaqat’ anthem for Protinex campaign #ProteinPledge

TheSmallBigIdea collaborated with Ajay Devgan to use NFT Drops and Metaverse Gameplay as a technological pivot for promoting Runway 34

TSBI conceptualized a series by Sony BBC Earth ‘Animals of Africa’ and gave it a ‘desi touch’ with popular comedians Jose Covaco and Sorabh Pant.

Four Digital brand films for Sandu Pharmaceuticals

Digital IPs for &pictures and Disney India

Special Edition: Independent in the Era of Convergence (30)

As the Co-founder, Chief Creative & Strategy Officer at Blink Digital, Dooj Ramchandani drives the company’s creative culture and strategic positioning. In the last 14 years, he has worked with leading global brands and a few VC-backed startups. Ramchandani has directed some of the company’s most innovative and award-winning campaigns that have won at the One Show, and CLIO. He has also directed the Webby Winners ‘Alexa, Play My Song’ for Amazon Echo, and ‘WOW@25’ for KFC. He was ranked the third most awarded Chief Creative Officer in India by The One Club, New York. Rikki Agarwal, Co-founder, Chief Business & Operating Officer at Blink Digital is responsible for the acquisition of a new business, overseeing and scaling business operations, and upholding and furthering the mission of Blink Digital. Agarwal has led the charge on many global brands including KFC, ICICI Bank, Star Sports, ITC and Viber, delivering marketing effectiveness and maximising return on digital media investments. In 2015, he was nominated for the Power Leaders of India Award by WCRC.

Q] The talk around ‘Big Data’ started almost a decade ago. What do you think makes Big Data a Big Thing now?
Ramachandani: The big thing about big data today is actually Artificial Intelligence (AI). The human mind can only process data up to a certain extent, but AI has no such limitations. It can process more data in complex ways. For example, Chat GPT can source information from all over the web and give you an answer in a short span of time. Today, we have AI tools that can create a media plan, do consumer targeting, and more. Every task that would otherwise take a lot of time for the human brain to execute, is being accomplished in a short span of time by AI. That, according to me, makes all the difference.

Q] How has the organisational structure at Blink Digital evolved as a result of the mainstreaming of Digital?
Ramachandani: We have been fairly focused on building capabilities right from the beginning. We were one of the first few agencies that pioneered the augmented reality and virtual reality space.

We have also had the first Metaverse activations. We have started using AI in operations to see where it can best fit and expedite the process and bring more efficiencies to our output.

ABOUT THE COMPANY

Since its inception in 2009, the full-service digital agency Blink Digital, has grown from being a two-people team to a robust organisation of over 150 professionals, sought-after for their campaigns that seamlessly blend creativity and technological prowess. Notably, their KFC campaign ‘Watt-a-Box’ in 2016 went viral in India and globally, making an appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel Show. The agency launched a Web3 vertical in May 2022, and expanded operations globally to the Middle East and Europe with offices in Dubai and Amsterdam in July 2022.

SERVICES

The unique selling proposition (USP) of the agency is the amalgamation of creativity, technology, and media to deliver brand and business impact. Its services include –
• Strategic Planning
• Campaigns & Content
• Programmatic Media
• Experiential & Activations
• Animation & Motion Graphics
• AR/VR
• Web & Mobile Platform Development
• Influencer Marketing
• Search & Rich Media
• Web3/ Metaverse

NOTABLE CLIENTS

Amazon, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, KFC, Zee5, ICICI Prudential, Hamilton, GlaxoSmithKline, and Hindustan Unilever

BEST CAMPAIGNS

KFC’s ‘Watt-a-Box,’ a limited edition meal box that charges your phone while you eat

Amazon Echo ‘Alexa, Play My Song,’ a YouTube pre-roll campaign that hijacked YouTube’s music to showcase Amazon Echo’s AI capabilities without having to purchase music licenses

ICICI Bank and Manchester United’s ‘12th Red Devil,’ a quirky film that married tradition and new-age, and ended up going viral

OnePlus’ ‘Metaverse Unboxing,’ a first-of-its-kind unboxing in the Decentraland Metaverse

Pernod Ricard’s ‘Metaverse Fashion Tour,’ a first-of-its-kind fashion show on the Decentraland Metaverse for the Blenders Pride Glassware Fashion Tour 2022

THE REGIONAL ADVANTAGE

Thanks to the proliferation of internet and mobile services, Bharat/ Regional/ Vernacular/ Hinterland or The Hindi Heartland have become the buzzwords today. Digital is fast catching up with traditional media, while delivering personalisation at scale and creating newer avenues for both brands and agencies. But how much of an advantage or opportunity does that translate into for regional independent agencies?

Special Edition: Independent in the Era of Convergence (31)Khushboo Sharma, Founder and CEO of Ahmedabad-based Zero Gravity Communications says, “Regional tones, cultural understanding, languages and dialects generate more affinity and acceptability with campaigns. Our last two big wins were due to our understanding of India and its micro markets. Mindset, work pattern, approach and even constraints of the client and their consumers are better understood by us as we have our foot on the ground. I have seen this each time we have won mandates against national agencies. It works to our advantage.”

The agency won the Ascent Meditech pitch against a national agency due to its focus on an effective media mix and the regional-focused strategy for India. Vadilal Icecreams’ mandate in 2022 was also won for the same reason, she shares.

Special Edition: Independent in the Era of Convergence (32)Laj Salam, Founder and MD of Thiruvananthapuram-based Plain Speak tells us that the change has achieved significant growth in business for the agency, which is now looking to expand outside Kerala. Speaking for Plain Speak specifically and the ‘regional’ value it has been able to create for national brands, Salam says, “Micro influencers as well as local events and happenings is where we have been able to play a key role. Also, the cultural nuances that we were able to bring to the table. While what is to be communicated may be pre-decided, how it is to be communicated makes the difference when it comes to regional.”

Special Edition: Independent in the Era of Convergence (33)The biggest advantage of being a regional agency with a global customer footprint for Noida-based Unyscape is the ‘availability of top-class talent at a reasonable price,’ says Founder and CMO Satish Sharma. “Global customers come to us for cost arbitrage. Once they see value emerging as a result of our experience, knowledge, discipline, and innovation, they expand our scope of work and we become an integral part of their digitally-led growth journey. Moreover, our offerings in tech, automation, AI/ML are key differentiators in the regional space.”
Special Edition: Independent in the Era of Convergence (34)
Unysacpe’s experience in the evolving Digital story has been slightly different than its above mentioned peers. The agency is yet to see a significant budget shift toward the ‘Bharat’ audience, even among its existing client base. The reason, opines Sharma, is that, “while the profound forces of content creation, distribution, and consumption have made digital marketing more effective at the Top of the Funnel, meaning we see an increase in performance when it comes to metrics like the cost of impressions, cost of video views, or even cost of lead, this has also resulted in an ineffective performance at the Bottom of the Funnel, translating to lower revenue per user and low lifetime value of customers. Consequently, as a strategic move, our customers, whose target audience is from Bharat, are sticking to branding campaigns as opposed to performance campaigns. Having said that, most digital marketers out there are experimenting with test campaigns to reach more targeted audience pools, but we are yet to see attributable success.”

Special Edition: Independent in the Era of Convergence (35)Starting out as a Delhi-NCR based independent digital storytelling agency, Buffalo Soldiers has in the last 5 years scaled up to setting up offices in Mumbai and Toronto. Co-founder and CEO Sumon K Chakrabarti attributes a lot of this success to growth opportunities in real ‘Bharat’. He says, “Vernacular plays a pivotal role in influencing the choices of a consumer. We do see clients with briefs that are specific to a region and we also see campaigns being designed to influence only the vernacular market. As an agency, we are aligned to the challenges based on #VocalForLocal and feel that the advertising landscape in India is moving towards that. There will be an inflection point soon where we will see that the focus on regions will come as a normal brief in even a national account.”

Special Edition: Independent in the Era of Convergence (36)Mayank Agarwal, Partner at Bangalore-based Geek Creative Agency that has worked for clients such as Flipkart, Oppo, MDEW, and PepsiCo, says, “The growth and mainstreaming of Digital has seen some very interesting trends such as Influencer Marketing, Gig Economy, and truly Digital clients + operations coming to the fore. Today we execute mass influencer campaigns with as many as 1000-10000 influencers to create roadblock campaigns for brands in a matter of a week or 10 days, something which demanded months of planning earlier. Another positive is that as the entire ecosystem has become more aware of the capabilities of the medium, the need to educate has gone down, while the trust has increased.”

Special Edition: Independent in the Era of Convergence (2024)
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