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Devendra Deshpande

From only placing a brand to integrating its philosophy subtly in a campaign, the way in which companies approach content marketing has evolved to a great extent. After the emergence of digital platforms, it has become easier for brands to make memes, GIFs, infographics or find a content partner to make long-form video content.

But even though digital is all over the place these days, Devendra Deshpande, Head - Content Plus, Mindshare, still believes it is not the driver of growth in the content space and other mediums a play a key role too.

“Digital is not the growth driver. There is so much content on other mediums. You can’t isolate one medium from another because audiences consume all kinds of mediums,” he said.

Mindshare has conceptualised content initiatives such as Red Label 6 Pack Band, Bagpiper’s Guru, McDowell’s No.1 Yaari. In 2016, after observing the new emerging space in advertising industry, they came up with Content Studio, in which they have a ‘war room’, meant to encourage their team in constantly looking for the perfect trend.

“The focus is on getting the right talent and getting consumer insights, which will help us to identify key trends. The challenge is to find out how you can be creative every day and that’s the exciting part,” he said.


How has the content stream grown over the years?

Branded content has for long been the buzzword but it has evolved over the past decade. Earlier it was about product placement, sponsorship and AFPs (advertisers-funded programmes) and now it’s more about co-creation and collaboration with the platforms and format owners. From patch work earlier, today you get to see great content examples that have brand philosophy and proposition at the core. Branded content has transitioned from ‘a good to do’ to ‘must do that’ for multiple brands. Our key clients have content as a core part of their communication-right from the budget setting to the AOP (annual operating plans).

What role do agencies play in this growing ecosystem?

Agencies have always been the bridge to connect the consumers to the brand, but now the complexities have grown. ‘Prime time’ has changed to ‘my time’ and ‘airing’ is moving to ‘sharing’. The agencies were always media-agnostic and it was always about understanding the consumer. Our focus has always been on the ‘why’ (consumer attention points) bit, ‘what’ (idea) comes later and then how do I marry the brand’s philosophy with their tension points. These attention points come from a lot of research, data and insights. That’s exactly as brands custodians we focus on.

But many brands say agencies largely come with an advertising mindset and hence they can’t provide real content marketing solutions. Your comment.

At least the way we approach it, it starts with a marketing problem and then getting the right idea. If you look at ‘Bagpiper Guru’ and ‘Chauka’, there’s no brand inside it. The entire movies are based on the brand philosophy. Also, talking about whether an additional logo presence can hamper the communication; it entirely depends on what is the idea behind the communication. For e.g., if you look at Redbull’s communication, the logo is there, but does it make you hate it? It is not really about doing it subtly, the question really is what is the idea behind and the story behind it. The other way to look at this is if I take out my brand from the content and place some other brand. If it does then it is a bad piece of content for my brand. You take out Red Label out of 6-Pack and put some other tea brand there; it is not going to work because Red Label is about breaking barriers and the other tea brands are not. If the brand is central to the core communication, then the brand logo placement makes all the difference accordingly.

Will we see a one-stop shop content marketing agency?

At Mindshare, we have content AOR unit. We have quite a few clients who have empanelled with us and we are their content AOR (agency on-record). So, we do all of their hero-hub hygiene strategies throughout the year. Also, ours is an open-source model where we have the best creators and collaborators as a part of our partner ecosystem. From launching their hero content and supplementing with hub content, making that brand relevant at a regular periodicity. So yes, we are a one-stop shop content marketing agency.

Is lack of measurement of content marketing a hindrance for the growth of the ecosystem?

Those metrics have changed. It is not only about views, but also engagement. It is about more action than just seeing and it lends itself to engagement. Views are the base metrics and engagement parameters are over and above. Critical to set the objectives beforehand and then marry the input to outcome.  The measurement will keep on evolving as we do more and more content. I don’t see this as a lack of metrics, but it is evolving as we move ahead.

Did Red Label’s 6-Pack band campaign result in more sales for the brand?

A: In 6-Pack Band, there are multiple linkages, including impact on mind measure parameters that happened, but clearly, not every communication that you do is linked to sales. It is not the primary thing that a brand chases every time. One needs to be very clear about the kind of metrics that you are chasing. There’s already my hero communication that is doing the task as it is supposed to do. A new brand might just want to create awareness through TVC and use digital campaigns as a supplement. One’s content objectives could be to make the brand more aspirational, build awareness and not just sales.

If you are doing something whose purpose purely is to increase sales, then your content needs to become the hero piece. For e.g., the Bagpiper Guru film was my hero/main content campaign, which had a direct impact on sales.

You count ‘Content Day at HUL’ among one of your significant achievements. Are other brands receptive to such ideas?

We have done three for Pepsi and HUL, Diageo, GSK, Godrej, Kellogg’s and there are multiple content days that are getting planned right now. Content Day is not just one day; it is 40 to 45 days long and an exhaustive process. Key clients have repeated it as well, not just in India but across our regional networks.

Content day is as I see a change driver in the industry where the best brands meet the best partners to create some breakthrough work which is media agnostic.

Digital has been the growth driver for content. Do you think it is limited to a set of the audience?

Digital is not the growth driver. There is so much content on other mediums. Bagpiper’s film was a theatrical release. McDowell’s is the highest rated show on TV. We have done it in four languages and now doing the second season of the same. TV audiences are also consuming content of brands. We have done some iconic AFPs. So, you can’t isolate one medium from another because audiences consume all kinds of mediums.

How are you scaling Mindshare's content studio to better respond to clients’ need for real-time content?

The focus is on getting the right talent and getting consumer insight, which will help us to identify key trends. We have a war room where we look at data, insights. A full-fledged team looks into that. We have a creative team that gives out creatives. The challenge is to find out how you can be creative every day and that’s the exciting part.