by Yohan P Chawla
Anita Nayyar, CEO – Havas Media Group, India & South Asia and CEO – Havas Group, North India . once the protege of some Advertising and Marketing greats, is herself a true-blue thought leader and mentor to thousands of aspiring young professionals in the burgeoning space of Media, Marketing, Advertising and Strategic Consumer connects today.
I caught up with her for a deep dive into a wide array of topics including skills vs values and attitudes, her main learnings From a long and illustrious career, how innovation is fostered and future-readiness ensured at Havas, the challenges of the Marketing and Advertising industry, what keep driving her in her professional life every day, and more.
So, in Leaderspeak this time round, an invaluable, insightful, chat with Anita Nayyar. Read on.
Leaderspeak – Anita Nayyar, CEO – Havas Media Group, India & South Asia and CEO – Havas Group, North India
How has your journey at Havas been so far? What were your major learnings? And what did you specifically try to, well, mould or even change in the teams at Havas?
My decade plus one journey with Havas, has seen the agency grow 15 times in 11 years, From being known as the ‘Reckitt Agency’ to a 100+ clients, From 40 to 400+ professionals, From 2 to 8 offices across India today, I’ve had the pleasure (and rocky moments) of experiencing what it took to build a productive, happy group of people.
Over the last year, Havas as a group has concentrated its effort into breaking down silos and pioneered the client-centric model across media and creative.
The Group’s ‘Together’ vision has changed and promoted the culture of forward thinking among our teams by encouraging cross-functional alignment.
Today, we stand proudly among the Top 10 Media Agencies in India.
What are the most important things you look for in the people who come to join you? Values, or skills? What are the three most important values and skills respectively you look for?
Balance matters. Clearly skills are important, but the emphasis on a candidate’s values and attitude trumpsany skills we look for. This is pretty obvious given that skills can be taught in a relatively short period of time compared to the values a candidate grew up with.
Skillsvary on the basis of job requirements.
The 6 core values of Havas are Entrepreneurial, Accountable, Collaborative, Innovative, Generous and Committed.
Who was your first or most significant mentor or teacher in the professional space you are in? Why do you think so? What specifically did you learn that has held you in good stead throughout?
My bosses in my early years who helped me understand the industry that I had accidently chosen were H N Nagraj, fondly called Nagu, and Ramu Shenoy. They introduced me to the ad world. And asignificant part of my learning in the media space is credited to Roda Mehta, my boss at Ogilvy. Roda is the founder of Media Planning in India and she helped me shape my future and learn the ropes of media professionally.
While I learnt the “business of media” in the earlier years it is my previous boss Ashish Bhasin and my current boss Vishnu Mohan who taught me to look at “media as a business”.
Across the 3 decades in the advertising and media industry I have learnt From everyone whom I have met, worked or associated with– beit bosses, colleagues or business associates.
What quest, mission, or purpose, if you will, drives you every day?
Leadership is a privilege not a right, people follow you because they believe in you, when that stops and you insist on leading, abuse sets in.
Great leaders understand they are responsible for more than just them selves and that they are part of something greater than themselves. That “something greater” includes people all up, down and sideways on the org chart. Keeping everyone around me happy even if it involves compromises and sacrifices, inspiring people and contributing to their personal grow this what drives me everyday.
And yes over the years I have learnt not to getanxious.
On all fronts, what have been your most important learnings during your long and illustrious career?
Well, relationships, with both internalor external stakeholders, are key to any successful business. Agility is better than scale. Also, you need to constantly reinvent, in order to stay relevant.
I believe learning never stops and there is no shortcut to success
And now to move on to the professional aspects – what’s Anita Nayyar’s elevator-speech-length introduction of Havas Media?
At Havas we know how to make brands meaningful by creating meaningful connections between people and brands through creativity, media and innovation.
Ranked among the Top 5 agencies globally, our network is spread over 100 countries with 20,000+ professionals sharing the same premise sensuring agility and a seamless experience for clients.
What should one come to it for? What are its most important and relevant offerings today?
We offer integrated marketing solutions covering strategy, media planning & buying, creative, PR, social media, mobile, data and research & analytics.
Havas Media gathers together expertize of tools and specialist agencies: Artemis (a data aggregation and management system), Mobext (mobile expertise), Socialyse (social networks), Ecselis (performance marketing), Affiperf (the programmatic trading desk), Havas Media Active (out-of-home) and Havas Life Sorento (health and wellness specialist).
With the recent Vivendi integration, we also have unique access to premium talent and content From iconic industry leader Universal Music Group and premium content provider Canal+ Group, along with premie regamed eveloping company Gameloft, and video-sharing platform Daily motion.
Havas Media Group today is a firmly established fully integrated media company centered on ‘Digital at the core’ and ‘Meaningful Brands’ philosophy.
Which have been the best initiatives Havas has rolled out, whether over the years, or recently, or a mix of both. That you are proud of.
Meaningful Brands is an initiative by Havas Group that provides marketers with insights into brand meaningfulness. It is a unique analysis into brand meaningfulness, which measures, tracks and compares the different relationships people have with brands.
The study is recognized worldwide as a proprietary metric of brand strength and the only global framework to connect brands with human well being. It covers 1,500 global brands and more than 300,000 interviews across 33 international markets and 15 different industry sectors.
Havas Millennial Research is a unique proprietary ethno graphic re search conducted to understand and uncover the lives and attitudes of the millennial generation. 7 Millennial Codes were identified that helped our brands in connecting more meaningfully with them.
We launched Client Trading Solution or CTS, the first fully transparent client-facing programmatic solution that gives clients complete visibility and control over their campaigns. It’s a client-facing, fully transparent control towerd is playing all programmatic trading, allowing clients to track and monitor their programmatic buying in one place.
We’ve also launched a mandatory employee training initiative to help inform and prepare employees against harassment– in light of the wider #MeToorevelations — to promote a culture of respect and equality. The training alsocovers Anti-Corruption, Bribery and Business Ethics.
Which are the recent projects that challenged Havas to stand up and deliver completely innovative solutions? Please also share some insights about them.
Driving donations for Save The Children was innovative because it demonstrated the best use of Data and Analytics. The media campaign was maximized in a low budget and fulfilled the objective of driving awareness and getting donations. It innovatively got the potential donor’s attention by prominently being across their affinity zones. We monitored performance to ensure optimal presence and tracked responses in real- time to ensure maximization of high performing avenues.
What it delivered was: with our optimization through response attribution, we were able to increase the enquiries by more than 200%; the real-time attribution modeling helped us in bringing down the cost per acquisition by 40% in the first 6 months. Not only did the campaign get 20,000 new donors, we were also able to get additional donations worth 120 million INR!
Two other examples are of solutions for Swiggy and the Swiggy speedometer and for sustainability and the ecological challenges of tourism.
Swiggy Speedometer was a Havas Media innovation on Television. The brand decided to foray into national media (TV) for the very first time, to establish Swiggy’screds in measurable lightning fast delivery.
The task was to create communication that added to the audience’s viewing experience while also building the brand’s connect with real-time reporting and speed.
Swiggy associate edit self with cricket &we created the Swiggy speed-o-meter that measured the speed of ball “delivery” in the India vs South Africa series.
What Swiggy Spee dometer delivered was a surge of 20-40% for the brand on Google searches when the match was on. New user-acquisition grew faster than it had with any other earlier activity, with week-on-week growth going above 17%. We achieved 2200 exposures on TV with a similar range on digital and mobile as well during the India vs South Africa series.
Then there was the Cannes Grand Prix winner – Palau Pledge campaign created by Host/Havas Australia, which drew attention to sustainability and the ecological challenges related to tourism. Palau, the thirteenth smallest nation in the world with a population of less than 20,000 people, became the first country in the world to ask visitors to sign a declaration in passports to protect its environment and culture for the next generation.
The Palau Pledge was a world-first eco-initiative that put an onus on ‘responsible, sustainable tourism’ from the growing number of tourists who have visited the island in recent years.
From great work by Havas Media, let’s move on to what, in your view, are the biggest challenges to the space of marketing, advertising and media today? What does the industry needs to do? How does Havas overcome these challenges?
Customers today are more aware, informed and brand ‘meaningfulness’ has become a bonafide metric in their minds – a fact not all marketers have truly woken up to. The likes of Facebook and Google have had to and will increasingly have to answer for loss of customer trust; so all brands and communication must seriously consider this in the rush of immediate results or risk great peril.
Many brands have been changing how they think about digital and have been stepping up standards and governance.
As an industry we are redoubling our efforts to deliver a quality advertising environment, meet advertiser demands, and create value for users. Havas Group, together with MFG Labs, launched the industry’s very first Meta-DSP in 2014, and in 2017,welaunchedthe Client Trading Solution CTS which as I said is a programmatic solution that gives marketers visibility and control over their campaigns.
‘Meaningfulness’ is another element that is fast becoming the core of brand success. Meaningful Brands is an initiative by Havas Group that provides insights to marketers into brand meaningfulness. It helps us to identify and better understand how brands can improve the quality of people’s lives.
How has Havas kept itself continuously updated and upgraded on people, technology, infrastructure etcetera, especially over the past five or six years when digital has really come into its own in India?
Speaking about infrastructure, Havas Media has penetrated into newer markets with a focus on Tier II markets – we launched new offices in Kochi, Kozhikode and Ludhiana.
We have entered into a strategic partnership with IMC Advertising, a leading Kerala-based agency, to strengthen the southern footprint.
We also stablished Havas Life Sorento, a health-and-wellness specialist brand, by acquiring Sorento. And then there’s the Havas-Vivendi integration, providing a unique and combined offering in content, entertainment, and communication—with creativity at the core.
On the technology front, I’ve already spoken about our Meaningful Brands, Havas Millennial Research and the Client Trading Solution inititives.
As for the People front, we have focused on employee productivity, which resulted in a 9% increase in people productivity. We also devised new initiatives to engage with the employees via onsite activities, offsite trips and through social media platforms, which increased the Overall Internal Employee Engagement Survey Score from 72% to 76%.
We have also ensured digital learning across the board via the online certification platform called Havas University for over 5000 Engaged Programmatic Talent across the network
Is Havas using Artificial Intelligence for any of the Indian brands? If yes, then what are the challenges you face while convincing clients, as AI is an expensive technology
We have been using AI and machine learning techniques in media planning for a number of our clients. One specific case is the #IndiaWithTaj campaign done for Taj Hotels.
The campaign was targeting “Mass Affluent” business and personal luxury travellers in US and UK and wanted to drive preference for Taj by positioning it as “Luxury Crafted Over Time” – a medley of three dimensions: Art, Authenticity and Human Greatness, combined with the social badge value.
The campaign leveraged Artificial Intelligence in inventory buying in what was the first instance of a Programmatic Video campaign. Behavioural targeting was done leveraging AI including micro optimization of creatives to maximize conversions.
Needless to say, convincing the client to embark on a programmatic video campaign wasn’t easy in a country where programmatic display has just started to pick up. And the ensuing video optimization process was a first in the industry.
How do you foster and encourage innovation across Havas?
Having an innovative strategy, having a marketable product or service, and having efficient processes are all important. But it falls to the people within the organization to actually execute on the strategies, plans, and processes to make a business successful. Our people are our most important asset. We foster our people through various staff development programmes and initiatives to keep the motivated and to nurture a culture of innovation.