The planner is like the concert master in a orchestra bringing the symphony of marketing tunes to life

Sanchit Sanga is the Chief Digital Officer for Mindshare in Asia Pacific & consults world’s top marketers on establishing their digital businesses for future ready business models.

Sanchit Sanga is the Chief Digital Officer for Mindshare in Asia Pacific & consults world’s top marketers on establishing their digital businesses for future ready business models.

His professional journey started in investment banking working out of languid Laos. Banking roles predictability and monotony didn’t keep Sanchit hooked for long. He moved back to India within a couple of years to join the excitement of the dot-com era.

Persistence & resolve to establish digital media during the dot-com bust helped him play a pivotal role in shaping the digital marketing industry in Asian Markets.

His passion is using digital data streams & tracking consumers’ trails, to inform marketing strategies of the world’s top brands. Sanchit is a self-professed stalker of Google’s business & loves fast moving data.

In this exclusive interview with Ratnika Swami for India Digital Review, Sanchit talks about the evolving role of the media planners in India, how technology will play a pivotal role in the marketing mix, and the various challenges faced by clients and agencies. Excerpts:

Q. With outcome-based campaigns and algorithm-based decisions, how is the role of media planners evolving? Do you think it will move from planning to just monitoring/controlling in the coming years?

Any form of media automation reduces tedious & tardy processes for deploying strategies. Rule based & algorithm driven methods will remove the operational deficiencies & smoothen the planning, buying & evaluation process, the traditional role of the media planners will become far more strategic as they can guide machines to deliver on factors which are ROI driven instead of spending time running operations. Planning remains at the core & even more crucial in the evolving landscape. Plans which are not fluid & adaptive combining right targeting, right data, right messages & right content will fail & that one window view is only available for the planners. The planner is the like the concertmaster in a orchestra, he or she guides, informs, enables the symphony of the marketing tunes to come to life.

Q. What are the biggest challenges you face, especially in being able to optimally tap into the digital medium? 

Low level of client education, resistance to follow the consumers across channels they use & misconceptions about the medium based on limited exposure are the biggest challenges.

Unfortunately the marketing education systems & training methods still rely a lot on the traditional forms of telling a consumer story. That story is broken at the core. Marketing education (as we used to know it) was linear, brand controlled & driven my mass marketing strategies, those principles don’t apply to the consumers of today. Consumers use multiple channels (At times simultaneously), define the paths they want to take, use multiple devices & want relevancy of messaging coming to them. The current marketing decision makers are sufficiently myopic in their understanding of the new consumer which makes them play safe with Television & Print as the over indexed beneficiaries of their strategy.

Q. What measures do you take to ensure that you deliver highly effective digital campaign? How do you maximise online conversions for a digital campaign?

Mindshare’s core is to drive Adaptive marketing strategies for all our clients. These strategies combine unified view of multiple consumer journeys powered by real time insights & data. We enable real time decision making in a physical space called The Loop Room which is meant for collaboration, decision making & delivery with all client partners involved. It is a space which is live & not latent. Having this space enables us to refine media deployments, relook at consumer behaviors across channels & serve real time content based on what’s working. All these facets work seamlessly to drive ROI beyond conversions alone and help us focus on most profitable segments for our clients rather than volumes alone

Q. How does programmatic buying or any other tech tool impact your job?

 Programmatic has enabled planning, buying & evaluation radically for the better. It has certainly become more informed rather than easier or difficult. Automation is helping us focus more on insights & strategies rather than operations & negotiations. Technology as it evolves will make the planning role pivotal in the marketing mix.  Fortunately, we believe media agencies are best placed to manage this orchestra rather than any other partner involved in the marketing process. 

Q. What are the main takeaways from this job? 

 The one & only take away is to “stay committed to test, learn, adapt”, on the go. If you are not willing to risk learning something dramatically new every 3 months, you are not meant for digital marketing.

Q. What tips would you offer to digital advertisers?

Focus on understanding the consumers & not the channels, if you understand segments & behaviors well enough, all else becomes easy!

Q. What role does mobile play in your marketing strategy?

Mobile is a device & not a channel. Mobile allows access to the consumers to connect to channels like search, social, video & content. We don’t create mobile strategies, we use mobile as a connector across all channels that the consumers use. There question not to ask is “what is our mobile strategy”? The questions to ask is what will be the role of mobile in my search marketing strategy, my content strategy, my social media strategy, my TV strategy, my out of home strategy, so on & so forth.

Q. Are there any industry trends and technologies that you find exciting right now that might help your clients?

 Viewability, audience & ad verification are hogging the spotlight on digital. More focus on these elements will bring better transparency & disclosure to the digital channels which have long been plagued with questions around bots, fraud & bogus methods to achieve delivery. This trend is definitely something that will shape the digital media in the near future & cleanse some of the dodgy tactics certain segment of publishers & companies use.

Q. Despite its growing popularity, social media continues to be tricky for media planners and brands. Having a large number of followers on Twitter or likes on Facebook, for instance, is no longer considered a useful benchmark. What are your views on social media engagement and what key parameters or criteria do you look at when planning to tap social media?

Social is an exciting space & a largely misunderstood one. Brand’s need to define what role they want their social presence to play in solving their marketing challenges. Creating Facebook pages or defunct YouTube channels doesn’t mean you have a social media presence covered & having 1 million likes doesn’t mean your followers are your advocates. Consumers follow passions & not brands. Social can play crucial roles in customer service, education & getting brand messages across at scale. Not every company can do all three so definition of purpose is the starting point.

Our approach is to look at the overall marketing objective & define the role of social to solve a part of the problem in marketing approach. Each social channel has strengths & unique facets which we try to exploit. Instagram & Pinterest are visual tools which are great for visual brands, YouTube is great for story telling & for education, and Twitter is good for velocity & trend spotting. We chose our social approach based on the objective!

Q. What issues or challenges are your clients facing right now?

 Attribution & defining credit to different channels to actual sales is the challenge. ROI definition has become far more complex with different channels, different devices & multiple touch points contributing to the outcome brands are chasing. Also, the walled gardens of the big two digital media giants deny access to true interconnected data pipes & consumer data streams which is adding to the headache of measurement. 

Q. Could you mention some recent campaigns that you found noteworthy? And what do you think makes them stand out?

I personally am fond of social message driven campaigns. I also see some friction between creativity, data & technology which brings out some interesting work. I like the entire Dove Real beauty initiatives which have campaigns emerging every year with a new approach.

Q. Going forward, how do you think will the relationships with publishers, brands or other players in the digital ecosystem hold sway for media agencies?

As I said earlier media agencies will be the concertmasters using instruments provided by ad tech companies, publishers & brands. As long as we play the music with rhythm & beats, we will be in a good place.

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