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Mindshare Fulcrum fortifies its integrated play for HUL’s digital mandate

The teams from Mindshare Fulcrum and Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) are coming together to represent the future ready team to drive the ‘Media drives business’ agenda for HUL post-transition. 

Effective January 1, 2019, Mindshare Fulcrum has started managing HUL’s digital media and a completely integrated mandate. Speaking at a press meet in Mumbai yesterday (January 21, 2019), Prasanth Kumar, CEO, Mindshare – South Asia, Africa and MENA, said, “Today is the physical manifestation of how ‘integrated’ as a theme will come together. It’s not only about Mindshare and Mindshare Fulcrum coming together, it’s also about our clients joining us in our entire journey of the integrated landing. It (the HUL digital media mandate) was won after a long-fought pitch and the credibility and the body of work that this team has been doing for the longest amount of time has set the tone for this evening.” 

“Moving forward, we have set the biggest callout for 2019,” Kumar added. 

Also present at the event were Gauravjeet Singh, General Manager - Media (South Asia) at Unilever; Amin Lakhani, President, Client Leadership, Mindshare India; Premjeet Sodhi, Senior Vice President, Mindshare Fulcrum; and Vinod Thadani, Chief Digital Officer, Mindshare. 

Speaking on the strategy for HUL, Vinod Thadani said, “The overall approach to digital investments for HUL shall entirely be based on the needs of the brand. With the consumer and the brand ambitions at the centre, specific media neutral investment strategies will give shape to the overall digital presence for HUL.” 

Mindshare tied up with Zilliqa for Project Proton last year and the agency is now gearing up to run a few pilots with brands using Blockchain technology. 

While acknowledging the rapid growth of video consumption, Thadani said that it offered an opportunity for advertisers to reach consumers at scale. He further said, “To get the most out of video investments, brands need to be cognizant of the digital measurement metrics of brand safety, viewability and verifiability. A big area of gain is using the right creative for the right platform/ format, which is in line with the campaign objectives.”

Adgully caught up with Amin Lakhani and Prasanth Kumar to know more about the partnership between Mindshare and HUL, the strategy and investments going forward and more. Excerpts: 

Mindshare had won HUL’s digital mandate in August 2018, why did it take so long to announce the strategy forward?
Amin Lakhani: I think everything has its own time and HUL is not an easy client; there are a lot of foundational stones that we have to build in. If you look at our journey in the last 5 years, we went from strength to strength right from winning the mandate on content to the planning mandate and then finally on to the overall integrated mandate, I think it just tells us that we’re not in a hurry. 

We know Unilever, Unilever knows us well – it’s a relationship we have built over the last 24 years. If you look in the past when the digital was a small percentage, it was just about doing some innovations, and now it has really become mainstream. 

Structurally how does the team change?
Amin Lakhani & Prasanth Kumar: Fulcrum has been a dedicated team working with HUL for the past 24 years. With Mindshare, there will be a much larger focus on the integrated perspective. There will be a good blend of traditional thinking and implementation of lots more new practices and tools. Fundamentally, the structure is here to enable. Now there will be one team. The entire idea is that the silo called digital does not exist anymore, that’s how we are evolving, because there’s one marketing team, there’s one challenge and there’s one brief and Fulcrum here is to convert that one brief into a single window solution. The whole team, that is, the team handling the traditional mandate, went through a mega talent programme, right from acquiring specialists wherever needed. Other than that, the entire talent upscaling programme was put together in the last three and a half months. 

So, have you invested in a new team?
Prasanth Kumar: There are more than 30 people. Every person working in Fulcrum, be it 2 years back or 10 years back, has a certain role in this overall integral work. Not just Mindshare and GroupM, but even our client Unilever will be a part of the team. What we have done is identified an ideal structure for Unilever and constructed a profile. Whoever fits that profile – whether he is from Mindshare, GroupM or Unilever – has been recruited. 

What are the big events in 2019 that you will be focussing on?
Amin Lakhani & Prasanth Kumar: We will follow where the eyeballs and audiences are. That is the most efficient strategy for now. There are a lot of events that come and go. Unilever being one of the oldest and biggest advertisers in the country, there are some principles that they follow. 

How has the transition been like at HUL?
Gauravjeet Singh: PHD Media had been managing our business from 2011 and we’ve had a great working relationship with them, while Mindshare was handling our traditional advertising. Last year, we decided to have one agency to handle our business. It was a closely fought pitch between the 2 agencies and ultimately it boiled down to offerings like planning tools and other tools that can integrate offline and digital in our plans and become the core objectives in the scheme of things. 

That’s an old story now. The mandate was given to Mindshare in September, but the big story is that it took us three months to transition into one way of working. People need to learn new skills, traditional planners now need to think digital, it’s not an easy process and involves new ways of working. It has been an interesting phase and the learning has just started on the integrated mandate. 

What would be the key focus areas for Mindshare?
Amin Lakhani: The organisation is very clear – we are looking at 2 levers that will drive our messaging and our business. We are increasingly looking at media deployment, so anything and everything on media should lead to a positive business impact. Another important thing is that with data becoming very important and critical, we need people with deep skill sets in using data effectively to drive growth. These are the mandates, and it continues from what we do on traditional media. Digital has a different data set and it is critical to ensure that we are leveraging it in the right way, with the right kind of nuance of consumer data, the nuance of building brands and integrating it into our regular media plans. That’s the core brief. 

Is integrated the new way forward?
Amin Lakhani: I wouldn’t say that it’s the end of the digital standalone agency or the start of the integrated agency, it depends on the situations. For us, at this stage it made sense and hence, it was the right thing to do. It doesn’t mean that it is the only model that exists. There are enough specialisations that would be required in the future, there would be performance brands and many other things, therefore, to say that this is set in stone and there is no other way to run agency businesses other than integrated, is farfetched. 

There have been some major changes in the Indian economy in the last 2-3 years, with demonetisation and then implementation of GST. What have been the key learnings?
Gauravjeet Singh: The big learning today is that you need to be super agile. You are looking at performance for your campaigns at the weekly level. We keep finetuning those efforts through the month and through the year. Almost every size of partner is critical in our mix, so there is no one partner that we can say is more evolved than the other – whether it is radio, cinema or anybody, because the plans that we manage are formless. Every single medium has a role to play in how we build brands. 

Consumers evolve very quickly and that has been another learning. We have our internal planning modules that we have worked on for the last 3-4 years and have constructed. Now, almost every quarter we are changing our rate of what we are reading as consumer behaviour, because data sets that we see external to those partners that say this much time gets spent on digital or a particular genre of TV, certain segments see growth of vernacular press and in certain segments you can reach consumers only through mobile. Multi-screen viewing is getting more fragmented as there are more numbers of screens in every home. The challenge now is to constantly recalibrate what you thought was the signs for the period, which is 6 months at the most. That becomes at advantage to any media team that is complicit to this change and also understanding that rules of how we deployed on TV and what we did on print will not apply on digital. Appreciating and understanding nuances is critical. 

A big part of our job is to make the brand teams aware of how this space is evolving to get them ready for the future. 

There are four big events happening in 2019, how is HUL going to distribute its spends?
Gauravjeet Singh: All these events are on such a large scale and you have to stand out in the clutter. First of all, you need to consider if you really have an authentic play in that play. If you are force fitting your brand, it is not the authentic thing to do. Some brands will really try to engage during the elections, but others will not even touch it. Similarly, the ICC World Cup influences many things for us; just the timing of the World Cup backs many things in our marketing mix. Over the years, we have not been very large players with Cricket; though we are dabbling with it, you will see that a lot of FMCGs avoid that platform because there are no women on it. The core task here is that it should be a good brand fit and you should stand out of the clutter, only then will regular advertising do its job effectively. We really need to have an authentic story to tell for an activation to make sense and then you can really do it at scale, and if it does do all that, then a lot of brands are excited with this opportunity.

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