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Digital acceleration in advertising driven by the onset of the pandemic will continue to drive growth of agencies in 2021. Data driven marketing, digital transformation of brands, social commerce, regional content, experiential and influencer marketing have been identified as growth areas by advertising firms. The companies expect these new verticals to collectively contribute upto 10-20% to their overall revenue pie this year.

Barring digital, every other vertical in an agency has drawn barely 20% of its last year's business (before covid) since majority of brands have cut down on offline advertising with outdoor taking the biggest hit. Therefore, agencies are looking at digital marketing going beyond moment marketing and social media promotions.

Dentsu International owned hybrid digital media agency WATConsult has decided to leverage the growing smaller town market. The agency has launched a multilingual digital marketing division 'Bharat by WATConsult' which will create regional language content, social media management, online reputation and technology solutions for localisation, SEO and websites. Additionally, it will also offer e-commerce and media planning and buying solutions.

“With people from the tier II and III towns gradually making up a major part of the online audience, a vernacular approach isn’t just an add-on anymore, but a necessity. Our vision is to empower every brand to make a meaningful connection with digital India in the language that’s best to connect in," said Heeru Dingra, chief executive, WATConsult.

DDB Mudra Group has set up three centers of excellence in e-commerce, innovation (using technology) and digital transformation of brands. The firm, for instance, worked with social commerce platforms such as Meesho apart from creatingInstagram video series campaign for sports brand Reebokwhich featured virtual home workout tutorials by brand ambassadors, Katrina Kaif and Malaika Arora, and certified trainers.

"Data driven marketing will be part of a core focus for enabling digital transformation for brands; while social commerce is a major focus area within our e-commerce capability. Although influencer marketing division isn't new to the group but we've grown significantly by working on brands including J&J, Levi's and Puma," said Preetham Venkky, chief digital officer, DDB Mudra Group and president at digital agency 22feet Tribal Worldwide.

Meanwhile, FCB India is focusing experiential marketing under which an offline on-ground experience/event can be replicated on digital platforms. In order to facilitate it, the agency has partnered with experiential digital agency XP&D Interactive to help organise events, conferences and product launches online.

Under the partnership, the agencies have executed virtual music concert Sangeet Setu organised by the Indian Singers Rights Association (ISRA) in 2020. FCB has also associated with NetworkBay which helps retail and food service brands to create stores of the future by using technology.

"...retail has been severely impacted by pandemic especially in the fashion and cosmetics segment so using technology to create engaging online retail experience is one of our key focus. We've also launched a new tool calledPeople and Patternswhich will track customer journey basis their emotions. For instance, if a consumer is confused then the brand needs to clarify through content led campaign," said Rohit Ohri, group chairman and chief executive FCB India.

Ohri said that while consumers may go back to buying offline but they will continue to look for larger brand experiences online therefore brands have to leverage data to deliver immersive and engaging experiences even after the pandemic ends.

Media agency Wavemaker India said it is actively investing in the data, content and commerce verticals. Brands are either looking for guidance on setting up their presence online or improving it. It is building on its existing tool called WM Thrive through which agency tracks the feedback and perception of brands amongst consumers on social media platforms. The tool has been used for firms such as Myntra, Mondelez India, MTR and Vi India.

".. along with commerce we have witnessed dramatic growth in performance marketing (search, content and email marketing). To support it we are also investing in consumer data both in house as well as by partnering with clients such as online pharmacy platform Netmeds.The second area of growth is video driven content creation and amplification across digital platforms often using influencers. We have been creating digital content IPs on streaming platforms for clients like Pernod Ricard through a web series on Hotstar," said Ajay Gupte, CEO- South Asia Wavemaker.

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