Creative Teams need to make their message simpler and more engaging: Rahul Marwaha, EVP, Interactive Avenues

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Best known in recent times for the BJP’s digital campaign during the Lok Sabha elections, Interactive Avenues, a part of the IPG Mediabrands family has become one of the most experienced digital outfits in the country. Having catered to a diverse set of clients since 2006, it has developed domain expertise and seems to know the pulse of the consumers. In a candid chat with Rashi Bisaria, Rahul Marwaha, EVP, Interactive Avenues Pvt Ltd reveals the consumer and client insights he has gained over the years and why he thinks the digital landscape is ready for a complete overhaul. Edited excerpts:

Over so many years of servicing such a range of clients, you must have picked up insights about them. What does the client of today want?
We have had a few tough years for the economy both in India as well as across the world, and the clients’ advertising budgets have been under pressure. In addition to this, the media options have multiplied and with the advent of digital , the speed of fragmentation and change has only increased. Clients therefore demand the following:

  1. Information: Progressively clients want their agency partners to understand the offline as well as the online world – especially because their consumers are not compartmentalized in their usage of media. Agencies need to be well informed.
  2. Insight: Clients want deeper understanding of their consumers as well as their media consumption patterns. It’s not just important to know what or how much but essentially why. Clients want agencies to have deeper insights into their industry and their consumers.
  3. Innovation – Clutter breaking communication and media usage which makes their brands stand out in this noisy marketplace. Information and insight are most critical ingredients for an agency to innovate and agility is key. Clients demand agencies to be able to think out of the box and respond quickly to events and changing consumption trends.

Do you think brands are rushing to include digital without actually understanding the medium and its real potential?
Yes, and it is not a bad thing. It just depicts their intent to explore new avenues to reach their audience.
Given that increasingly consumers are starting their digital journey from Facebook rather than Google, it gives the brand an opportunity to create conversations, test communication and get a feedback from their consumers, before spending larger media money on the medium.

There is no structured approach that a brand must follow because consumers have various touch points on digital. There is no more a structured “To Do” List on digital, some brands jump straight to long form video before working on the brand website.

In today’s ever changing and dynamic world, it is essential for any brand to keep their eyes and ears open to new platforms. As far as a brand is willing to experiment and is employing the appropriate mechanism, it’s on the right track. Everyday a new platform or channel is introduced and one cannot practically learn everything about them immediately, so it’s alright to keep exploring. Unless you try, how will you learn?

How well educated is the client today about the potential of digital?
There are clients at different stages of evolution on digital. We define them in broadly three stages:

  • Beginners – These are the ones who have just started climbing the ladder in the Digital space. They have done the hygiene check and learning and moving ahead one step at a time.
  • Learners –This category of clients has realized the potential of the digital medium and is now learning the finer details of the business on this medium.
  • Evolved –This set of clients has the first mover advantage and consists of people / brands that jumped to the space in its early stages. They are now well established in the Digital space and hence, reaping the benefits.

Which one of your services is the strongest today?
Interactive Avenues has been winning awards and clients across all its services, hence, we stand strong in our overall business and not just individual services. Our strength lies in“Intergrated Services” that we offer under one roof and our clients don’t have to look out for multiple partners for different services. As a result, everything we do has an underlying synchrony considering all services here work closely with one another.

How difficult has it become to tell a brand story in this cluttered space? Has it become a challenge for your creative teams?
Extremely difficult! As you mentioned, the space is cluttered. With everyone trying to create a niche for themselves, there is a lot of content for the audience to consume; hence, an approach which is closest to the customer requirement, is absolutely essential.

Creative teams need to be constantly trained and pushed to make their message simpler and more engaging. Nowadays, with endless options to cater to the customer, one needs to look at conveying simpler and focused messages for higher conversions. Also the definition of Creative is changing with some great ideas coming from not only the creative teams, but at times Technology or Media teams as well. We constantly push our teams and they themselves push to deliver superior quality results to the client.

What is your unique edge over others?
We are a Full Service Digital Outfit. We offer all services under the Digital space under one roof and have extremely talented and knowledgeable professionals working with us.We use the latest technology and partner with the best in the industry, which adds to our strength. Our clients do not have to look out for different services as we offer them all services such as SEO, SEM, Data Analytics, Website designing, Media buying under the same roof along with a team of highly talented professionals who know how to deliver results as per the client’s satisfaction.

Can you talk about a few memorable campaigns across your service range which really stood out?
The BJP Election Campaign (Display and Mobile), Micromax Anthem (Content, Creative, Social, Media and Search) , the Amex LinkedIn Campaign (Social and Media), and Coca-Cola FIFA (Social Media, Creative) are some of them.

What trends do you see taking shape in digital in the next 5 years?
Digital is an extremely dynamic space with a new trend emerging every day hence 5 years is a long time frame to talk about. Due to the nature of the medium we can only talk about the next one year. For example, even as we speak, there is a lot happening even in one single space such as digital video: Amazon would be launching Amazon Prime and Instant Video In India soon and officials are in talks with major Indian studios such as Yash Raj Films, Eros Entertainment and Sony to bring their content online, under a paid subscription service. Twitter is catching up on the video game and is also working with brands to promote its long form videos. It has also made two recent acquisitions, Niche’ and Periscope. Niche’ provides video creators with analytic tracking software and, most importantly, connects them with brands willing to pay for their creativity. Periscope is a live streaming video and audio app. YouTube is getting a new look and app for mobile screens.

So going by this trend, in 5 years the entire digital landscape is expected to go through a complete overhaul.

What is it that you expect from marketers when they come to you with their requests?
We want brands to come with an open mind and believe in their agency partners. While they may have certain ideas in mind, they should also be willing to try out our new thoughts without being rigid.

The client and agency have to function in synergy for the success of any campaign or project.

In our experience, there are many instances clients do not go ahead with a digital campaign or idea because of their lack of understanding of the medium.

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