Traditional agency models and offerings won’t work for emerging brands: Shveta Singh

Motivator, the full service media agency under GroupM, has broken out of the typical media agency mould to focus on driving growth for emerging brands. The agency’s vision is to become a Go-To-Market agency offering digital services that new age businesses and emerging brands require.

This means offering an end of the e-commerce solution that the agency has added to its bouquet of services, including e-commerce intelligence and strategy, marketplace onboarding, e-commerce presence and operations management along with media commerce.

Also read: GroupM elevations: New roles for Vinit Karnik and Karthik Nagarajan

In conversation with Adgully, Shveta Singh, National Head, Digital for Motivator, GroupM, speaks about the agency’s attempt to create value for emerging brand not just by offering core digital services, but by reinventing the agency model. 

Brand loyalty has taken a hit during the pandemic times and a lot of local brands/ niche brands are seeing an opportunity to carve out a customer base. They are focusing on scaling via digital marketing and driving sales via e-commerce. Having partnered with some of the emerging brands, what are their specialised needs? 

That’s very true. We understood very early in the journey that the traditional agency models and offerings aren’t what will work for these emerging brands. These brands need agility, fluidity, hand-holding and a more cohesive way of working. For these brands, digital is the bread and butter, unlike traditionally built brands. So, the choices they have to make are also different. The question for them is not how much of my media budget I should put on digital? Instead, they have to decide between in-housing their digital marketing vis-à-vis using an agency. These brands are typically built on a lower-funnel/ e-commerce first kind of approach. And hence, the need for a partner who can handhold them in scaling up and deliver a fine mix of acquisition and branding.

Last but not the least, unlike big established brands, they don’t have multiple agencies and partners to manage different parts of the marketing mix. They need one agency that can bring together all pieces of the puzzle. From digital media to creative & social, from e-commerce media to e-commerce operations management, from performance to branding and so on. And that is where Motivator comes into the picture. We have structured our solutions to break the digital silos. To fit the specialised needs of the emerging brands. 

India has 600-odd D2C brands that want to build a direct relationship with the customer. Is your agency focusing on these clients and what are the potential billings? 

The pandemic just amplified the emergence of D2C brands manifold. Originally, the trend was limited to a handful of categories, but lately, we are seeing even the most unlikely categories wanting to set up D2C operations and have a parallel e-commerce channel. We are focusing both on the D2C brands and established brands that are now jumping on to the D2C bandwagon. We help them across the lifecycle – right from strategy to go to market. However, a big piece of the requirement here is the technology, which is best left to the specialists. For that, we act as facilitators, leveraging the best of WPP partners. Having said that, D2C is not a viable model for many categories, especially if seen in isolation. As far as billing is concerned, we are looking at a 40% jump from just an e-commerce billing perspective. 

You’ve recently announced your full-funnel e-commerce solution. Would you say a majority of the work would be marketplace on boarding and backend optimisation? Where do you see creating value and differentiation for your clients viz-a-viz the boutique e-commerce solution providers? 

We are one of the first network agencies to have rolled out the full-funnel solution for e-commerce. The solution offered is customisable and of course, depends on what stage of the e-commerce evolution the client is at. For those just starting up onboarding, operations management is a very critical part of the solution. Otherwise, we also have clients who are looking for content solutions or strategic inputs or even help with understanding which model will work best for them on e-commerce.

The gap in the market today is that no big integrated agency is offering e-commerce solution end to end. Some focus only on commerce media, some on e-commerce creative and some on technology. This is why the boutique agencies have been able to capture the market with one-stop-shop solutions. Needless to say, because of this, the brand is missing out on the benefits of integration and synergy that a large agency like Motivator – handling the complete media mix can bring in.

In addition to that the strategic orientation, the brand understanding, the benefits of scale that we can bring in, a boutique set up cannot. Being a part of GroupM, the kind of expertise Motivator can offer on e-commerce media part is also something smaller e-commerce agencies cannot. 

Part of your vision is to deliver media+ solutions for emerging brands. Can you elaborate on this and the business outcomes you are driving through it?

We firmly believe that the future of digital marketing lies in media+ services as a package. Unlike other media, the nature of digital is such that digital media, creative and other allied services need to sit together to be impactful. At the moment, the ecosystem is fragmented into media specialists, creative specialists, social agencies and many other niches. The convergence is already happening. At Motivator, we have reimagined ourselves. We don’t want to be yet another media agency. With that as an objective, we have already invested in building verticals such as e-commerce, content and social. 

Do you see all the significant media buying for emerging brands happening on digital? What kind of scale are these brands able to reach on digital before buying on other media?

Most of the emerging brands these days are building presence either only on digital or are predominantly digital. At least to start with. The growth trajectory these brands follow is very different from traditional brands. It doesn’t flow from brand building to acquisition. It flows from acquisition to brand building. They can easily reach a very high double-digit growth just with digital. Just to give you an example – One of our clients, Soothe Healthcare, who are into the sanitary napkins and diapers business, achieved a 300% growth in just 6 months with a predominantly digital presence only. 

E-commerce is a purchase channel and is an emerging advertising channel. How does that lend to a full funnel performance marketing strategy? 

The latest data from marketplaces suggests that generic searches are rising across platforms. This is a good indicator of how consumers are now much more open-minded when it comes to buying decisions. They are looking at marketplaces as discovery platforms as well. A great opportunity for brands to go beyond performance and lower funnel tactics on e-commerce platforms. It just makes so much more sense. Rather than try to prime the customer and then bring them to marketplaces to buy, brands now can build awareness amongst the consumers who have a high propensity to purchase right there. Just reduces one step and increases the efficiency of the funnel. 

Do you see your clients exploring social commerce or shoppable media in a significant way? What is the learning?

To be honest, social commerce is still very new. Good to start doing, but we are not yet sure of the scalability. We have started proposing it to a few of our clients and we should be able to see more adoption in times to come.


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