New Delhi: Anita Nayyar took charge of Havas Media in 2006 to grow the agency in the Indian market dominated by big firms such as GroupM and Madison. She came on board at a crucial time when Havas Media separated as a media agency from its holding company Euro RSCG and became the Media Planning Group that year. Nayyar, who was the first chief executive of the then 150 crore media agency, was single-minded in her mission to scale operations and stabilize the business. Known as the “Reckitt agency" in the market owing to the fact that British multinational Reckitt Benckiser was its only big account, the firm today boasts more than 100 clients across brands.

After 10 years, Nayyar plans to chart a new course for the agency as she settles in the newly constructed 30,000 sq. ft office called Havas Village in Gurgaon, which will house every division of the agency. In an interview, she spoke of Havas’s India journey, expansion plans, and the changing landscape of media buying and planning. Edited excerpts:

How has been the last decade for Havas Media?

Mohit (Mohit Joshi, managing director of Havas Media Group India) and I were hired to stabilize the Reckitt business and work on getting new businesses to drive growth. Another task was to build resources in terms of hiring and retaining talent. Slowly and steadily, we grew year-on-year and accounts started coming in, including brands such as Voltas, Daawat Basmati Rice, Kohler and Hyundai, among others.

From a 150 crore agency in 2006, we have grown the billings 12 times to 3,500 crore in 2015.

There were times we did not win accounts because the clients thought we did not have the infrastructure or the strength to service them. From 40-odd people we are now 400 people-strong with offices in Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Ludhiana and Kochi.

Almost 60-65% of our clients have been with us for over six years, including brands such as Hyundai, VLCC, Lacoste, Quikr and Capgemini. When we started, we were 16th agency on the RECMA ratings; (RECMA is a research company that evaluates digital and media agencies worldwide) in 2007, we jumped up to the 13th spot and today we are No. 5.

From not being called to pitches to now getting invited for them, we have come a long way. Unlike most agencies, we lead from the top, which is our USP. We make sure that our clients see the top management from pitches to review process.

We have invested a lot in tools, processes and research, keeping digital at its core. We would like to call ourselves a media-agnostic agency as we try to offer our clients marketing solutions instead of nudging them to spend on television or print.

How has media planning evolved over the years?

The way media has been measured has evolved significantly. I remember sitting with thick National Readership Survey and doing planning manually. The measurement system has been digitized with bodies such as Broadcast Audience Research Council India, Indian Readership Survey and Radio Audience Measurement. The volume in mediums have gone up with the number of television as well as FM radio channels increasing, cinema getting revived with multiplexes and digital taking the centre stage. Penetration of mobile phones in the country has made dramatic changes giving the consumers immense power. That is why on a group level, we became digital at the core with programmatic, performance, mobile and social.

Could you simplify programmatic buying? Do you think it will make the media buyer redundant?

In layman terms, programmatic buying is to provide the right message, to right target audience at the right time and at the right price. Since it is automated, one would feel that the role of a media buyer is redundant but it is clearly not the case. There is human intervention in running the tool. Programmatic buying enhances the efficiency, reducing the scope of mistakes. While it will make media buying easier and efficient, human intervention will always be there.

Have radio and outdoor mediums made a comeback?

Absolutely. In fact radio, outdoor and cinema—all three have made a comeback.

Radio has regained its position in the media mix owing to the increasing stations making entertainment on the go a reality. Radio used to be only a reminder medium during the time when Vividh Bharati was the only station. Now, it is an interactive and experiential medium for brands. Categories such as FMCG (fast moving consumer goods), auto, real estate are leveraging the medium. A lot of radio stations do a mix of on-ground activations which are uplinked on their station, giving listeners the feel of the event. Contests being run on radio give feedback, brands can weave their messages in the content of the programme, radio jockeys have become influencers who endorse brands.

Cinema advertising has evolved as the shift has happened from single theatres to multiplexes. Movie viewing has become a personal experience with theatres such as PVR Director’s Cut, which attracts premium audiences. Brands can do standees, pamphlets, screens and even seat branding.

Outdoor offers so many different formats. A brilliant example of OOH is Cyber Hub in Gurgaon, where screens and unipoles are put up for advertising. The outdoor ad format has taken a giant leap from hand-painted ads to flex, LEDs and front- and back-lit OOH. Virtual Reality is the next big thing in OOH.

Is social media advertising overrated? How much budgets are brands putting on the medium?

I do not think it is overrated, but it does reach a plateau sometimes. Brands must utilize the offering of social media by staying relevant and connected to consumers. Search is such a big platform, but if a brand does not invest in the right keywords, then it loses. The brand’s message has to become screen-agnostic and two-way, it is a challenge for them.

What is Havas Media’s digital and mobile strategy?

We have a mobile marketing brand called Mobext, but since the infrastructure in India is still not well developed, we haven’t been able to leverage the smartphone penetration. But few brands are finding their way to leverage the medium. Take for instance what Hindustan Unilever did with Kan Khajura Tesan in a media-dark region like Bihar. Similarly, we also did games for Radico Khaitan’s vodka brand Magic Moments when it launched various flavours.

What kind of challenges are agencies facing today?

There are so many challenges that agencies face today in terms of an evolving audience, availability of multiple media platforms, control being in the consumer’s hands, technology, burgeoning content, programmatic, pricing and return of investment. If an agency is not adapting to the evolving world at the right time, it will lose. The pace of this change is very fast; so one has to do everything in real time.

In 2020, how do you split your media plan between TV, digital and print?

In India, the reach and cost efficiency of television cannot be disputed. Having said that, I believe if the infrastructure is in place, then digital will take the cake. The approach towards advertising has moved from television planning to an audiovisual one, which includes both TV channels as well as online videos.

Havas has redefined media planning and offers clients strategies based on the OSEP (owned, shared, earned and paid) perspective. Owned media could be a brand’s website or product packaging and shared media is the one which a brand shares with other brands. Earned media, which is the cheapest and benefits the brand the most, is the buzz a brand makes on social media or otherwise; paid media is the brand’s campaigns across mediums and is the most expensive and lowest on influence.

Since earned media is mostly social media, digital forms a huge chunk of the OSEP model. So, instead of giving a percentage, I would say that our media plan will be digital-heavy followed by television and print going forward.