Agility is the only way to win in a chaotic world: Amin Lakhani, Mindshare

by Samuel Pordengerg May 30, 2023 News
Agility is the only way to win in a chaotic world: Amin Lakhani, Mindshare

Medianews4u caught up with the CEO of Mindshare South Asia over a coffee to discuss the client-agency relationship in the present day.

Some excerpts have been edited.

During the two decades of your association with GroupM, can you tell us about the changing phase of client and agency relationships?

The principle of partnering with the client has not changed. The evolution of media in the country has made it a far more complex one. The establishment of the AoR practice was a few years ago. GroupM was formed to unify media parts of mainline agencies. The last slide in advertising presentations used to be media. I have seen the limited role of media from the client side, in which one Planner will read out the spot schedule at the end.

When I joined GroupM, I saw the market expand from Doordarshan to cable and satellite, from Hindi entertainment to regional languages, and from English news to Hindi News. The digital medium used to be a way to try innovations. Digital spends have overtaken TV in a massive transformation.

The relevance of the media planners post became important in the AoR perspective. All of the clients want to win in the marketplace and that's why we're a serious partner with them. They want to increase penetration, relevance, shift the needle on top of mind awareness, want more sales and media has a role to play in each one of the funnel conversations that any marketer wants to do. A media agency has a conversation with a client.

The media agency has a seat at the table with the CEOs, CFOs and procurement heads as the spends in media become a significant portion of the marketing investments. CEOs want to see the huge amount of investments to make sure they are safe. The procurement and CFOs were involved. There is a lot of jugalbandi happening.

A lot of consumer insights come from the digital environment. Media agencies are driving the conversation because of the migration from plain linear TV to connected TV to mobile and other platforms.

We are sitting at the table when the big thinking is happening instead of coming late in the conversation after the creative was born. We are involved in the decision making. Over the years, I've seen media agencies transform from being the last guy to being the first guy.

One of our former CEOs used to say, "All of marketing, starts and ends in media."

At Mindshare, what does transformation mean to you?

An effective and relevant solution is needed for transformation to be ready. If you put five spots on TV, you would have 70 percent reach and a single ad in national newspaper. Today's reach is much more complicated. It is possible to watch television in India. TV is still a very relevant medium with the highest reach from the upper funnel perspective. Digital has reached a threshold. The consumer is spread across every available medium looking for answers to understand various products and services.

Where the consumers are located is where the pivot needs to go. I need an e- commerce play if they are buying more on the internet. The number of people with a wallet is growing after the UPI. There is a trend in the amount of transactions. We are the end-to-end funnel agency in the country due to the robust capabilities we have built.

We are working with over 250 partners through Mindshare: Content Plus. There are dedicated teams and clients who take charge of building relevance and mid-funnel capabilities.

We want all of our planners to be integrated planners. Digital and linear planning resources are no longer separate. There are no planners who don't speak an integrated language. A simple integrated solution is what we bring to the table for our clients. Through our media-agnostic plan, we want to be everywhere the consumer sees the ad.

GroupM has introduced a lot of new practices.

The consumer and his journey are what we are interested in. The consumer is always moving the needle and how we solve for brands in the best way keeps us awake. The fight isn't about what the media can do, it's about how we use that for a brand. The fight is to win the consumer in the market that he is familiar with and comfortable in. The more we know about where we need a solution, the more we are able to come up with a solution. New television sets are usually smart TVs. Streaming as a platform has really taken over due to the cheaper cost of data. They are talking about 25 million connected TV homes going up to 40 million homes and that will increase the cost further. The entire ecosystem was pushed towards a major shift due to the push by Reliance and Jio towards fiber optics across households. GroupM's Finecast was part of our effort to be the first in that area.

Understanding where the consumer is helps us to offer something to them. Finecast and INCA are being launched because of this. We would like to be the first to bring such offerings to brands.

The space for influencer marketing was disorganized. Accountability, transparency, authenticity and measurement were some of the things we wanted to bring. In INCA, we have all of that. We are building a center of excellence for some of our clients. The practices were not used a year ago. We need to get into a startup mentality so that we can learn from it. Staying ahead of the curve requires us to take risks.

Mindshare is a tech and mobile specialist. What are you doing in these places?

We have been spending a lot of money on training. One in two people in Mindshare are digital specialists. There is an effort to upskill our client leadership teams to be able to engage with the client on an integrated marketing conversation.

Content Plus is being built with resources from different walks of life. People from all walks of life are interested in joining us.

Over the past one and half years, we have been specifically increasing our abilities on e- commerce and performance marketing through which we are truly integrating our funnel.

The model of the agency made it difficult for us to deal with attrition levels in this space. We've been working hard to overcome them.

There are a lot of media audits. How are you justifying the return on investment for the clients?

It has been there for over two decades of my service. Something will not die. It makes us more efficient and Agile. Clients want us to push them. I don't want people to becomepenny wise and pound foolish and trade efficiency for effectiveness because both are very important.

There are a lot of people in the new age economy who only do performance marketing. They said that they will buy the consumer at the cheapest price they can find. One of the clients we saw did a full effort. The second client who has done full funnel efforts has been winning in the market for a long time. The first client struggled due to lack of brand equity and recall.

The clients saw merit in what they were doing. During the difficult times, one realized the importance of through the funnel action.

There is a mediaecosystem involving talent cost and cost of running business, so don't kill it with over ambition.

The funding winter caused many new-age advertisers to stop spending money. How do you get to your growth plans in a volatile environment?

The last two years have taught us that we need to be flexible in our approach to business. We have to be facing the future. In order to counter the changing needs of clients and consumers, we need to be built in agility. agility is the only way to win.

The managing editor is the author. If you have feedback, email