Outlook 2018: Ad industry trends & red flags to watch out for

The advertising industry is upbeat about a more robust year in 2018 and is confident of shrugging off the effects of demonetisation and GST. Digital, Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, convergence of data and creativity and blurring of lines between marketing disciplines, among others will have significant influence on the path that Indian advertising trudges on in the year ahead. 

Bang in the Middle’s Naresh Gupta, Grey Group India’s Sunil Lulla, Canco Advertising’s Ramesh Narayan, Publicis India’s Sudeep Gohil, and PointNine Lintas’ Vikas Mehta crystal-gaze into 2018 and highlight the major trends and expectations as well as the red flags to watch out for. 

Naresh Gupta
Naresh Gupta

WhatsApp will become powerful: Naresh Gupta, CSO, Managing Partner, ‎Bang in the Middle
“2018, I hope is not one bit like 2017. I see two big things happening in 2018. One, the channel called WhatsApp will become powerful and brands will use the channel as a pure broadcast medium. The alternate broadcast TV may happen with WhatsApp. Broadcast TV shows the same message numerous times for either strengthening behaviour or driving a change. The fasted forwarding fingers will mimic broadcast TV to that extent. This will mean more engaging commercials, better storytelling and less product speak. Well, the last one may just be a desire. The second is that brands will actively invest in newer engagement tools like Augmented Reality to drive moments of boost in brand engagement. Measurement of awareness as a key metric may see a small change. The big issue will remain about how much 2017 will hold back 2018. A slow year does not mean that by mere change of date the year will be different.” 

Sunil Lulla
Sunil Lulla

Uncertainty is the name of the game: Sunil Lulla, Chairman and Managing Director, Grey Group India
“Uncertainty is the name of the game. So, keep innovating. Keep partnering. Watch out for AI. Innovation can come from any corner. Be prepared to partner, smartly. Create growth for your clients. It won’t happen, just like that.” 

Digital will come of age sooner: Ramesh Narayan, Founder, Canco Advertising
“In the advertising industry itself, of course, digital will come of age sooner rather than later in all its ways. I believe that the economy will also bounce back; thereby ensuring that media in all its forms will start to do well. While 2019 is slated to be an election year, it could be even earlier. In any case, you are headed into an election year so I see that the economy will be rather buoyant and the media industry reflects the entire economy. If our economy does well, we also prosper. I feel 2018 will be a good year for us.” 

Ramesh Narayan
Ramesh Narayan

“As far as the IAA goes, we are also heading for the IAA’s World Congress in February 2019. It will be the 44th World Congress and first time in India. It’s a very big event and we would like it to be the best that the world has ever seen. We would be also working rather hard to ensure that the best content and arrangements are made. So, there is a busy year ahead for all of us.” 


Sudeep Gohil
Sudeep Gohil

The convergence of data and creativity is exciting: Sudeep Gohil, Managing Partner, CSO, Publicis India
“I think, what’s particularly exciting is the convergence of data and creativity which everyone talks about. Not so much in India, but around the world it is a big topic of conversation, big data, etc. But if you simplify the information about the consumers, their likes and dislikes and you infuse that with the creative idea, you can do exceptional work. We can either choose to basically go on our own and that is going to take creativity out of me or you can embrace it and learn more about it, lean into it and actually do better stuff as a result of it. 2018 onwards and beyond we can almost predict who we are talking to or not. When we know who we are talking to, we can reach out to them better.” 

Expectations: “From the industry perspective, I think it is going to get more competitive. Agencies, in particular, have to be less complacent, they will have to push harder to come up with good work and make an impact, as well as attract and keep good people. Because a few years ago there were lesser options if you wanted to work in this industry, marketing and advertising, there were handful of great agencies you could go to. Now you can go to the clients’ side, they are also taking on advertising and communications functioning. Tech companies are also doing it. So, from an agency’s perspective we have to get better at what we do. Also, we need to take care of our people. There are a lot of companies that will give you benefits and opportunities well above and beyond. Agencies can either have the desire to do or ignore it. And that is a big challenge that we should embrace.” 

The red flags: “The biggest red flag would be not evolving where the market is evolving. There is a changing landscape in the Indian ad industry, where there are a lot of companies in India that are happy doing the kind of work they were doing the last year. There is very little introspection into what they do, and that I think is the biggest red flag. The consumers are growing way faster than we are, the industry is. We still live in a bit of a bubble in the advertising industry, which is not represented in the way the world is moving.” 


Vikas Mehta
Vikas Mehta


For agencies, value will remain a challenge: Vikas Mehta, CEO, PointNine Lintas
“The continued blurring of lines between marketing disciplines will become even more visible. For the agencies, value will remain a challenge. In our estimation, while the overall pie of advertising dollars will grow at a healthy percentage, agencies may not. Many players will be forced to cut fat and add muscle. Companies that invest in getting ahead of the curve in areas like data, technology, content and automation, will gain disproportionately. Marketers will stay under pressure to demonstrate impact on business and their agencies will need to shoulder this responsibility.” 

Expectations: “Millennials are finally becoming important as a consuming class of India. As an audience, their behaviour is radically different from the audiences’ brands and brand managers are used to working with. I foresee a lot of brands re-considering their choices of narrative and touch-points to deal with this audience a lot more in 2018, making it a hotbed of big ideas and innovations. The other very interesting development that will come to the fore in 2018 is the battle of content and the OTT players that are betting on it. While the big players will continue to grow at healthy rates, the long tail of smaller players, including aggregators, is likely to make this an exciting space. 2018 may well end up being the year of video content where we see a lot more innovation (formats and delivery) in free, premium and branded content.” 

The red flags: “Marketing is under pressure to retain its place as the heart of innovation in an organisation. True innovation is taking place more often in the product itself today. To stay relevant, marketers need to champion innovation beyond communication and need partners who can help them do that. Agencies need to make sure when that happens, we don’t come up short. Consulting firms, tech companies as well as publishers are already playing for the marketing dollars of the world, and beginning to win. If agencies don’t reinvent their models soon, we may end up getting totally disrupted and marginalised.”








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