In this, the 53rd episode of MVP – The Master’s Voice Podcast series, which is based on conversations with MVPs (Most Valued Players / Professionals) across important sectors of the Industry – we bring you a titan of the Indian Advertising and Marketing industry; someone who, needs no introduction to any practitioner in the space, because he goes by the name of Sam Balsara. Founder, Chairman & MD of Madison World.
More than half a decade of creating avenues for remarkable growth, guidance and mentoring for the entire advertising industry in India. And for the past 34 years, Sam has been an entrepreneur, first launching his feisty, innovative, creative and remarkably effective agency Madison, which he helped evolve and grow beautifully into Madison World.
On this, the 53rd episode of MVP - The Master’s Voice Podcast, Sam is a very happy man. Especially today, the 5th of May 2022, when this episode goes live to coincide with the return of the sorely missed and eagerly awaited Goa Fest, which Sam and, indeed, the entire A&M industry has been waiting for to resume.
So while Sam’s been looking forward to the return of GoaFest, here’s a message he wants to send out through this episode. “What I would request all the participants to do,” Sam tells me, “is to try and attend all the seminars… which provide the opportunity of broadening and widening your mind and horizons by listening to different points of view, which I think is very important in ultimately shaping your career.”
Sam speaks of several things, including the big highs from his career. Sam counts starting Madison on his own as a big high; also, winning the Media AOR mandate for P&G is another big high for him, because it signaled the arrival of the Media AOR in India, where there was no concept of a Media AOR prior to that win. In fact, Sam focused the Media AORs in those days, Coca Cola, Airtel, ITC and other very large prestigious AORs of TVS, who is still with Madison. When AORs first started, they were only buying AORs; but over the years, Sam and his team managed to convert the Buying AORs into buying and media planning APRs.
Once Lara entered the business, Sam says they pursued an aggressive diversification strategy, inspired by the success with the AORs to focus on unbundling, on specialization. Because by then they had a cadre of specialists who took pride in their work and business, and who became super experts, and the Media AOR specialists delighted clients with high value services to clients without concomitant costs. Soon, they had specializations and specialists for Outdoor, PR, rural and more. The formula was to hire super specialists. That design worked rather well, Sam says.
Sam also admits to a major pitfall, “of my own doing. In India," he says, "I took the view that my traditional media people should also handle digital and become digital experts. It’s not that I underestimated digital; I thought if the traditional media person is not going to handle digital like he does not handle outdoor, then what is he going to do?! And I persisted with that for five years!” Of course, he corrected things when the penny well and truly dropped. "
On his outlook for advertising, Sam says India has led in the growth rate of advertising in four of the past five years, and the country is in a reasonably sweet spot -- whether it is on demographic dividend, potential of the economy as we’ve become a reasonably large economy, countries are recognizing our importance, and that both these factors bode very well for the future of advertising in India.
And, Sam says, the same attractiveness of India will create challenges for the indigenous advertising sector, and probably end up giving Indian marketers greater power to leverage, and to negotiate harder, with the agencies. How? Listen in. And there's much more.