Global viewpoint from India
A view from T Gangadhar

Global viewpoint from India

"There are no two words more harmful in the English language than ‘good job’." I am still recovering from JK Simmons’ jazz teacher in Whiplash. I count myself among the cinephiles, but that is hardly a standout passion where I come from – the land of Bollywood.

In terms of the number of movies produced every year (more than 1,500), India is the biggest film industry in the world. In a country that has seen many sociopolitical upheavals, movies have served as the default release button, and the cult of the cinema has a strong impact on everyday life and culture.

It is no surprise that movies have had a deep influence on our cultural fabric. So much so that, in the past ten years, we have seen a uniquely Indian phenomenon taking shape: the blurring of lines between Bollywood and advertising. Some of the most senior folk in Indian advertising already have prolific parallel careers as writers and directors in movies. Every other creative person in the business harbours aspirations of making a movie, and a few have already written several scripts. It is also becoming increasingly common for creative directors to direct their own TV commercials. Many see advertising as a transit stop en route to the movies. It is open to argument whether this affects their ability to put the idea ahead of the medium.

Many creative directors see advertising as a transit stop en route to the movies

The ad agency’s obsession with the TV spot has created a peculiar challenge for marketers. Commercial inventory on TV is now being self-regulated and fast becoming a scarce commodity. To complicate matters, ad avoidance among consumers is on the rise. This is forcing agencies and marketers to look beyond the traditional TV commercial, leading to a rapid growth of content marketing. The success of content has been fuelled by India’s massive internet explosion: 250 million users, 100 million Facebook subscribers, 150 million smartphones, 70 million YouTube users. Online video content companies such as AIB and TVF are increasingly popular and have a huge and loyal base of subscribers to their YouTube channels.

Given this strong social media user base, I have no doubt that content marketing is poised to become the next big thing in India. While ad agencies continue to focus on TV, media agencies and specialist content companies are rapidly building capabilities, growing their clients’ business and thriving like never before. With so much action going on in content, it wouldn’t be out of place to say that, in India today, the media agency is a sexier business than advertising.

Speaking of creating content, I highly recommend Nightcrawler. "It’s as if Humphrey Bogart had a baby face, lost all his marbles and got a subscription to the Harvard Business Review," a critic said about Jake Gyllenhaal’s chilling portrayal of a driven news-content producer. A must-watch.

T Gangadhar is the chief executive of MEC India