Digital Marketing Mavericks is a new Storyboard18 series featuring some of the best digital, forward-looking domestic and global agencies building brands and businesses fit for the new age.
Digitas, which is owned by French advertising company Publicis Groupe, calls itself an “affiliate marketing agency.” Digitas forayed into the Indian market in 2008. Since then, the agency has been quietly working with brands looking for more than just creative and media solutions. In India, Digitas India has two units. One is focused on Indian customers and the other is a global technology service delivery center.
Unny Radhakrishnan, a seasoned digital marketing professional, joined Digitas India as the Chief Executive Officer in 2020. It was a year when businesses across the globe were nervous about doing business in a socially distanced world. Although things have been tough, Radhakrishnan notes that marketers have understood more than ever the need for digital business transformation. “Digital agencies like ours can offer much more. Customers have understood this over the past few years. Brands are embracing the fact that digital marketing is not just about drawing communication pieces. In real life, consumers are looking for complete brand experiences,” explains Radhakrishnan.
Sonia Khurana, the agency’s chief operating officer, shares similar views. She told Storyboard18: “Digital is a difficult word. There are so many aspects. We look at things from different perspectives. For example, we are looking for solutions for how content can drive commerce. There is a huge opportunity to bring the two together.” Abraham Varughese, who joined the agency earlier this year as chief creative officer, believes consumers are looking for meaningful conversations and experiences. The role of the agency is therefore to improve the offer of specialized services. For this reason, the trio constantly strives to improve their talents and recruit experts who bring new dimensions to their work.
Year of establishment – Publicis launched Digitas in India in 2006. In 2013, he merged LBi & Digitas into a single company.
List of CXOs – Unny Radhakrishnan, Sonia Khurana, Abraham Varughese, Abhishek Chaturvedi, Mohammedullah Shaikh, Paresh Maru, Saurabh Aggarwal, Ranjan Singh
Total number of employees – 470 plus
Total number of customers – 50 plus
Number of clients involved this year: Okaya, MGH, Celio, Marvel Realtors, Duolingo, Godrej HIT, Embassy Group, Olive, Disney Delights by Keventer, Matter Motorworks, Kinetic Green, Syngenta, MyTrident.com
The best campaigns
BoAt – The Unheard Break
On June 21, 2022, World Music Day, Digitas India and wearable audio brand boAt bought all the peak-time ad space on music streaming app Gaana, so no one could run an ad, not even boAt. Instead, the brand gave free users (almost everyone) The Unheard Break – hours of non-stop music without the expected commercial breaks. Due to the response on social networks, the campaign was extended by another two hours from the scheduled time.
Over 2 million unique listeners nationwide
Over 22 million streaming songs
19% increase in listening time (compared to weekly average)
Digitas India found that the car buying process involves 28 touch points. Due to the pandemic, many of these have moved to digital. As Nissan’s digital experience partner, the agency’s challenge was to deliver a journey-to-purchase experience in a digital environment with the ultimate goal of test drives and bookings. Digitas India created a booking platform through the UX process.
The booking engine offers customers an end-to-end solution – from replacing their existing car; applying for and taking advantage of online financial options (together with the submission of documents); calculate and compare EMI and track estimated vehicle delivery date.
Results: During the launch of the Magnite SUV brand, 12% of the audience reached out and booked a vehicle on the booking platform. More than 8,000 bookings have been made online till date on this platform.
For a leading cement manufacturer, Digitas India has designed and is currently implementing the industry’s first CRM program called Armaan Nirmaan. The program was designed with the goal of increasing brand exposure and capturing secondary sales to bricklayers, tradesmen, retailers and contractors. It is also a digitized sales order process for revenue tracking and capture that is integrated into larger business systems. It enables a multilingual experience to better connect with your audience.
Results: Several lakh contractors, masons, retailers, contractors and others have transferred and joined the program from 547 towns belonging to the remotest districts of India. Additionally, the app allowed the brand to track millions of revenue, including revenue from offline sources.
Enriching the talent pool
Radhakrishnan believes that talent is related to the culture of the organization. “Improving work culture is a constant work in progress. We want to build a team at a high level of empathy and performance.” He says he wants his teams to always remain curious. Radhakrishnan works closely with the Learning and Development team to identify value-added courses for their teams. An annual teaching calendar is planned. The agency also conducts a survey on the suggestions of employees in these areas. Marcel, Publicis Groupe’s AI platform designed to help employees connect and learn better, also has a repository of courses that anyone in the company can enroll in.
Varughese, who is in constant conversation with creative professionals, observes that it is difficult to keep the interest of entry-level talent. “They have good sparks, but the problem is having a lot. There are so many opportunities out there today that their focus can easily shift. It’s a challenge for the agency business, but on a macro level these are interesting times for people who are just starting out.” On the other hand, he says mid-level talent is excited in the industry right now. They are ready to learn and learn quickly. These training courses are therefore often attended by mid-level managers at Digitas.
What do marketers really want?
Not too long ago, Radhakrishnan asked a bunch of CMOs in his personal network what they wanted from agencies today. He shares with Storyboard18 some of the notes he gleaned from the dipstick. “Marketers generally understand the complexity of modern business. Some even modestly admit that they still work in silos and their agency partners simplify things for them,” he adds.
Khurana agrees with Radhakrishnan. He says that while some clients know exactly what they want from their agency partners, there are many who come with ambiguous instructions. This also happens between playgrounds. “We can talk to these marketers with different rounds of conversations. Sometimes they may not know that agencies can come up with more than communication and media strategies. Conversations in the hallways most often turn into development work here, because marketers understand that we bring a lot to the table,” he adds.
At a time when marketers are looking at Web 3.0 and the metaverse as shiny new objects, Varughese, Khurana and Radhakrishnan are keeping their eyes and ears to the ground. They watch the space. Varughese explains why. “Brands like to follow trends. Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with that. But there is so much platform and web technology to explore.” Brands can dig deep into these opportunities before chasing newer buzzwords, he concludes.