Note to readers: Media agencies have seen a 360-degree change when it comes to measurement metrics, strategies and services offered to the clients. What has also changed drastically is the gender gap. Thanks to the women leaders in the space who are showing the way for more and more media experts to aim for top leadership roles at these agencies. Storyboard18’s special series brings to you an exclusive behind-the-scenes view of the media agencies led by women.
Sheryl Sandberg inspires her. “I keep telling myself what Sandberg said. What would I do if I weren't afraid?” Says Priti Murthy, president of GroupM Nexus. A certified coach, coaching mostly women leaders, Murthy feels being one’s most authentic self is of utmost importance. “If one can be authentic and win over fear they can achieve whatever they want to and no one can stop them from doing so,” she says. In a chat with Storyboard18, Murthy talks about her experiences over the years, her leadership mantra, importance of having the mindset to unlearn and learn and more.
It’s been over a year that you’ve joined the leadership team at GroupM. Tell us about the journey and the changes that you have introduced in the system?
My journey has been a journey of progress. Before joining OMD, I was with Group M in a different avatar so I wasn’t new to the system but there were changes that had happened in the five years. My role, for instance, didn’t exist before. We set up Nexus and my role here as the President entails bringing the center of excellence, delivery, data and performance together. That’s what Nexus is all about. So that itself was a new ecosystem that I was building. It's more than a year now and we can proudly say that the measurable successes have been in terms of data and tech intervention and automation and robotics and how the whole planning journey has been simplified. On the other hand, there has also been an immense unmeasurable impact on the clients and the agency ecosystem and how we service clients overall. While there are TRRs and all the wins, there are also innumerable impacts and value adds that you can't put a number to.
What are your leadership mantras?
Authenticity is of prime importance to me. I come from a place of a complete people-first approach and that allows me to be authentic. I'm also a certified coach where I coach business leaders. Women leaders to be specific. One of the big reasons I do this is because it helps me bring out my authenticity and help people with that even outside my organization. I want to make sure that I take my learnings and use them to enhance the journey of other women who aspire to be leaders.
The agenda here is simple. I want to pass on the opportunities that I have got during my career to the next generation of leaders.
From an organization perspective, the best way to pave the way for future leaders is by allowing them to grow and not stall them at any point. Quite a number of leaders under me have seen great growth in their career in the past fourteen months that I have been with Group M. The agenda here is simple. I want to pass on the opportunities that I have got during my career to the next generation of leaders.
As someone who has been in the ad business for a long time, how do you think the industry can fix the gender gap?
Advertising has always had women. The industry has seen some great women leaders like Roda Mehta and till date that trend continues to be strong.
Not just advertising, every other business is taking a conscious effort to bring in the right leader without any gender bias. If we talk of GroupM, our leadership executive committee of fifteen comprises six women. So we almost have a 60:40 ratio. The challenge is more at the middle level and the lower level.
Ten years ago it was digital-first. Now it’s data-first thinking. Before digital-first it was TV-first. Before that it was print. However, it has always actually been consumer first.
We have a program called M wizard where we take extra effort to bridge the gender gap and bring in more women at entry and mid-levels.
Moreover, standing where we are today I think the conversation in the boardroom is not about men versus women. I think it's about overall diversity and inclusivity.
Coming to the evolving role of agencies at the moment. How have the skills required to do the job well changed over the years?
The reinvention of skills for me personally has happened every three to five years. From starting off as a TV -print planner to where I am today, is all because of this conscious decision of upgrading and reinventing my skills.
However, what has helped me most is the fact that the fundamentals of what I learned at the beginning of my career were so strong that it helped me throughout the entire transitioning of marketing communications from traditional to digital to content to technology.
Ten years ago we were talking digital first. But now it’s data-first thinking. Before digital-first it was TV-first. Before that it was print. It keeps changing. However, it has always actually been consumer first.
Some brands are seeing challenges coming from ‘born in the digital commerce ecosystem’ brands. Those brands are also parallelly shifting to brick and mortar spaces. There is a blending taking place.
Today to understand the consumer, you need first party data. 25 years back, it was probably the NRS survey. We have to evolve with every transition keeping in mind the basics of understanding the consumer.
There is a whole bandwidth of transition where I’ve put my hand up to try new things and take up experimentation. It is important to understand that everything will not always be successful but that doesn’t mean you stop trying new processes. The idea is to put the consumer first and then evolve and experiment around it.
How are clients' needs evolving?
Digital transformation has happened for businesses across industries a long time back. What has changed is that they're now starting to invest more. Some brands are seeing challenges coming from ‘born in the digital commerce ecosystem’ brands. Those brands interestingly are also parallelly shifting to brick and mortar spaces. So there is a blending taking place.
We look at digital from such a narrow lens, but it's actually part of the commerce ecosystem. The consumer today doesn’t pre decide whether to shop offline or online. They walk into a showroom and like something but end up buying the same online and vice versa. So brands are investing more to capture this wide bandwidth of commerce.
Clients no longer come to you for a TV campaign alone or a print or digital campaign only. The demands are end-to-end and mostly what they ask for is integrated solutions. Every business is led by ROI discussions so that is an integral part of the deliverables but what is equally important is to have an end-to-end solution especially designed for the brand and the ecosystem that it exists in.
What are the key skills that you look for in the new generation of media buyers and planners?
As far as skill is concerned you can always put an employee on a training programme but what is more important for me is that I always look for some form of basic communication understanding and the will and the mindset to learn how we approach our clients and consumer marketing. What I look for in my hires is whether they have the mindset to experiment and transform themselves, whether they are open to learning and looking at a challenge from a very different lens rather than working with an attitude of ‘I have done this in the past and will continue to do so’.
Lastly, tell us about the big trends to look out for in 2023?
Today the trends are more towards connected content so connected TV will grow immensely during the year.
The past five years have been about performance marketing which is all lower funnel but without branding and performance marketing working together, the ROI will not be as impactful. Hence, I see that as one brand and performance discussions pieces together. Lastly, COVID had stalled all the ground lead initiatives, those initiatives will be back with full force.