Vishal Srivastava

Ask the Expert: How to Efficiently Scale Marketing Operations

Both agency teams and brands are being asked to recruit and retain more technically savvy marketers. I sat down with the President of Annalect India, to learn more about how we’ve been able to successfully support brands and agencies while driving efficiency and improving campaign effectiveness. 

Q: Agency teams are being asked to plan, execute and report on campaigns which requires data expertise and other technically advanced skills. How are you helping them successfully meet these demands?

A: Agencies are being asked to be both strategic and tactical experts. This requires two vastly different skill sets. By allowing OMD, PHD, Resolution, or Hearts & Science to focus on more of the planning and strategy, we’re able to deliver expert tactical support across several critical functions with 24/7 attention.

Take our digital services team, for example, they specialize in the granular support for digital campaigns. This includes the day-to-day investment management in platforms like Prisma, and more traditional ad operations work like pacing, optimization, and ad trafficking across programmatic, search, and social channels. By developing a core team of experts who focus on digital ad operations, we’re able to train new hires more quickly and deliver as close to error-free as possible campaigns while also creating efficiency through our speed-to-execution.

Another example is our Marketing and Data Science team. They manage data, develop data lakes, harmonize data, and create and maintain client-facing dashboards. Additionally, we have experts who build out data models on media mix and deliver predictive analysis. Data manipulation, in particular, is an incredibly sought-after skillset and by having a large team (200+) working across these efforts, we have an environment in which people are learning from and gut checking each other, which in turn improves the quality of our output for our agencies their brands.

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In response to high demand, your team has more than tripled in the past three years. How has this growth impacted or changed your team and the brands and agencies you support?

At the beginning we only had seven people and one office. As you mentioned, our partnership model and work were well received so due to increased demand we now have more than 500 team members. This expansion has resulted in us opening a second office — we are now located in both Bangalore and Gurgaon. It has also allowed us to offer growth opportunities to existing employees through an expansion of the services that we offer and provide an increased level of support for Omnicom agencies. We now have a Marketing and Data Science team, a Digital Operations team, and a Technology team (specific to Omni). It has been really exciting for us to continue to grow and infuse brand campaigns with an increasingly meaningful level of data for superior results.

Why do you think that there’s been such an increase in demand for your team’s services?

The cost of onboarding and maintaining a large team of industry experts is significantly higher if you do it within a media agency or brand due to the volatility of these services. Our teams allow our agency partners to fill in this gap efficiently while not compromising the quality of their output and often increasing this quality. By sitting within Annalect, we remain 100% Omnicom in terms of values and can operate as a global support unit for all Omnicom agencies.

How does your team help with agency or brand-specific challenges and requests?

Our teams collaborate directly with the agencies, this ensures operational excellence and success. They receive dedicated project management, problem-solving solutions for issues, campaign reporting and utilization trackers and scorecards that help agency executives and leaders with their overall strategy. Overall, we provide teams with an ability to customize their level of service and to more effortlessly infuse data to their businesses in a way that is aligned with Omnicom’s strategy and overall data governance.

How have key team members help accomplish this growth?

Everyone on our team has played a critical role. Due to their commitment and hard work, we have been able to reach this stage and continue to steadily and sustainably grow. My partner and Senior Director of Strategy and Operations, Kiran Guruswami has been particularly integral to our success. He has been with me since the beginning and is directly responsible for our Bangalore operations. He also leads the digital services and marketing science groups and supports growth for regions like EMEA and APAC and other markets outside the US.

We had a period of eight months of transitional work, where it was particularly hard for us to retain talent, but with constant connection and communication, we were able to keep hold of our best and brightest talent and build an amazing foundation for the team we have today. Our partnership and commitment to the company and the team during this time has allowed us to develop a flexible business model that evolves quickly based on our agency teams and the market’s needs.

The second name that stands out is our HR Director, Ritu Bhardwaj. She drives the vibrant culture of our offices. She works so hard to provide growth opportunities for both existing employees and new hires. She also is the ultimate advocate for our global Annalect values (honesty, integrity, and respect for others), right first time, better the best, never give up, and lead by example. Our culture is built on sharing these values with our employees.

How have we been successful in attracting talent and retaining talent?

In the technology and data space we are constantly competing against companies like Accenture, Adobe, Amazon, Google, and many others. We’ve been successful in recruitment by creating a unique environment that’s built on our global standards of inclusion and excellence.  

Due to our continued expansion, and our commitment to our employees, we’ve also been able to provide growth opportunities so that they can continue to develop their careers. This has resulted in extraordinary retention rates and word-of-mouth referrals. We’ve also redone our offices to ensure that employees have state-of-the-art facilities that foster an open, collaborative, colorful, and creative environment.  

How do you see your team evolving in 2020 and beyond? 

We will continue building our strong culture, diversifying our services, and assisting our agencies in their overall efforts.

We’ve also been onboarding and training new talent and exposing them to the larger ecosystem at the start of their careers. As they join our collaborative team, new hires working on an agency account can gain opportunities by working alongside teammates who mentor and help them to further their personal and professional growth.  

Overall, I am confident in the steps our team is taking moving forward, and I know we can deliver for brands and Omnicom agencies as they continue to reach out to us for support. 

So, when you’re not here in the office, what are some of your hobbies?

I love to play tennis anytime and anywhere. I have always enjoyed watching it, keeping up with grand slams like the US Open and Wimbledon. My favorite players to watch are, of course, Roger Federer, he’s a legend. I also enjoy some of the younger talent like Dominic Thiem, who recently competed in the Australia Open Finals against Novak, it was a thrilling match. I was in New York at the time and had to get up 4 a.m. every morning to watch these matches, totally worth it!

I also enjoy traveling with my wife and our daughter; we try to go to one international and domestic destination every year.

What are some places you’ve gone to recently, and what’s still on your list?

We recently went to Maldives and Bali (this was before Covid-19 concerns), and had a lot of fun. We still have plenty to cover in the APAC region. Our next destination was going to be Vietnam. But, we chose to postpone everything for the time being and will revisit when the time is right.

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By Anthony Cocola

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