Marketing maven Suhel Seth: “Agencies need to invest in innovation in their core business”

Suhel Seth is one of India’s most followed marketing and management gurus and is a highly-regarded columnist. We spoke to the marketing maven; author and actor about what the COVID19 situation means for the Indian advertising and marketing industry. 


How adversely do you think COVID19 situation is going to affect the marketing and advertising industry? What can be the way out for them?

Typically, advertising and marketing spends are the first to be pruned in any cost-cutting exercise: so I see a huge impact on the A&M industry: I see retrenchments and a lot of downsizing as also sadly some agencies folding up or being easy prey for acquisitions: the only way out for them is to heighten client-engagement and invest in innovation in their core business to help clients look at revenue rather than vanity advertising


We have heard lot of agencies/brands furloughing staff. You think that will negatively affect their brand? Can situations like these be averted or minimisized?

It will surely affect the brand and will lead to overall employee morale coming down which is the core issue: I believe the agency heads will have to be both leading from the front (taking pay cuts themselves) as also be compassionate and ensure as little retrenchment as possible.


What can brands do to better connect with their audience in these times?

Firstly, they need to plan better outreach with both their clients and employees

Secondly, they need to take revenue concerns of clients head on

And thirdly, they need to demonstrate their own willingness


Do you believe AI/VR is the future of media and marketing agencies?

I don’t believe given the landscape of India and the sparse level of digital excellence, AI / VR will be the ONLY solution: it will be only one part of a comprehensive solution which as I say has to be integrated



How effective can social media be in the time of COVID19? 

It can and will remain very effective: it will however need calibration and filtration so that fake news is immediately dispelled with: also content curation will be of paramount importance and more than quantity, social media practitioners will have to focus on quality and targeted communication


Apple and Google have teamed up to help track COVID19. We have seen Zomato, Uber, Swiggy among others launch services to effectively combat COVID19. Do you think adapting to COVID19 is the future for brands? 

They have no choice: and it is not just adapting to COVID-19 but instead adapting to a new world order in which social norms will also undergo a change compelled by health and hygiene concerns


What all brands do you think are currently doing it right when it comes to engaging their audience or combating the COVID19 situation?

Reliance Industries; Tatas; Mahindra and Taj Hotels are amongst the big ones: and there are other smaller players who are both rejigging their business approach as also outreach to consumers


What has work from home for you been like so far? What would your advice be to all the start ups and marketers to maximise this lockdown to their advantage?

I have loved the lockdown: my reading has always been of criticality to me and I have had a lot of time for that and for music and we could easily be dead so it’s best to make the most of this rather than keep whining


P.S. Suhel Seth’s caricature is done by the very talented Triparna Mishra

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