Point Of View (POV)

Nagesh Alai on the digital evolution, and the challenges agencies face in attracting talent to address the shift.

26 September 2017

nageshNagesh Alai is the Chairman of CAAAA. In this email interview, he expounds on the digital evolution, and the challenges agencies face in attracting talent to address this shift.

1. In the current milieu of universal access to internet for information and enabling technology, what would be the relevance of advertising communication and what form would it take in the future?

I believe and am confident that the relevance of advertising will only continue to flourish and grow as long as brands exist, notwithstanding the universal access to information, and more so, given the increasing media clutter and sound. The key challenge is to attract and retain consumer attention in a milieu of fleeting attention span of consumers.

I see the approach and format of advertising undergoing a sea-change, and a move towards one-to-one touch points, given the access to data and strengths of data analytics. The ad bursts over mass media (newspaper, magazines, TV, radio, etc.), paper inserts, mailers, etc. which have been the norm over the decades will continue, albeit in a somewhat tempered way, to facilitate brand surround, and share of voice in all available media and communication routes. Not to miss, of course, the all-pervasive mobile handsets, internet access and content consumption mode. 

2.In the crumbling attention span of Gen Y (millennials) and Gen Z in today’s technology enabled world, what are the challenges that marketers face in attracting, retaining consumer attention and being the preferred brand of choice, and how will they ensure it?

I have already alluded to the fact of falling attention span in the earlier question. Gen Y and Gen Z are just labels in this digitally democratised world. But let me elaborate a bit more on the attention span bit. Historically, advertisers and media have always worked together in ensuring effective advertising communication in-content branding and reach. This will continue into the future, and increasingly so. Take an ad on YouTube. Earlier, there used to be an option to skip the ads the moment they pop up when one was accessing a desired digital content. This was obviously not in the interest of brand communications, hence in recent years, the "skip ad" option has been modified to facilitate a minimum watch period of say 5 seconds. In other words, a "5 seconder" has now replaced the conventional "30 second" commercial. In reaching consumers in the digital space, the key challenge for agencies is to capture the brand proposition and its USP in 5 seconds to attract consumer attention, and at the same time facilitate brand recall. CRM will undergo a seismic change given that the focus will be to understand each consumer's specific interests, and use those as a bridge or connect to communicate the brand proposition to him/her in an engaging and stimulating way.

In summary, targeted approach will be done at a micro level and mass media targeting will be used at a macro level. Both will be necessary though the mix will vary from brand to brand and depending on the TA. 

3.Data and Internet of Things (IOT)- What are the opportunities in this realm and how can agencies harness these?

The opportunities are limitless, to be laconic and precise, both from the delivery of value to the client perspective, and also from the viewpoint of facilitating a highly altered and tech based way of working within the agencies.

Most agencies are aware of this, but are not moving with enough speed and alacrity. Nor are they investing the right amounts in reviewing and changing the talent mix that they have, to stay relevant in the market place, and be outliers. As already pointed out, data and data analytics will be the plank on which effective ad communications will ride, and the IOT will transmute communication development and delivery mechanisms. Its staring in the face of the industry, and thankfully agencies are waking up to this. 

4. in this technologically advanced eco-system, how can advertising agencies be the destination of choice to the best thinkers and be in a position to provide irreplaceable long-term partnership to brand-building?

The biggest challenge facing the advertising agencies is the attraction and retention of the right talent, and paying them right. To a large extent, this situation has been brought about by the clients' unreasonableness in their approach to agency remuneration and paring it irrationally and incommensurate with the value that the agency brings to the table in terms of consumer understanding and changing consumers entrenched behaviour. Understanding the consumer and their behaviour is a specialised field, and it requires investment in the right talent and skill sets. Those agencies that are able to attract these social thinkers and communication experts will rule the day and the rest will rue the day. Quite simply! Undoubtedly, agency business is a commercial enterprise as is any other, and it has to make margins and profits to sustain and reinvest and grow. But this cannot be at the cost of cutting down on the key resources that will make the difference. The holding companies need to get off their quarterly high horses and have the gumption to walk away from bad deals with clients while ensuring that key resources are not seen as costs but as sine qua non for their survival.

To conclude, these are exciting times for the advertising industry. Technology is an enabler and not an inhibitor to the industry. There is a tremendous scope and potential for the industry and its talent. The industry has to keep evolving and reinventing itself. The advertising industry, to me, will thrive. It is immortal.



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