Brands need to be agile on digital media: Pratik Gupta

It is high time that brands look at digital strategies instead of equating social with digital, says Pratik Gupta, founder of digital advertising agency Foxymoron


Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint
Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

A management graduate from Mumbai University, Pratik Gupta worked at Balaji Telefilms Pvt. Ltd and Castrol India Ltd before launching Foxymoron, a digital advertising agency, along with three partners. Currently, the eight-year-old independent agency services 85 brands, including Maybelline New York India, NYX Professional Makeup India, Foster’s India, Jim Beam India, Red FM and Asian Paints, among others. In an interview, Gupta talks about leveraging technology and challenges that plague digital advertising. Edited excerpts:

How are you using technology to offer solutions to brands?

We have created a creative technology arm called Phosphene which will approach digital advertising through a healthy mix of creative, technology and media. The future-ready agency of tomorrow will have to hit all these aspects. Here, technology means using augmented reality, virtual reality or creating integrated videos where users can decide their own stories. So far, we have only hired two resources for this arm who have studied creative technology globally. They have been meeting clients and informing them about the new arm.

While some of the campaigns we do are pure play digital, all activations will be backed by creative technology. It gives us an edge over others which will eventually affect our top and bottom lines.

We will also launch a technology driven video studio which will create a lot of interesting video content for brands which will be promoted on social media platforms.

Does social media become restrictive after a point for brands?

Not at all. The problem with most brands is that they look at social media in its entirety. I believe if a brand can break its business objectives, each of it can be solved using different social media platforms. Having said that, social media is one of the touch points of digital. It is high time that brands look at digital strategies instead of equating social with digital.

Can digital create brands on its own?

If you are looking at creating mass brands, then it can’t. But there are certain brands which have been built on digital-first strategy. Maybelline, for instance, has been spending a huge chunk of its ad money on digital for the last five years. This includes using Facebook (canvas, live, photos), crowdsourcing songs digitally, Twitter, Instagram. It has India’s biggest Snapchat community.

But brands need to be on digital consistently, which will create a persona. It is a much harder medium because one needs to be agile. The biggest challenge we face is making brands understand that they can’t put out the same campaigns every year.

Soon, there will no mainline or digital agency; there will be just a creative agency. Instead of digital or television, brands need to start think about audio-visual form of communication. So, first, a piece of content will be created and given the business problem and the target audience, the platform will be chosen.

What are your revenue targets?

We do a top line billing of Rs50-55 crore and we aim to take it to Rs 150-200 crore by 2019.

What are the challenges that digital advertising faces today?

Education is the biggest challenge both on the client and agency side. Facebook, for instance, has changed its algorithm three times and most of the people don’t know what implications it has on the brands.

The biggest problem is that digital has no entry barriers—anybody with a laptop and a broadband connect is a digital agency now. Once these shops pass on clients to other agencies, they hate the concept of a digital agency. There is no trust and when such clients come to us, we have to work with them from scratch.

There are a few companies which are digitally aware and doing fantastic work online but that is just 2% of the entire crop.

Apart from education, we definitely need an industry body for digital advertising. All the bodies that are created in this country are for awards which is the biggest sham and that is why we never participate.

Besides, there is dearth of talent which is why agencies pay huge salaries to retain their employees while clients’ digital budgets continue to be small which leads to a mismatch in the cash flows. If we don’t get supply of the right talent, digital agencies will start to shut because currently, the business model is not financially viable.

How do you fix this?

The clients have to start paying but let’s accept it, we are in India which has a rat syndrome. There is always another agency trying to win a business by quoting lower price.

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