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TV in future to be delivered through internet pipe, not DTH: Isobar group MD

TV in future to be delivered through internet pipe, not DTH: Isobar group MD

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MUMBAI: The year 2008 will always be remembered as the year of the global financial crisis. It was the worst financial crisis the world ever faced since the Great Depression of the 1920s. The crisis that originated in the United States gradually extended over a period of time and eventually brought the entire world under its grip. And India wasn’t spared from the catastrophe as well. It was a time when brands didn't have enough money in their pockets to spend on advertising and manufacturing.

Digital agency Isobar that started operations in 2008 during the meltdown, recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary. While it was a definite challenge convincing brands to come on board to advertise on a new medium, it definitely paid off. The agency has worked for Godrej securities, V-Guard, Wrangler, Adidas, Lego, Durex, Acer, Voot, CEAT, Barbie, ROUSH among others. Isobar has over 6,500 people in 85 locations across 45 markets globally.

We sat down with the recently elevated Isobar group MD for South Asia Shamsuddin Jasani along with executive vice president Gopa Kumar where they discussed about their journey at Isobar, what has changed in the last 10 years, the advent of newer technologies, challenges for the industry and much more.

It was a challenging time when you started the agency. How was it?

Shamsuddin: We started Isobar when there was a global financial meltdown in 2008. Businesses across were shutting down and it was a bad phase for the entire industry. But it was a good time for us to start the company. It was a different time altogether as digital was just coming up. Ashish Bhasin had joined Dentsu just two months before I joined.

2006-2008 was a time when brands were new to the digital world. How challenging was it to get brands on board?

Shamsuddin: In 2008, businesses were reducing spends on media due to the global meltdown. People wanted to start experimenting on digital more than before as the idea was that you need to spend much lesser on digital than on print and television. But yes, we worked really hard to get clients on board for a relatively new medium. We had to use our existing list of contacts but it was more about going to clients and explaining to them how digital works. But clients were also receptive to hearing us out as they wanted to experiment with their money. The years 2008 to 2012 was more about educating clients but digital really hit home in 2012. The digital spends between 2008-12 were around 8-10 per cent which has now gone up to 20-30 per cent.

How has it been working with Ashish Bhasin? He is known as one of those bosses who really gives you the creative freedom to operate the way you want to.

Shamsuddin: We have learnt so much from him and we have grown so much because he has allowed us to make our own mistakes and take our own risks while giving us a guiding light. I wouldn’t have been able to build Isobar the way it is if we were a part of a different network.

Gopa: His ethics and the way he conducts himself is inspirational to us. It has been great working with him. He is a guiding light to everyone at Dentsu Aegis Network.

Are brands okay and accepting to spend a huge chunk on digital marketing or will it still take them some time to accept digital?

Shamsuddin: The acceptance has happened and clients now know the importance of digital. Every brand is on digital today but it’s more about how brands are exploring the medium to the fullest. For a long time, digital was seen in isolation from other mediums and that is where it failed. I think soon everything will move to digital. Five years down the line, you will have television that will be delivered digital only through an internet pipe and not through DTH.

So the way we consume digital will change?

When Jio fibre comes out with its set top box that will be a game changer for television because you will now watch a lot of content on demand. That will create a sea change in the money we are spending. Television metric will be intrinsic to digital because you will be buying everything through digital. The explosion is already happening due to Reliance Jio. In the next few years, video will drive a lot of the consumption stories and advertising stories along with e-commerce. Increasingly, a lot of people are not searching for brands on Google but directly on e-commerce websites.

When do you see the shift happen when everything becomes digital?

Shamsuddin: Even when it becomes a digital world, you will still buy television and outdoor. Outdoor will become 30-40 per cent of the total media spends because you will have digital screens. Advertising will be a digital led industry, not necessarily digital buying in as early as 2020. However, that may not necessarily mean that digital spends will be 40-50 per cent of the ad budget.

They said out of home a dying medium but increasingly we see a lot of brands exploring the medium to the fullest. Also digital OOH is becoming every advertisers’ favourite medium…

Shamsuddin: Outdoor and digital have the perfect marriage. Experiential advertising in the next few years will change the face of advertising altogether. Nearly 30-40 per cent of all outdoor in India will be through digital outdoor. That is simply because digital outdoor is very local and also digital now allows us to do hyperlocal. Some exciting times ahead for us!

There is a constant chatter about digital content regulation. If it happens, won’t that only be a bad decision altogether?

Shamsuddin: The basic question here is, how will you regulate digital content? It basically means that you will not have free content because you can’t regulate digital content. A player like Netflix or Amazon may abide by that but a lot of created and shared content can’t be regulated. You need to have enough filters to stop communal content but a content that users are paying for shouldn’t be regulated. It has to be more about self regulation by content creators because it’s viewed on a personal device.

Whats your view on technologies like Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality? Will they become inevitable in advertising few years down the line?

Gopa: India has used VR as a tactic and gimmick but nothing which has translated into scaleable marketing solution. But around the world, people are using VR and actually adding value to it. I think in India, it won’t only be about AR or VR, but mixed reality and that solution will be sustainable. More brands and agencies need to invest in these technologies and only then we can scale it up in terms of quality as people need to experiment.

Shamsuddin: I think AR will be bigger than VR in reality between the two technologies. That is simply because you don't need bulky headsets to experience AR. Now smartphones come with preloaded AR kit. But I think it will take another two to three years before AR changes the way we interact and use our phones and see things around us. Google glasses came in too early in the game but this would have been the perfect time.

In India, it’s only Republic TV and Discovery Jeet that are using VR to show news. Is the Indian audience even ready for such technology?

Shamsuddin: I don't think VR is ready yet in India and I don't think VR is something that you would want to take on live. The virtual content does not lend itself well for live content. It might work well for a cricket match or a Formula1 race but I don't know how important this is for news because news we are already consuming through video or text and that gives us enough information. The immersive concept works well for concerts and live sports.

One word of advice that you would want to give to upcoming talent?

Shamsuddin: You need to work on the basics as the basics don't change just because it is a digital agency. Just because you work in a digital agency, it doesn’t mean this is Silicon Valley where you can come in by 2 pm and leave by 6 pm! It is still work and you need to work! You need to work hard, get your basics right and make yourself better every day.

Gopa: For me, it’s all about hard work, being passionate and having your integrity is the foundation. The industry is dynamic and everything changes at the fly and if you are not ahead of the curve and you are not reinventing yourself, you will never be able to succeed.

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