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"We see TV channels as partners rather than vendors": Havas Media Group’s Mohit Joshi

shared his thoughts on TV buying and IPL 2020.

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A seasoned professional, Havas Media Group MD India, Mohit Joshi, is known within the industry for his sharp acumen and quick knack to adapt to changing trends. With his role expanding in the agency as Anita Nayyar moved on in May, this year, Joshi led the agency during probably the toughest time in its history and again showed great strength and adaptability in taking care of the business, helping certain clients maintain good visibility and value even during the lockdown and economic slowdown. 

The gentleman sat down virtually with Indiantelevision.com founder, CEO and editor in chief Anil Wanvari on Thursday evening to discuss the changing trends in the TV buying world, his expectations with the IPL, his newfound love for OTT content and much more in a lucid discussion. Edited excerpts follow:

You follow the principles of purushartha, daivya and kaal in your life. That sounds interesting. Please tell us more about it.  

Yes, I very strongly believe in the power of these three; purushartha meaning hard work, daivya meaning luck and kaal meaning time. I feel success comes when all these three work together. For example, for people working hard during this time (Covid2019) might not have the kaal that is time favouring them. 

It seems like you read a lot of classical text. 

Not a lot, but yes, once in a while. There are many of them that I like and keep going back to, such as Thomas Hardy. 

Nice. So, how’s the work going on right now? Have you people started going to the office? How’s the vibe like?

Yes, the offices are open but we are not forcing anyone to join. Additionally, we have done extensive joining assessments for the people on grounds like who all are living alone v/s who all are living with old parents or young children, who have morbidities associated, etc. So, only those people are being called to the office for whom it is absolutely safe. We are not allowing anyone who travels via public transport to come to the office. There are extensive hygiene and social distancing protocols that we are following across our offices in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. 

The vibe is great. I feel that we all have gone through a huge amount of change in the past few months and now people want to get back to the office. It is not just about work but there is also a lot of residual psychological tension that gets eased when people meet and engage in conversations.

I personally love the days when I have to go to the office and look forward to them. 

And how is it for your clients? Have they started opening their workplaces?

A lot of them like Hyundai have started opening up but there are also the likes of Swiggy and Tata Motors who are still working remotely. But all of the client meetings are still happening virtually via platforms like Zoom. 

Most of our clients are happy and positive right now. A lot of them like Hyundai were much in demand during the lockdown too and now the others too have great expectations from the festive season and also IPL. 

So how do you see the TV viewership from here?

I think the lockdown period was quite unique and can’t be compared to any other time. We saw a huge spike in viewership for programs like Ramayana and Mahabharata and also on news channels. 

We have already started witnessing dips in TV viewership despite new content coming in and it is bound to happen. But I think it will stabilise now at a slightly higher level than pre-Covid2019 times. 

Also, there is quite a hullabaloo going on TV channels, especially on news channels with Sushant Singh Rajput’s case and the sort of coverage that is happening. How are your clients seeing it; do they want to stay away from it or be present? 

Honestly speaking, I feel that most clients should be away from this type of investigation largely; once in a while, some presence from an impact perspective is fine. But again, it is difficult to do so [stay away from such content] because most content on news is that way, they have a certain tonality. You can’t be away from this environment because then you might not find any relevant domain to be present. But in the case of very controversial domains, I personally feel that my client should be out. 

Coming back to the client attributes, how do they view television? With situations like lowdown, when you have already committed something and have planned something for a market and that gets shut down, so does the media channel have to be flexible or the client or the agency?

I think all three of us have been very flexible and understanding at this point in time because that’s what is required. Right now, each party understands that if one gets impacted, all three will be affected. 

The solution to this is that we seek media platforms as partners and not just vendors. These are extraordinary times and thus require extraordinary solutions. So, I would like to get into a partnership with any channel and tell them that don’t just tell us FCTs or rates, give us options for product integrations. 

What are the other challenges that you are facing while doing TV buying and planning?

Television today is not just a medium of reach and impact but also a medium to drive ROI. Every client today is asking what KPIs will I get. I think it is more of an opportunity than a challenge, in fact. 

We are using whatever data is available and we are able to do a fair bit of predictive modelling to address that. 

Also, today, we have evolved in TV planning. We now make audio-visuals plans, which include TV, OTT and online videos. 

A lot has changed in consumer behaviour today. I, myself, am a big example of it. I was not very much into OTT pre-Covid2019 and now I am hooked. It started with Paatal Lok and now I have watched all series like Narcos and Inside Edge. So, if a brand has to catch me, it has to be present across media and go beyond just television. 

What part of this audio-visual planning is acquired by traditional television?

Anywhere between 50-60 per cent to 90 per cent, depending on category and brand. We insist that all brands make even a small investment online to get an incremental reach on TV. 

Is everything business-driven and KPI-driven then? 

No. Let me take this opportunity to tell you the native Havas philosophy that we don’t associate with a brand that is not meaningful. It’s not just about business KPIs but also brand love. The money that a client is putting in, that’s actually for us to build meaningful brands. At the same time, I can’t go and tell a brand that I’ll make your brand meaningful, you give me money. The learnings are drawn from the bottom of the funnel and that’s how plans are made. There has to be a balance between quality and quantity. 

You mentioned that brands are positive about IPL and the festive season. Do we see ad rates hiking?

Rates will not go up during the festive season but the IPL will bring some stability. Some clients will invest surely, but for some business realities are more important. 

But as I mentioned, there is a positive sentiment amongst the brands for IPL. It is coming in at the right time when brands are eager to spend. A brand like Patanjali, which otherwise wouldn’t have been a part of IPL sponsorship, is now thinking about that. We ourselves are in touch with 15 of our clients offering different deal sizes and at least 10 will surely get through. 

Around 50-52 per cent of the overall spend by brands, this year will be during the festive season and IPL will take good 25-30 per cent of it. Categories like ed-tech, white goods, automobile, durables etc., will be active. 

Are we seeing a slight tilt towards spending on Hotstar this season?

I think the spend will be regular, much like last year, but new categories will come to advertise. For example, certain categories that used TV as the primary medium and digital on the side will make Hotstar their prime platform. 

Any parting thoughts?

As you know, we as an industry are going to see negative growth of 20 per cent this year as predicted. I think we can’t do anything about the impact on overall marketing spend and when we can’t do anything, I personally feel that we should use this time to see how we can create more innovative ways of going back to our clients and creating more value for them. So, I would rather see it as an opportunity to bring further change, transform ourselves and become more digitally savvy. 

Watch the full discussion here:
 

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