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Tight deadlines holding Indian agencies back: Roopak Saluja, The 120 Media Collective

Tight deadlines holding Indian agencies back: Roopak Saluja, The 120 Media Collective

MUMBAI: Who can forget the catchy viral sensational song - Why This Kolaveri Di – from a few years ago? It might seem like just a song that went viral but the reality is far from that. The song has an interesting story.

It was back in 2011 when Jack in the Box Worldwide, the digital agency brand of The 120 Media Collective, helmed by Roopak Saluja got a call from Sony Music to help them control the damage that was done when their upcoming movie, 3’s song had been leaked from the recording studio. That’s when a new viral marketing strategy was born.

Soon enough, Jack in the Box Worldwide , Sony Music’s digital Agency of Record, decided to create an ‘official video’ of the song. Within 24 hours, the video was shot and humorously sub-titled, 12 hours after that the action began on social and 48 hours later, it was trending on Twitter.  The song to date has over 156 million views on YouTube.

Why are we telling you this story though? Well, because it was Roopak Saluja and his team, who utilised the power of digital when Facebook and Twitter were still experiencing their nascent days in India.

A former DJ, media businessman, an angel investor, owner of a record label in Europe, and an actor in few movies, Saluja has seen it all. While he originally wanted to become a writer, Saluja worked for six years in Y&R (Young and Rubicam) in Budapest and Ogilvy & Mather in Paris.

Featured in Campaign India's A-List of the Most Influential People in India's advertising, media & marketing industry between 2010-2014, Saluja is founder and chief executive officer of The 120 Media Collective - a communications and content group comprising subsidiaries, Jack in the Box Worldwide, Sniper, Bang Bang Films and Sooperfly.

Today, the agency handles digital and content marketing mandates for Unilever, PepsiCo, Reckitt Benckiser, Amazon, Novartis, Aditya Birla Group, Loreal, Indigo, Budweiser, IKEA and the Taj Group among others. It has been 12 years since he started his entrepreneurial journey in the advertising and media industry in India and a lot has changed ever since. While he was one of the earliest entrants in digital marketing, today we have over 150+ digital agencies in India. The challenges are shortcomings are more than ever before. spoke to Saluja to understand the agency model, Indian creativity, use of technology by 2020 and more.

You have always maintained that Jack In The Box is ‘premium priced’. Isn’t is hard for you to get clients in that scenario or are clients actually willing to spend that kind of an amount?

Yes, we are premium in our pricing and that is because we know we deserve it for what we bring to the table. We do discuss the pricing before we start working for the client. And it is actually not about the size as not everyone has the appetite for it (big budget). It’s not always the big advertisers that spend a lot, there are also some smaller startups who are trying to build the brand and they will over invest.

Larger clients today are reconsidering their investments and want to consolidate their spends in fewer agencies rather than having 10 different agencies on board doing 10 different things. Do you see that as a challenge?

I think 10-15 years ago, getting marquee clients was considered good for an agency’s reputation and it was something everyone could brag about. Today, it has become hard for agencies to make money with large clients due to the rise of procurement. We had a large client that paid us well back in the day for the work we did for them but now they have changed their pricing value and pay us peanuts for the same kind of work.

How do you view the work that comes out of India as compared to the rest of the world? Although we are getting there, so far we clearly aren’t winning a lot of awards at international film festivals.

I think we definitely are getting there. The work that came out of India at Cannes this year was better than last year. What happens at Cannes usually is that you tend to support your home country’s work but when an Indian work comes up, the Indian jury is never happy with it. I don't know if it's the jealousy or what, but you won’t find Indians supporting a fellow Indian’s work.

What is holding us back in terms of creativity?

The biggest difference and what’s holding us back is not money and budget. Obviously, clients expect moon and stars for peanuts but it’s more importantly about time. What we Indian agencies get four weeks for, they (international agencies) get 14 weeks. In India, agencies are put under a lot of pressure to finish the creative under a tight deadline. When the pressure is put on agencies, that pressure is in turn put on the production team to finish off the final product soon. This results in a substandard quality of creative.

Moving forward, do you think artificial intelligence, virtual reality and other technologies will become indispensable in ads, say 5 years from now?

Use of technology will change the way we advertise now but the basics will still remain the same. Jack in the Box or digital agencies, in general, will no longer be called a ‘digital’ agency by 2020. Someone once said to me, “Digital marketing is dead, long live digital marketing!” Going forward, digital marketing will just be a way of advertising.

What do you think will be the game changers for A&M in 2019?

It will be a mix of technology and data. My brother has a PhD in AI and he laughs about what we call AI in our industry. I intend to deliver better business results with the technology. Content for business impact is really important for us. Everyone is looking at the effectiveness of budget and its accountability.

Finally, what next for 120 Media Collective and what next for Roopak Saluja?

I want 120 to be the most effective company in the marketing space. I want it to be effective, not the best, not most creative. When I say effective, I mean in terms of business results. I say company and not agency because the ability to do and deliver the results will not come only from agencies.  Who knows we may not even be an agency anymore as agency implies that you are a part of the advertising world. I don’t think this holy grail belongs to the advertising industry anymore. Accenture and other technology companies are going into play as marketing and technology start to converge and technology companies will have as much of a claim over those marketing budgets as agencies.

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