In an attempt to garner as much engagement from users, multiple great marketing agencies often revamp their strategies. Some employ changes within the campaign while some completely changes everything, and starts from scratch. In this interview, we will interview an important personnel from Digitas India that has leveraged connected marketing. Doing so, they have consistently been a part of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for five consecutive years.

Digitas India is a part of Publicis Groupe. The company excels in digital marketing, data management, analytics, and creative development. They specialize in providing personalized marketing solutions and integrate technology & data to engage multi-channel campaigns. Renowned for their innovation in diverse sectors, they ensure targeted and measurable marketing goals.

Therefore, let’s move on to our interview. However, before that, let’s gather more information about our guest.

Who is Unny Radhakrishnan?

Unny Radhakrishnan has over two decades of experience in technology and marketing. Currently, he leads Digitas India as the CEO of the company. Starting as a code and later a Chief Digital Officer at Group M’s Wavemaker, he was involved with strategic directions. Unny is a prominent voice in the industry. He actively contributes to discussions and educates at prestigious Indian B-schools on digital technology and transformation.
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1) You have been a guest lecturer and interacted with many professionals and students. Considering this, is there a particular topic or lesson important to everybody?

I often get invited to speak on topics related to digital marketing in business because of my industry background. But whenever I choose the topic, I broadly speak on 'Professional is Personal.'

The basic premise is that we tend to categorize professional and personal aspects. While it's important not to mix up the issues. We must keep in mind that the person, the individual, or you remains the same whether you are in the office or at home.

The behavior reflected in a personal environment is the same as your professional environment. It's crucial to be very reflective and self-aware.

In other words, professional and personal growth must go hand in hand. So, that's my favorite topic or theme whenever I can speak. I say that because enough people talk about marketing and advertising. However, not many people speak on these personal and professional growth issues.

Therefore, my focus is on encouraging self-reflection and awareness because, ultimately, it's the same person in both professional and personal settings. Furthermore, plenty of voices discuss marketing and advertising, but not enough addressing these important personal and professional growth matters.

2) What personal qualities should a successful CEO have in this dynamic business environment?

Success is a relative term, so let me be humble. I know that I am a CEO. However, let somebody else decide whether it's a success or not.

The world is changing rapidly, and the business environment is very dynamic. No one has all the answers. As a leader, you're bringing together diverse people with different skill sets, temperaments, and worldviews to work together for a common objective.

The way I see it, as a person, we are all a combination of hopes, aspirations, fears, ambitions, etc. Therefore, it's important to recognize that. Another key quality is our ability to listen without judgment and suspend our agenda.

It's a work in progress for all of us, including me. I try to cultivate and get better at it. Another thing is to know your people, understand their strengths, and what gives them energy.

Continuously aligning individual ambitions with organizational priorities is crucial. As a leader, the focus has to be on people and the product. When I say product, I mean your offering, whether a service or a product. It has to be the best and serve the customer's needs well.

One can be in a laundry service business or a high-end defense security product, and there has to be a focus on the product. The rest are all outcomes once the focus is on people and the product. That's the way I see it.

3) What are the most significant recent digital marketing and technology trends? Also, how do they impact business today?

See, when we talk about digital, it's no longer restricted to marketing. The overall enterprise is getting digitized, and that is changing how consumers interact with a brand, product, or service.

One way to understand all this is under the larger term of customer experience. Look at how payments have changed with UPI, authentication for account opening, or a mobile connection.

Consider how services like Urban Company have transformed the experience of accessing unorganized sectors like plumbers and painters. I recently had to paint a room in my house about two weeks ago, and the process was incredibly smooth. You put a request on Urban Company, and someone comes, takes all the measurements digitally, and puts it up on the application. You get a code automatically, approve it, and the whole process is digitized. Who would have expected calling a painter or plumber to undergo such a digitized process?

While new technologies like AI or blockchain are significant, I won't delve into that. The larger trend is the possibility of everything digitizing and everyone having access to a powerful computer in their pocket. That's what's really changing, and it's happening rapidly.

It's not just one trend; you have to see it as part of the larger macro trend of everything getting digitized and everyone gaining access to that digitized environment.

4) With rapid AI and data analytics advancement, how do you see technologies transforming the marketing landscape?

Some form of AI has already impacted us in the last few years. Companies like Google and Amazon have used it in campaign optimization, audience analytics, and predictive elements. However, the new buzz is about generative AI, and many software platforms are incorporating AI into their products. For example, Adobe Firefly is using AI to create images, Salesforce is leveraging AI in campaign management, and Microsoft is enhancing many of its products with AI. A lot of them are already AI-enhanced, and this trend will continue.

The impact will be on how we do our work and the work we create. In my mind, it's still a developing story. We probably have yet to understand what the impact will be fully.

Recently, I read something about when the steam engine was first developed. Initially, it was used to push coal from the mines, and the actual locomotive engine came much later, built on the steam engine principle. However, those who developed the steam engine had no clue about the potential expansion and impact. Similarly, with AI, we have yet to fully understand how it will take shape and what the impact will be.

5) Could you share some highlights of Digitas India’s recent projects and the initiatives that exemplify connected marketing agency propositions?

Yeah, so when we talk about connected marketing, there are two sides with simple explanations. On the one hand, our main role is connecting brands and consumers in the most interesting way. On the other side of the coin, we connect or weave together different Digitas disciplines to bring solutions for the client.

Digitas is fragmented, with multiple disciplines like media, and technology (including creatives, data, and experiences). One way to explain 'connected' is to weave together all these different disciplines for client solutions.
I may be unable to mention specific client names due to confidentiality obligations. Quoting client work is often challenging because our engagements span across disciplines. There are different stakeholders involved, like the CMO, CTO, CIO, etc.

To give you a flavor of our work without disclosing client names, we recently implemented an AI-powered campaign for auto and FMCG brands. Additionally, we worked on a bespoke e-commerce solution for a large consumer electronics company, digitizing their three-tier supplier-distributor system.

One example of creative work we can disclose involves Duolingo. It is a language-learning app. Duolingo is a brand built primarily on social media content, and the industry widely appreciates the creative work we do for them. That's the impact we aim for in our connected marketing approach.

6) Digitas has been recognized as the marketing agency leader for five consecutive years in the Gartner Magic Quadrant. What are the factors that attributed to this sustained success?

Our understanding is that Gartner’s evaluation is based on multiple factors. However, broadly speaking, it's the ability to adapt to the dynamic market and build capability & capacity.

We've been in this market for more than a decade and a half from the local market perspective. Over the years, we've built capabilities and expertise in all aspects of our connected marketing proposition and established some long-term client relationships. I suppose all that adds up.

7) With data privacy becoming increasingly important, how does Digitas India balance personalization in marketing while respecting user privacy?

So, personalization happens at multiple levels. The most common and simple way to look at it is the first one, which is personalization that occurs on brand destinations.

Whether you're on a brand website or Amazon or similar sites, these are always consent-based, and there are enough tools for that. For instance, some sites have pop-ups asking for permission to track cookies, and users can choose to accept or decline.

The second level is personalization which happens in media campaigns. This often leverages the features of partners like Meta or Google and other data providers with their consent mechanisms. Whatever we do is in line with these consent mechanisms.

However, my view is that there is too much smoke and less fire on personalization in this industry.

8) Talking about the future, what excites you the most about the direction in which Digitas India and the industry is heading?

Talking about Digitas, some time back, we conducted a small survey, speaking to about 10 to 12 CMOs. We asked them whether they would want to work with one digital agency for all their digital needs, including communication, media, experiences, technology, CRM, etc., or prefer separate specialist agencies. Interestingly, over 75% of them said they would prefer one agency, but there is no such agency. So, that's a gap we are filling, and that excites us.

For the industry overall, it is interesting that brands now see customer experience as a comprehensive agenda. It's integral to their business. For an organization like ours, it's a great opportunity to be part of that.

9) Can you share a piece of advice, a book, or maybe a podcast that has profoundly impacted your career or personality?

This is a difficult question because there are so many podcasts, books, and people that have had an impact on me.

We tend to draw a little from here and a little from there, influencing us at many levels. Therefore, it's challenging to mention just one. However, since your question asks for one, I would like to mention a book I read more than 20 years ago, which had a profound impact.

The book is 'Maverick' by Ricardo Semler. It was first published in the '90s and is republished every year. I don't remember whether I read it in the late '90s or early 2000s. It presented a radically different way of looking at business and people, significantly influencing me.

Key Takeaways

  • Digitas focuses on connected marketing, which includes multiple digital disciplines to bring solutions to clients.
  • Digitas has been recognized for 5 consecutive years in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant.
  • Personalization in marketing happens at multiple levels, including brand destinations and media campaigns.
  • Major companies like Adobe, Salesforce, and Microsoft are adopting AI. However, its complete understanding and impact are still in development.
  • The speaker emphasizes that the broader digital transformation trend is not limited to marketing but enterprise digitization.

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