Adgully Exclusive | Tribal DDB's Max Hegerman, engaging clients digitally
Max Hegerman, President, Tribal DDB India converses exclusively with Adgully, giving his viewpoints on the potential of the new media and other challenges within this space.
"There is a bit of change in perception in digital. Part of that is because of mobility. There is so much buzz about 3G coming to India. People are still thinking major opportunities in mobility. They are thinking past desktop or laptop, they are thinking mobile. I am trying to see how in our agency we can withstand our knowledge anything mobile and digital. In the beginning it was viral, but now the buzzword is Social. There are still questions about how to monetize. We are trying to educate clients ' trying to change their metrics. We want to and are trying to gauge the type and quality of conversations of brands. Who are these people who converse? For example the recent Volkswagen talking print ad, we have links, we look at them and try to gauge them, even negative basis, and we try to engage those people," Hegerman said.
Hegerman goes on to say how when he joined, he tried not to have any expectations because he knew the internet penetration levels were low in the country. "When I came I tried not having any expectations, in my interviews everyone was telling me how nascent it was. And during my research I realized how low the penetration levels there were. I came here knowing there is going to be some challenges. But I also realized sooner I hit the ground, it would pick up. I tried to learn from what was happening and spend 5 or 6 months just watching and learning. Facebook was so popular here. It was popular for a reason because it filled the need that Indians have. Indians want to reach out and make friends and communicate. In China it was so much different, people used the internet for different reasons like transactions and buying, here it is more about society and social. Facebook is a useful tool for me. I knew coming here; I won't be able to sell the way I used to sell in the west. What is popular here was viral when I first came and now social. Now it is more about building integrated campaigns where it is offline, online, activation, events, all of it tied together. So where does digital begin and end?" he asked.
At Tribal, Hegerman has been able to train a good team who understands his thoughts and visions. . "From a technology standpoint, we have people who understand what's happening here in India and have the relationships with people from Yahoo, Google, Apple, Blackberry etc to know what's happening around the world. Tribal has a position called "Technologist', whose sole purpose is to understand what is happening within the digital space and be able to work strategically with our clients, creatives and account management and figure out how to apply those new things. I think this is what sets Tribal apart because it has a digital strategist which blends the two worlds of account planning and higher technology together. I mean creatively we have got a young team that is aggressive, that's very in hand with what's happening. One of our biggest tools is being able to present creative ideas and strategies but also able to implement them. That being said, I don't think you can be fully satisfied, so I am expecting my team to always push more and always looking for new ideas, new relationships and partnerships because we do not have the hands on skill for social media. We are learning but we do not have in house mobility expert. Some of our core strengths would be that we have people who are dedicated specifically to technology. Our team is a very young team but it is a digital team who has come from a digital background," he further added.
"The first and foremost key milestone was the focus on digital. I think when I started Madhukar's challenge to me was how can I make Tribal DDB the most successful and sexy digital agency in India. I think when I started about 30 per cent of our revenues were offline and about 30 percent of our team, our employees were offline. So I think the first highlight was to make the focus on digital," he said commenting upon the key milestones with his association to the agency.
Being a part of a larger association is a factor that Tribal looks at leveraging upon. "It is a double edge sword. If you ask me, who has the more successful approach to digital, is it a network that has merged with our genes, is it DDB Tribal, I think for us it is a bit of a different paradigm, because we are purely digital, we can stand on our own. I think there are plenty of opportunities for us but I try to look at what is relevant for Tribal. In our minds, it should be about digital." Hegerman said.
According to Hegerman, if at all there is a challenge that digital agencies face it would be the fact that usually clients restrict themselves to a budget when it comes to doing digital. "I think there is understanding and awareness that digital should be incorporated. People do understand that it should be a part of their strategic plan. However most of the time, clients say they need digital but they have a budget. So what can we do with no money? If there is a challenge or a frustration, then that would be it. So I think it is one of those situations where it is going to take some time. Now since we are working with few regular clients who are seeing the results of digital in their work, we know that next year, there will be a budget. In fact we are being told by several of our clients, that those budgets will come offline. They now see the value in investing long term in social and digital. In the social media, it is just the beginning because with mobility and WAP sites, it will soon disappear and give you full fledge online experiences," he further explained.
Hegerman believes that the only way to change the mindset of clients is to implement as much as engagement initiatives as possible. "Digital agency should essentially take one step to change the mindset of clients by starting and ending each conversation by talking and defining about engagement. Unlike radio, television, print, there really isn't engagement back and forth. For us, brands can say what they want but often they are afraid to listen to what people are saying back to them. It is people's ability when they talk about the negativity about brands, not everyone is going to be happy with all brands. Two way communications is necessary for the growth of a brand," he stated.
Hegerman says that with 3G coming in to India, one would probably get a more diverse set of advertisers. He further added, "3G will change not just advertising but even Indian culture because they will have access to a mobile phone. When you are talking about the computer you are talking about SEC A and B, I think we should start thinking of how to get outside of those paradigms. I think it is really how we can understand from a mobile perspective and how we can address through mobility the language that exists or create a language that is unique."
Terming Tribal a pure digital agency, Hegerman wants to be thought of when clients are thinking about a strategic digital agency, "I want them to think about us when they are thinking of a digital agency. I want to raise the profile of Tribal DDB," he said. | By Janees Antoo [janees(at)adgully.com]