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Business News/ Companies / People/  In ad-tech, be agile and pragmatic: says Rob Norman, adviser, Madison Media

In ad-tech, be agile and pragmatic: says Rob Norman, adviser, Madison Media

Rob Norman has joined Madison World as a strategic adviser, bringing his ad-tech expertise to the Indian integrated communications major. Norman will offer strategic advice on various aspects of the company's digital landscape.

Rob Norman, adviser, Madison Media. Premium
Rob Norman, adviser, Madison Media.

Mumbai: In a dynamic landscape of digital transformation, Madison World, the Indian integrated communications major, has strategically tapped into the expertise of Rob Norman. A luminary of the ad-tech world, who has formerly held key roles, such as global head of digital at GroupM and CEO of GroupM, North America, Norman brings a wealth of experience. Currently holding independent board memberships at several digital-first companies in the US, Norman shares exclusive insights into the challenges of digital transformation and evolving dynamics of the media and advertising industry in this exclusive interview. Edited excerpts:

What led you to join Madison Media as a strategic adviser, and what role are you playing within the company?

Vikram (Sakhuja, (Group CEO) and Sam Balsara (founder and chairman and managing director) expressed interest in leveraging my experience, particularly in the ad tech world. During our discussions, we explored the areas where Madison, as a non-global network, could benefit from external perspectives. My experience, particularly in understanding the changes in platforms and commerce, made them believe that my insights could contribute value. I serve as a minister without a portfolio in Madison’s group, working with the leadership, and offering strategic advice on various aspects, especially those related to the digital landscape.

Madison being an Indian company lacks a global presence, how do you envision its positioning in the evolving media advertising landscape, especially with the rapid growth of digital?

Madison, being rooted in India, must focus on understanding and adapting to the changing consumer behaviours influenced by technology, connectivity, and societal factors. The key is to assess how these changes impact the way people think and act, which is crucial in advertising business. Madison needs to ensure it keeps clients informed about these changes, makes them understand the implications, and helps seize opportunities. Companies today need to be agile in their approach, balancing attack and defence, and staying attuned to the evolving digital landscape without unnecessary complexities.

How do you perceive the current landscape for digital transformation, especially in the context of India versus the global scenario post-covid?

Digital transformation involves evolving business operations to leverage data effectively. In the agency world, this often means adapting to the changes introduced by global players like Google and Meta. The key is to keep up with technological advancements, ensuring planning, reporting, analytics, and billing systems are aligned with automated interfaces. Madison’s transformation should focus on creating smooth, frictionless relationships with their clients and suppliers, reducing manual efforts, and allocating resources to intelligence. While being agile, it’s also crucial to be pragmatic, considering the market specifics and learning from others’ experiences.

What are the common pitfalls organizations face during digital transformation, and how do you plan to assist Madison’s clients in navigating these challenges?

The most common pitfalls occur when organizations rush into adopting new systems without fully investing in implementation, training, and follow-up. Clients need to ensure their transformation aligns with the company’s purpose, delivers on promises, and involves staff and customers in the process. The focus should be on being right rather than quick, combining agility with a methodological approach to achieving meaningful results. Madison’s role is to guide clients through a thoughtful transformation journey, avoiding unnecessary risks as well as ensuring a smooth transition.

With the growing dominance of big tech players such as Google, Meta, and Amazon, how do you foresee the consolidation of power in advertising dollars, and how should Madison’s clients navigate this scenario?

Consolidation of power by Google, Meta, and Amazon, accounting for over 50% of global advertising dollars is a reality. Clients must acknowledge this shift and adapt strategies accordingly. While the landscape may vary in different regions, the overarching trend is towards increased digital communication, commerce, and media consumption. Madison needs to help clients navigate this by understanding regional nuances, identifying relevant use cases, and integrating new technologies into core marketing activities. It’s key to recognize the changing dynamics and leverage chances while maintaining a pragmatic and informed approach.

What’s your perspective on the current state of X and its relevance for advertisers?

Twitter’s relevance for brand advertising has been limited compared to giants like Google. Musk’s influence and recent controversies contribute to the challenges. Advertisers should carefully consider the platform’s role in their strategies, and metrics like reach, frequency, and impact remain essential.

Generative AI and blockchain are gaining momentum. How do you see their impact on the advertising and media industry?

Generative AI raises concerns due to its inherent inauthenticity. When combined with blockchain, a potential authenticator, it creates an interesting collision. The challenge is to balance the synthetic nature of AI with the blockchain’s role in authentication. For instance, recent instances of AI-generated content in publications raise questions about verified information and the certification of its origin.

Consumer behaviour is ever-changing, especially in India, where premiumization is on the rise. How should advertisers adapt to evolving preferences and expectations, especially in the digital age?

Advertisers need to analyze the various facets of consumer experience, both physical and online. Understanding how people navigate their lives and consume media provides insight into meeting them in places where brands can add value. Whether through fleeting interruptions or deep brand experiences, advertisers must tailor their approach to different segments’ tolerance for advertising.

Measurement poses a challenge with walled gardens preventing data sharing. How can the industry address this, considering the need for collaboration?

That’s why we need more initiatives like the Origin Project in the UK, which aims to collaborate between advertisers, agencies, and media sellers. While some seek a shift to census-based audience management, practical collaboration within sample-based activities seems more realistic. The focus should be on achieving accurate insights quickly to make informed business decisions.

Amid the trend of advertisers taking operations in-house, can media agencies survive competition from consulting firms like Accenture and Deloitte?

Media agencies play a vital role in understanding changing consumer behaviour, actively trading in the market, and collaborating closely with advertisers. While consulting firms have their focus, media agencies uniquely navigate market dynamics. Understanding the factors that drive growth for advertisers and adopting new platforms and formats is crucial for media agencies to remain relevant in the evolving landscape.

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Gaurav Laghate
Gaurav Laghate is the chief of Mint's Consumer Bureau that covers FMCG, consumer durables, retail, media, advertising, hospitality, luxury and the business of sports. An accomplished business journalist with a career spanning over 15 years, he has reported on the significant advancements in the media and entertainment industry, as well as the business of sports. Beyond his role as a journalist, Gaurav is recognised as a steadfast observer of the media landscape, having spoken at several industry events and panels.
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Published: 01 Jan 2024, 10:45 PM IST
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