2018 put WATConsult on the global stage: Rajiv Dingra
WATConsult, the social and digital media agency founded by Rajiv Dingra in the year 2007, is completing 12 years in January 2019. The agency became a part of Dentsu Aegis Network in 2015.
2018 was an outstanding year for WATConsult, during which the agency won nearly 50 awards for their work done, out of which nearly 30 awards are global. In 2018, the agency also launched #LetsPawtect, wherein the employees tied Rakhis to their pets. They also launched #PitchPlotPanic, a card game which gives employees a chance to run an agency. These initiatives are aimed at reinforcing leadership and building bond amongst peers, thus bringing a lighter note to an otherwise stressful atmosphere.
Currently, WATConsult is a strong team of 400 people, spread across 3 offices across India. More than 30 per cent of the employees have been with the company for nearly 3 years. To build better teams and ensuring they are updated with latest programs; the agency has partnered with ISB, XLRI and Lynda.com to provide certified training program to key employees.
In an interaction with Adgully, Rajiv Dingra, Founder and CEO, WATConsult, speaks at length about the agency’s performance in its 12-year journey, the digital advertising landscape in India and more.
Looking back at the 12 years of WATConsult, what do you consider to be the high points in its journey?
I believe the year gone by 2018 was the biggest high point of the entire journey. We got shortlisted at Cannes Lions, which was a huge achievement, and we won metals across prestigious award shows like Prague International Advertising Festival, London International Awards, Spikes Asia, Epica Awards and Lisbon International Awards.
Clearly, 2018 put WATConsult on the global stage when it comes to competing with the best of the best in the field of advertising. It also made us one of the most globally awarded Indian digital agencies for 2018.
What have been the most challenging times for WATConsult during these years?
The downturn of 2008 hit us hard as we were just a year into founding the company and business pretty much came to a standstill for a few months during those days.
Except for that phase, things have only been growing at a rapid pace. Our core challenge has been to manage the growth in a healthy way and stay ahead of the curve, which we have done successfully so far.
Are you satisfied with the way WATConsult has shaped up? What are the areas that you feel the agency lags behind?
I believe we were at the right place at the right time in hindsight. We started as a social media specialist agency in 2007, which were very early days and persevered through the downturn of 2008 to thrive through 2009-10 and beyond. Come 2012, we started pivoting into a full-service agency and that helped us not only expand our client base, but also scale up to become a much larger agency.
In 2015, we became a part of Dentsu Aegis Network, which gave us a bigger platform to scale up. We also ensured we further expanded and strengthened offering to include Video, Tech, ORM and Media planning and buying over the last 3-4 years. Today, we have over 375 people providing end-to-end digital media solutions for over 100 clients across 15 different industry verticals. Overall, I am satisfied with our offerings as I believe it is the most complete and well-rounded offering for digital currently available in the market.
In 2018, we created a benchmark when it came to creative excellence for digital agencies, but I feel we can do so much more when it comes to creative excellence and doing path breaking campaigns, and that is an area where we will continue to improve and become better each day.
Could you share some year-on-year growth statistics of the agency – in terms of revenues, growth markets, clients, new business and verticals?
Over the last 3 years, we have seen consistent Y-O-Y growth of 40-50 per cent across top line and bottom-line growth. A lot of the growth has been driven by Delhi and Bangalore markets, which have shown immense potential. Over the last 3 years, we have scaled up our media planning and buying practice and today, we buy over large media for very large brands. In 2018, we added brands like Dominos, Riso, Tata Motors to our kitty. Over the last 3 years, media planning and buying, Video, Tech, E-commerce and ORM have seen the maximum growth in terms of revenues, from new services beyond social media services, that was our core offering.
We have seen long-term client and creative agency relationships. What contributes to the longevity of a client-digital agency association?
Clients in digital need a responsive agency that is quick to response. Our responsiveness has been one of the core reasons we have retained over 20 brands for over 5 years with us. Brands like Godrej, Bestseller Group, Bajaj Allianz, SAP, Mother Dairy and many others form those clients that have been with us for more than 5 years.
Nearly 33 per cent of the clients have been associated with the agency for more than 5 years.
Given today’s business landscape, what are factors that give a digital agency the competitive advantage?
In today’s world, a digital agency can only succeed if it is providing innovative creative solutions along with highly effective media planning and buying.
At WATConsult, we are equal parts creative and media driven, and we give equal importance to the message as well as the distribution of the message.
On the creative front, we are focussed on driving excellence through path breaking campaigns that get global recognition, and on the media front, we are committed to driving efficiencies and effectiveness for our clients.
While we do both of these from an attitude standpoint, we bring highly responsive and proactive approach to the table, which makes us more agile than any other digital agency out these.
These are definitely the things that we believe give us our competitive edge in the market.
What according to you were the biggest developments in the digital world in 2018? And how do you see them changing the business dynamics in the year ahead?
The merger of large creative agency groups like JWT into smaller digital agencies like Wunderman and Y&R into VML signals a huge shift in global way of thinking about the future of advertising. Clearly, the future of advertising is digital, and this move only shows that WPP was ready to destroy a 100-year-old brand in JWT to move ahead with Wunderman Thompson, an agency that would spell digital first and creative second.
These changes only signal that the world over the pecking order is changing and if you are not digital enough, then you may just be old enough to be forgotten, just like JWT was.
What are your key expectations for 2019?
I believe 2019 will be an inflection point for digital media industry as digital video scales up. Most marketers understand the video format as they have been creating brand films since 40 years for TV, and with video inventory across digital scaling up and offering reach which is now comparable to TV, I expect shift in budgets towards the same.
How has the spate of data breaches impacted consumer confidence and trust? How do you view the Government’s proposal to regulate/ have greater monitoring of social media & the Internet?
Data breaches do impact consumer trust and platforms need to ensure data safety at all costs. But public memory is also short, and one may not stop using a service due to data breaches as consumers see the longer-term value of these platforms.
As far as monitoring of internet and social media is concerned, I am of the opinion that internet and social media need not be monitored as it’s a self-regulation platform and it’s only a reflection of the society at large. The cybercrime laws are enough to manage the pitfalls of the media. If governments start monitoring consumers’ actions, it is deemed as a breach of privacy from a consumer standpoint and I don’t think the internet users are going to be in favour of that.
WATConsult won nearly 50 awards in 2018. How has the client reaction been to the wins? How is it helping the agency gain new businesses?
The reactions have been overwhelming. We have received recognition not just from Indian clients, but global clients as well, who have tweeted their appreciation for our campaigns.
On the new business front, we have seen a flurry of new briefs coming our way and clients now expect us to pitch creative ideas that are path breaking.
Tell us about the work culture at WATConsult as well as the efforts to train new employees and sustain the talent pool?
WATConsult is a like a large family and WATizens are what makes the agency so successful. We have a culture wherein people are encouraged to ask questions, to be participative rather than territorial, to get things done and take ownership as well as to have fun and enjoy their work. The culture at WATConsult has been one of our most valued assets and we guard it and nurture it with passion.
Our HR team works day and night to ensure that the culture of WATConsult transcends across all new employees and with every HR activity we look to involve and engage our staff.
On the training front, over the last 3 years we have invested in creative trainings via a well renowned international trainer who also conducts workshops in Cannes. To provide more learning & development opportunities, we officially introduced the access to Lynda.com – a global learning and development platform. Through this platform, every employee has access to over 4,000 courses, tutorials and training videos, covering topics from Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing, User Experience, Coding, Software Development, SEO, Project Management and many more.
On the media front, Facebook blueprint and Google training is an ongoing process for all employees. For our senior staff, we have leadership training via executive courses in MICA, XLRI and ISB.