Having influencer community is nearly obligatory at present: Anil Viswanathan
Anil Viswanathan, Senior Director, Marketing, Mondelez India, talks about the growing importance of social media influencers, brand safety and the company’s openness to experiment with new ideas. Edited excerpts from Mint’s first series of interviews with marketing directors capturing the dynamic and rapidly changing world of marketing:
Her new Cadbury Dairy Milk campaign, refreshing the iconic 1994 ad with an interesting gender swap, has gone viral. How did that happen?
I think it came from the idea of a junior creative member of our agency partner Ogilvy. When the idea was presented to us, we instinctively felt that it was great to do. You can see this film as part of the platform we have advanced through a number of initiatives over the past three years. Cadbury Dairy Milk stands on the platform of generosity. We express it in India as Kuch Achha Ho Jaaye, Kuch Meetha Ho Jaaye. We have tried to bring this thought to life by trying to shed light on the acknowledgment of the unrecognized. Especially after Covid, the country was gripped by a wave of gratitude to all those who took care of our lives. We just felt that it was appropriate for us to even invoke this whole message of generosity. We did that last year with the “thank you” campaign.
When this idea was first introduced, we noticed this emerging trend of celebrating women and their accomplishments in all fields and we found this to be such a beautiful display.
What was the initial reaction to the campaign?
Early days, needless to say, it took us completely by surprise. To be completely honest, when we initiated and released it, it was almost like an experiment. Now that we see the love and response it is getting, we are investing heavily behind it. We actually introduced it on Kaun Banega Crorepati and the India Women (Cricket) Tour of Australia. I think we will continue to invest behind it. There are many cricket properties that we will be active in.
How eager to experiment is Mondelez when it comes to clinging to new social media platforms?
We keep experimenting a lot. One of the things that worked well for us is the fact that we’re open to experimentation and try a lot of different things, be it a Snapchat filter for Valentine’s Day, a Twitter campaign on cyberbullying, or a psychological awareness program Health on WhatsApp. Much of it is idea first too. When we have a great idea, we see different platforms adopt that idea differently. The only caveat I want to add is that we are also clear about brand safety as it is an important parameter for us. We have strict global guidelines and we like to be over-cautious.
Do you think that you think social media channels need regulation?
Across all industry bodies, one is clearly trying to create an element of fair play and to ensure that there is no one-sidedness or the dissemination of false information. Abuse is obviously widespread in this medium. So the industry bodies work together and it’s great to be on your guard to make sure there is no harmful news being spread and there is adequate security not only for consumers but also for brands. There is a huge desire for user generated content – there are so many micro-influencers – it’s a gray area and regulators and micro-influencers have to step in to figure out how to regulate that.
In terms of a level playing field, we are today in a situation in which we are looking for an integrated multimedia view and are becoming more and more complex with the introduction of new platforms. There are increasing calls for transparency and more sharing to create more consistency.
Do you think the influencer network in India has reduced celebrity influence on campaigns?
I think there is no definitive answer to that. Obviously, their roles are different. There are stages in a brand’s lifecycle when a celebrity can be extremely useful.
Nowadays, an influencer network is almost mandatory for the medium. While they play a role in engagement, especially on social media, over time, the lines also blur. There have been cases of celebrities who have become influencers and influencers who have become celebrities.
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