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‘Unprecedented’ year for pitches shows brands wrestling with complexity suggests IPG Mediabrands boss Prashant Kumar

Kumar

Kumar

There has never been a year like 2015 for pitches, the regional head of media agency IPG Mediabrands has suggested, and this reflects a client-side community that is looking for simplicity and coming to terms with the possibilities of automation.

Speaking to Mumbrella earlier today about his reflections of the past 12 months, Prashant Kumar, president of World Markets Asia for IPG Mediabrands, said that 2015 has been an “unprecedented” year in terms of the number of pitches. On why, he said: “I think about the fact that this year seems to be an inflection point year in terms of moving to automation. I don’t think everyone who called pitch knew what they wanted, but they knew life was different enough to explore.”

The life of a marketing director, Kumar said, was becoming very complex because of a multiplicity of channel choices and the “transitional mess” that the industry was going through.

“Complexity can kill the soul of marketing,” he said, adding that the most beautiful idea and sharpest insights can be lost it bogged down by operational issues.

“The most important need was simplicity itself,” he said about the last year of pitches. Clients were also looking for a partner to help them deepen their credentials in the data and tech space, he added.

Prashant pointed to the recently announced restructure at Publicis Groupe as an example of a holding company that saw the need to simplify itself. Publicis is to pool its operations into and four hubs – media, communications, tech and healthcare – and appoint chief client officers to run each.

Kumar played down the role of procurement in prompting the intense pitch activity, saying that the rise in influence of procurement teams has been gradually increasing but that was nothing new.

“What is happening is that more traditional services have been commoditised, as clients realise that they can extract more costs and put these resources elsewhere,” he said.

“When agencies talk about suffocating procurement, it’s just a story about value creation migrating somewhere else.”

On the topic of automation, Kumar said that the big challenge for agencies next year will be marrying creativity with the world of programmatic.

“How can agencies be designed to be agile rather than made of departments and elaborate egos and bureaucracy? That debate will heat up a lot more next year,” he said, adding that debate around the Publicis Groupe restructure will fuel it.

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