Mumbai: On the side-lines of the Goafest 2023, Indiantelevision.com caught up with Aditi Mishra CEO, Lodestar UM, she spoke to us about her journey in Lodestar, the spends on IPL and much more…..
On your journey in Lodestar
Yes, I’ve been in Lodestar for a long time. I was the CSO, in that sense, yes, I was C suite. But I think becoming a CEO is a different kind of challenge altogether. Because when you are leading strategy and knowledge and learning training, it's a very focused and very, very sharp kind of area. This role is much wider because suddenly, you need to look at people and finances. So, while earlier I had a perspective, they were not my KPIs, it was not what I was responsible for. So, what it's doing, or rather, what it's done is that from a very deep look at something, suddenly I have a wide thing to look at. And it was a bit of, I think rewiring in my head, because when you're deep into something, you're going into depth in that area, and you're constantly trying to improve and work versus stepping back and widening your focus, it's almost like changing the lens. There was some initial rewiring that I had to do.
Secondly, I hope to do justice to the role that has been given to me, and I hope to be able to sort of transform - we are living, I think in a transformative time. And, to my mind, if I can be at the helm of enabling this transformation, for us as an agency for us as an industry for our clients, I think that would be a success - that if we can do this well, because there is a challenge both in terms of how the environment is, and you heard what we were talking, there is also challenge in some of the things that we were very briefly touched upon in our panel, whether it's in terms of talent, whether it's in terms of remuneration. So how do you keep this agency, this industry vibrant, and growing? I think that as a CEO is something that keeps me thinking about what it is that we need to do, to sort of ride this transformation by staying vibrant, staying agile, and still growing and that is really where I will be.
On how much was allocated to IPL
So let me go backwards, money was spent. Money was spent in both places - linear and digital. But the only thing was that people made very clear choices. Some clients chose TV, whether SD, HD or a combination. Some clients chose digital and we had detailed discussions with different kinds of clients. There's a client of ours who started with let’s do TV and digital and then finally went to no TV only digital; there were clients who said, why should they not do digital and then went back to complete TV, depending on the metrics that they were seeking. So, in that sense, money did get spent. Did as much money get spent as before last year, no.
That’s because of two reasons, I would say. One, the overall economic impact of a lot of players who were using IPL for quick awareness, which is the whole tech sector - fintech, ed-tech, all of them, that whole sector is completely wiped out because there is no investment flowing in as we know. So that sector went out completely. Certain other clients also that we had, went out completely they said it was just too much money. We don't want to do it now. We will hold and see the economic situation and then decide.
Because interestingly this year, and it was never before - IPL had packages for a one-crore client and a five-crore client – be it for digital and television or both. So, it was never there before, a small client could not have thought of being in the IPL. This year, there was an option. The split between digital and television had a very big impact. But even after the split, people chose to make a choice, they had to, it was pretty much ‘a had to’ thing, because it was very, very difficult for anyone to decide to buy everything, even very large advertisers.
So that was there, but some clients did not spend, and some clients did not spend as much and some clients chose to choose only one. So, from these three things, while IPL as a sporting event did very well, people are engaged. But from an advertising point of view, you don't see regular players, you see a level playing field. It's not that it's the very fact that you know, you can go to a playoff and say give me inventory, which was never a situation earlier in either place. So, it has been challenging on our end, I would say.
On how robust is the ADEX
It’s a difficult question. Okay, a lot of projections 11, 15, 18, I saw 10 also. So, it is difficult to say what we see happening - if I say, we will see more stabilisation of growth, it is not going to be a great wow year. At least so far it seems like this. Festivals will be there - money will be spent in the festive season. There are already some of the discussions we are having with certain clients and certain players, they are predicting the festival to be good. Unless something goes dramatically wrong with the monsoon, which touches wood I don't think that is the case, whatever one has been reading so far.
Will the festive season be very, very big? No, I think it will be similar to last year, which is good, but not wow. So that's where I think we are likely to stand out. In terms of categories, we will see that digital investments will continue to grow. But I think the others will now hold because things have started coming back. The print has started coming back for certain categories and is showing - they do not come in CPG, they will come in BFSI, and auto and there is some resilience there.
On the new buzzword Generative AI
I was one of the people who opened my chatGPT account 10 days into the startup. I think then it's been a very interesting journey because you see what ChaGPT does. Within the next three months, there are many many generated AI solutions that are coming, not just ChatGPT.
Now, when you ask me the question of how does Lodestar see it being used? Now, the immediate thought in my mind was that there are two ways it can be used. One is for myself as in for us as an agency or as an industry. The second is for clients. There are two or three ways that I think we are seeing it, potentially. There is no clear answer. As a global agency, we have a global memo, which talks about how we should use generated AI and how everything has to be zero-compliant because we are a Microsoft company. There are already guidelines like that. The guidelines are there because already we are seeing some of these seem to be used internally - can I use them for automation? Can I use it for customizing the way we respond to certain things internally? That's one area.
Coming to the outside world, I assume your focus was more there that if there is animation, if there is Metaverse, if these are like 20 things that you could do for a client and brand solution, how do you choose it? And what do you do? The way we are approaching it is I think three-fold right now. The first is, it's very important to stay abreast of what is possible. And for that, we have some internal audit sessions. We set up a session every two weeks with select group members in terms of what's happening, and what's new, because if you don't know, I can't be talking to every client. Everybody in the team needs to be aware, everybody in the team at least, needs to know where they can ask the question, even if they don't know the details themselves to push. That is something that we are doing in terms of encouraging people to understand.
The second thing that we are doing is working closely with partners – tech partners. Whether it's the larger partners like Google and Meta, or it's emerging partners who can come and tell us about their solutions.
The third thing that we are also doing is talking to clients to set aside what is called an innovation budget. Globally, and I don't know if you're familiar, we have something called an IPG Media Lab. Every week there is some area that they pick up and they share their learnings. Then we roll it out as a part of what IPG Media Lab does. Once a year, we look at all these emerging technologies across the globe, we look at how they are being leveraged by various partners or various countries.
We create a report and there's a tool which people can put in and depending on your audience, you can check by country, you know what technology is working. Sometimes it uses even basic technology like OTT, at times it talks about DFS, it talks about generated data, so the whole gamut. Then we publish something called an innovation annual every year. These are some of the ways that we sort of stay abreast and make sure that our teams know and they can have those conversations with clients. And then depending on client interest, depending on how much they're open to investment and experimentation, then we look at creating a solution or opportunity.
On the use of Metaverse
See that's a challenge with all these negative buzzwords, and they don't have a title. I think when we want to position ourselves as future-proof partners for a client. It is incumbent on us to see the recommendation or the consultation, we are offering a client - how robust it is. Metaverse, I mean, this time last year, the world was to be on metaverse. Now some people are questioning why I should be there. But does that mean Metaverse is dead? I would say no. There is going to be a different form of how you can use Metaverse and what should be used in Metaverse. Which is where I think a lot of thinking needs to go in. Every shiny toy is not nearly great. But you need to know you have to at least pick up the toy to see if it is great or not. Just because it's a buzzword doesn't mean it makes sense for a client. So that I think is the discernment that we would want our teams to have.
On gaming and esports
I think gaming and in India because we work in this field, India is more a mobile gaming market, not really a console gaming market but the console is picking. But it's still very small compared to a lot of other markets. But e-gaming or eSports has seen huge growth in the last two years, wherein just a day before I was talking to one of my clients and we were sharing this trend of how people like to just get together and watch the game, you know, I'm not playing the game, I'm watching the game together.
These are interesting kinds of nuances, which you pick up, such as, when you do research or when you connect with people, and then you understand. If a Gen Z is sitting and watching a game, and not playing video, I have to be conscious of what it is that I want to show. Do I want an in-game ad? Do I want to give them an engagement opportunity where I create an experience once and come and watch with your friends? What do I want to do? I think those are the nuances where we are. But yes, definitely it is an area where we are completely on.