IAA World Congress: Go digital, focus on new media

The much talked about 42nd IAA World Congress has come and gone and given many an opportunity to visit Russia, which is generally not on anybody’s tourist map. I am sure all delegates are reasonably happy that they made it to the Congress, whether it was for the Congress speaker presentations or the venue Russia or the opportunity to meet with advertising big wigs from around the world.

India, made its presence felt at this Congress with 47 delegates, three speakers – Vinita Bali of Britannia, K Srinivas of Bharti Airtel and Sam Balsara of Madison World; and bagging the 2010 IAA Chapter Excellence Award.

When one visits a new country, in your flight, you replay the impressions you have about the country – so images of the biting cold, vodka and a language that you can‘t understand a word of came to my mind. But on stepping out of the Moscow airport, the heat and the sun gave us a not so pleasant surprise. Since the Conference was in the Kremlin, I was kind of expecting to bump into Putin, but that was another disappointment.

But, let’s talk about advertising first. The Congress’s 38 speakers were to talk to over a thousand delegates from all over the world about the Consequences of Change taking place all around us.

If I have to sum up what industry stalwarts like Sir Martin Sorrell, Mark Pritchard, Maurice Levy and other prominent speakers had to say, I would say I have four broad take aways that all speakers touched upon in their presentations:

Go Digital and focus on new media

Add value to consumers

Increase consumer base and compete against non consumption

Use CSR as a business tool

Now going into details of what some of the speakers said, Sir Martin Sorrell gave a good overview of the advertising and marketing industry at large. He seemed upbeat about the emerging climate as reflected in WPP figures that he had seen days before the conference.

He spoke about WPP’s strategy of focusing on BRIC markets, new media and digital, and consumer insights. He highlighted eight trends that he had observed or prophesised about and said because of this the advertising and marketing industry was poised to play a more critical role in the near future:

Shift in economic power from West to East and North to South.

Overcapacity in the world and therefore a need for differentiation.

Growth and importance of digital companies. He cited the example of Google being the biggest media owner in the UK.

Growth in retail.

Internal communication and the challenge of getting people to work together.

Shift in coordination from global to local.

Importance of CSR and the use of CSR not for a social cause but more to meet a business purpose or goal.

The Government in all markets is becoming extremely important and influential and a huge spender on advertising.


India‘s Kaushik Roy at the Congress in Moscow
  Mark Pritchard, the global marketing   and     brand building officer at Procter and Gamble made a pitch for brands to move from marketing to serving a purpose. He also touched upon why a brand exists (what is its purpose or soul); what does the brand stand for (its benefits or its heart); and how is the brand expressed (its execution or body). To make his point come alive, Mark shared some examples of the work they did on Pampers in Russia, based on the insight that when babies sleep well at night,they are 

active and grow up healthier; PUR, a campaign for clean water in Africa and from our very own India, the famous Gillette – Shave or Not to Shave campaign. No international conference can now be complete without the mention of this campaign! Divya, please take a bow. He also emphasized on the fact that when an organization does all these things, it boosts employee morale.

Eric Joachimsthaler, spoke very passionately on Challenger Brands. He emphasized that organisations should forget about Disruption and focus on Deep Dive. The key difference between Disruption and Deep Dive being, in Disruption companies would focus on optimizing their own value chain, focus on market sharing and competing against the next competitor. While in Deep Dive the focus is on optimizing your consumer’s value chain, focus on market creation and competing against non consumption.

He made his viewpoint come alive by giving the example of Flip, a video camera that could upload photos immediately on Facebook in six seconds and achieved 34 per cent market share in US in three years, because of understanding and capitalising on the need gap in the market. He also emphasized on the need for 365 day Communication and not 360 degree communication and the need to create social currency. Whilst Sir Martin spoke about the need for differentiation because of overcapacity, Eric felt it was no longer possible to differentiate your product in today’s fully wired and instant world.

Vinita Bali was eloquent and said that challenger brands usually have less resources, so they employ sharper strategies, act faster and make better use of scarce resources and these are the qualities necessary for challenger brands to survive.

The panel discussion on Media Opportunities in the BRIC markets, had Sam Balsara, representing India and the Panel spoke about how the only way to make the advertising business grow was to make the client’s business grow and aggressive use of new media and a better understanding of new media by agencies would help the cause.

Microsoft and 20th Century Fox made a joint presentation on how they promoted and marketed the biggest animated film of the year Avaatar, highlighting that when two giants tango together you can get delightfully surprising results.

Day 2 had Maurice Levy open the Congress and he spoke about companies‘ need to take their responsibility to society seriously and that they will be rewarded for doing that.

Rich Riley from Yahoo spoke about taking the online platform to the next level and how Creative and Media agencies could use digital to engage with consumers in a meaningful way.

Another interesting panel discussion was on The Advertising Agency Model which had representation from Group M, Publicis Groupe and Joanne Davis Consulting. The panel highlighted the lack of communication between clients and agencies, and groaned about the growing influence and power of procurement managers in agency-client relationships.

Nikesh Arora from Google, highlighted that 26 per cent of the world’s population is online and 24 hours of video is uploaded every minute on YouTube. He also said that the internet provides instant feedback, interactivity with advertisers, a borderless world and gives a notion of mass personalisation. He emphasised that the last 10 global brands have all been built online - Google, Facebook, YouTube, etc.

Another interesting presentation was from K Srinivas of Airtel, where he took the audience through the miraculous Airtel story of how it became the No. 1 telecom service provider in India through an innovative business model, focussing on outsourcing of core functions to overcome shortage of resources, but investing heavily on the brand.

IAA also had a special package for their Young Professional Members, which gave them an opportunity to be part of the Congress at a fraction of the regular delegate fee. 16 youngsters from around the world, including me took advantage of this offer, including five from India.

The evening entertainment organised by the IAA World Congress organisers gave the delegates a good flavour of Russian customs, from a gala dinner at The Kremlin Palace Congress Centre Rooftop Ballroom, to the Bolshoi Ballet. After the gala dinner, there was an after party on the roof top of the Ritz Carlton, at a Lounge called O2. Reminded me of our AER Bar at Four Seasons; O2 lounge gave an aerial view of the Kremlin and the Moscow skyline by night.

Moscow as a city is similar to Delhi in winter in some ways – very wide roads, majestic buildings and flowers (tulips no less). But despite the wide road, the traffic and the traffic jams make you wonder if you are still in Bombay! With the onset of spring, the lush green gardens and flowers were in full bloom, the warm weather also got most of Moscowites out on the streets, enjoying the warmth, making walking on the streets, a delight.

Quite a lot of Indian delegates were fortunate to bump into Indian taxi drivers from South India, most of whom came to Moscow 10 – 12 years ago to study medicine and because of circumstance landed up doing all sorts of businesses except medicine. They proved to be good tourist guides for us for both Moscow and St Petersburg city to show its historic sights. St Petersburg is another must see city, a one-hour flight from Moscow. The city again is very historic with many parts in the city looking a lot like Rome, but on a bigger scale.

Russia as we all know is famous for its vodka, but what many don’t know is how a Russian has his vodka. Chilled vodka is poured into a short glass and right next to it comes another glass of orange or tomato juice. Instead of mixing the two together, like many of us do, they first take a gulp of the vodka followed by the juice. And by the way Russian girls don’t drink vodka.

So on the whole, the 42nd IAA World Congress provided delegates a good overview of the state of advertising in the world today and gave me an opportunity to tick off Russia from the 100-places-to see-before-you-die list.


(The author is Madison World Business Development & Diversification Manager)

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