'The accountability agencies used to hold is going down and that's worrisome' : Anita Nayyar- Starcom Delhi executive director

Starcom Delhi's success percentage can be pegged as almost 50 per cent last year and the agency's executive director Anita Nayyar is upbeat about the year ahead.

In a freewheeling conversation with's Hetal Adesara, Nayyar addressed problems that the media industry in India is facing, the increasing clutter on television and her take on the re-launch of Kaun Banega Crorepati and the response it will garner from advertisers.


What's your overview of the industry?

I'd first look at the industry in 2004 from an advertising perspective and then shall talk about the media perspective because media essentially is one part of the whole advertising business and the way the media agencies are functioning today, it is obviously a very small part of the ad pie.

In 2004, the industry growth has been about 12-13 per cent, which is not such a bad year, considering few years back the industry was not really up to the mark. So, a 12-13 per cent growth seems like a decent growth and it has essentially come from telecom sector and, to some extent, the insurance sector.

Is this 12-13 per growth an annual growth?

In the previous year, growth would have been about 8-9 per cent.

What has contributed to this growth?

Telecom sector definitely has contributed largely to the growth. To some extent, the political parties and the government with the 'India Shining' campaign (during an election year) also spent a considerable amount of money. Obviously, we all know that the media monies are the subset of the advertising industry monies.

I think telecom will continue to be a big spender this year too with more circles opening up and a few more players coming in. Insurance didn't pick up in a big way, but added to the bottomline expenditure. Banking and finance is another sector that is coming up in a big way. The moolah, of course, will come from the FMGCs.

As far as media is concerned, television has seen a growth, which is not very huge. But print certainly is consolidating itself. While for the last few years, print's share was consistently dipping, in 2004, it has been decent. Outdoor medium has also come up. But the percentage contribution of advertising of these media is small --- outdoor 4-5 per cent; radio on a comeback trail clocks about 2 per cent; cinema is about 1 per cent. The rest is divided between print and television.

The figure is debatable, but if the total ad pie totals up to 100, then television would be about 55 per cent with the print medium following it.

But there were some reports, which said that last year print actually overtook television?

I don't think it was so. What happened in the print advertising sector is that it didn't loose too much, which means that television didn't grow as expected. Certainly television did not grow at a pace that it was growing earlier. The entire advertising industry expenditure gets swayed by FMCG advertising and, I think, last year FMCG advertising was not really high if compared to previous years. That's where television got hit.

What is your take on the media agencies scene in India today, including the problems being confronted?

We all know about the consolidation of media, which is happening with various groups. Group M is turning out to be the largest, followed by Madison. Last year, we were No. 3, according to the Brand Equity survey in terms of the most admired agency. So, there has been a lot of consolidation that is happening and with it the media monies of various clients.

If you look at the recent Tata AOR disintegration, for instance, FCB has picked up a lot of business and TME has lost out. But, sooner or later, there will be very few media houses remaining. Though from the point of competition, 8-10 companies will be there, but the actual survival would range between five-six media houses. We are now actually witnessing a polarisation on the basis of how clients consolidate their media. And, there are no two ways about the fact that Group M is where everything is getting skewed.

'Re-launches don't excite advertisers as much as launches'

So, would we see a lot more mergers and acquisitions (M&As)?

To my mind, we are almost at the fag end of mergers and acquisitions because the larger ones have already happened. Whatever little is remaining in terms of agencies, they would get gobbled up by the big ones. For standalone agencies, the problem is that there is a huge gap between the number one and the number three agencies. It is tough going because of the polarisation and the fact that media commissions are coming down. If I were a client, I would be really worried. The accountability agencies used to hold in terms of brands is going down and that's worrisome.

Would M&As eliminate independent Indian agencies altogether?

It looks tough for them certainly. If you were to look at the top 10 agencies, they are all affiliated to foreign companies, except for Madison, which is a great case in itself. Global alignments of MNCs, which have come into the country, have a huge role to play. These MNC accounts will automatically go to the globally aligned agencies in India too. This makes a big difference.

Also, there aren't too many indigenous Indian clients. Some Indian clients like All Out, Paras and Manikchand are still there, but they have been overshadowed by the multi-nationals.

Lately, the clutter on TV has increased new channels being launched. Do you think TV ads are still as effective?

It's a tough call. If you look at the medium, per se, the whole idea of advertising on television is because the impact of the medium is different. Yes, the clutter has increased, but that is also because there are lot of opportunities today for advertisers to come and say what they want to say about their brands and products.

Still, I feel there is a lot of clutter-breaking and innovative advertising that is happening on television. For example, we did a commercial with Sony, wherein we had used Ye Meri Life Hai's brother-sister pair for World Gold Council's raakhi promotion. Sony and Jassi... are two live examples of how one can market products innovatively. Even, on Indian Idol the likes of Nokia, Lays and Rejoice did a lot innovation.

However, I feel one has no choice but to get on to television as a medium because its reach is far more effective than other media and it slowly grows on the viewer too. This reason will ensure that TV stays despite the clutter.

Do you think clients give too much importance to TV as a medium of advertising vis-?-vis the other media?

To a large extent, yes. But in the last one year the print has seen a resurgence too. Both the mediums have a different role to play and can only compliment each other. If you look at print, it will always be used for immediacy, launches, awareness, announcements and information. Television, on the other hand, will be used for brand building, demonstrations or interactivity. So, a lot of response-led advertising happens in print and not on television.

Do you think the re-launch of 'Kaun Banega Crorepati' will excite advertisers as much as its launch did in 2000 because of AB and increased prize money?

If I was to go by the advertising mantra, then re-launches don't excite the industry as much as launches. Certainly there will be excitement because KBC was the turning point in Indian television and Amitabh Bachchan is someone who cuts across audiences. But I wouldn't fathom that it would really do as well, in terms of viewership, as it did few years back.

If earlier, the TRPs were, let's say, 20, today I don't think it would touch that. Though KBC started the trend of appointment viewing, today people have more options.

'Star Plus, Sony are now experimenting with comedy in prime time, which was not the case earlier'

What, according to you, are some promising shows and trends on TV at present?

All said and done, Kyunkii… and Kahaani… are still there because that's what the masses in the country are watching. I think another genre that is doing well is comedy. If you look at Star One, then shows like Instant Khichdii and Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai are probably doing the best within the given gamut because they are comedy-based. That's how SAB TV has built up a loyal viewership, including male audiences. Star Plus and Sony too are experimenting with comedy on prime time through LOC and Batliwaals at No 43, respectively, while earlier mass channels did not take on comedies on prime time.

However, in the last couple of years, news, as a genre, has really come.

With so many news channels around, do you think there has been an overkill?

I'll keep the regional news channels aside because they are catering to a regional audience. I do think there has been an overkill in the news space. If you look at the advertising pie on news channels, that segment hasn't increased dramatically. With every new channel, the fight is for the same sized pie. Agreed, there's lots for news channels to do these days, but one can't ignore the overkill.

But for targeting the male audience, the news genre is still exciting. It's all a question of how best a perspective is brought on by a news channel for the viewer.

What is your take on non conventional media like the Internet and mobile telephony, which have seen a rapid growth in the last one year or so?

It's absolutely on an upsurge. I think it is the day and age for mobile and Internet advertising. So much so that the unconventional media is eating into the share of the conventional means of advertising budgets of clients.

Are clients more open to advertising on these new media or like to play safe?

Clients these days are very open to non-conventional advertising, whether it is multiplex advertising, on-ground activities, road shows, events, etc. What clients are looking at is a complete media solution, rather than conventional or non conventional. If my audience is someone who can be catered by certain things, out of which, two are conventional and three are unconventional means of advertising, then the client would be interested in an integrated package.

For an advertising agency, wouldn't the billing get fragmented because they need not necessarily have expertise in both the mediums?

It would and could. That is why lots of agencies today are getting into diversified businesses.

The media agencies and the rates issues have always been a topic of controversy. Everyone talks about it but nothing is being done about it. Why?

I have a very different way of looking at it. If I don't give good rates to the clients, then I don't deserve to be in the business. Today, the way the media services agencies are operating, rates is hygiene. But, unfortunately, clients don't look beyond at other factors like the kind of strategic thinking that we bring on the table. Savings don't only come via rates, but also through planning, which clients don't understand. It's very important for clients to look at things from that perspective.

I don't think the media business is looked at that seriously in terms of spends and how to get the best impact.

How would you assess Starcom Delhi's performance in 2004?

2004 has been a rocking year for us as we have seen almost 50 per cent growth over 2003. In 2003, we had grown by 147 per cent, but then the base was small. We've added on quite a few clients; not only media AORs, but full services businesses that we have got along with our creative partners Leo Burnett. Now, it's time for consolidation and repeat last year's performance.

In 2004, we picked up the AOR for Atlas and DLF, comprising real estate and DT Cinemas. The biggest campaign was Congress', where we partnered Leo Burnett. Apart from that we also picked up Hugo Boss and Ricoh printers. Then we got empanelled along with Leo Burnett, for Oriental Insurance. Towards the end of the year, we got empanelled on Gail and won Tetra Pak along with Leo Burnett. Sony Electronics and LVMH watches have been with us since 2003.

What was Starcom's success ratio in 2004 by way of the number of accounts pitched for and the number won?

I would say our success percentage would be about 50 per cent, though we've lost some pitches like that of Mother Dairy.

What, according to you, are going to be the new trends in the media space this year?

M&As have already been talked about. Also the fact that polarisation is going to take care of a lot of marginalisation. As far as media is concerned, print and television will remain the same and will not see any big spikes. But, certainly, non traditional media will come up. Sports and entertainment will be big drivers this year.

If there was one thing that you could change about the way the media agencies in India function, what would it be and why?

The one thing that I would want to change from a media agencies' perspective is that I would want to give due credit to what a media services agency does and not treat it like a supplier.

It is important for advertisers to realise what value a media services agencies bring to them, apart from just lowering rates. That is something that needs to change and the media agencies should be remunerated accordingly. I think that's something that is lacking.

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