Praise In Public And Criticize In Private – Sanjeev Patel, Associate Business Director, Group M

Briefly tell us about your journey from an Intern with ZenithOptimedia to now an Associate Business Director at Group M?

I started my career as an intern at ZenithOptimedia wherein I was managing ad operations including optimization, trafficking, and execution of campaigns. The learning of the platform helped me delve deeper into audience insights and finally, I landed up in a media planning role at the agency. Thereafter I joined Interactive Avenues which gave me the opportunity to work on many performances led accounts across categories like FMCG, Consumer durables, BFSI and Education further enhancing my platform and planning knowledge. Since I was always interested in working in the Auto category, I later moved to Isobar as a planning lead for General Motors. Ministry of Tourism, DS Group, Panasonic, MasterCard, National Geographic Channel, JK Tyres were additional accounts I worked on. I was also managing the overall trading for Isobar North which helped me further leverage my buying skills. Working for the biggest ad agency globally has a charm of its own. That’s how I landed up at my present role at Group M- Essence.


Did you have to unlearn and learn a lot when you shifted from an FMCG client (GSK, R&B or DS Group) to a global conglomerate like (GM & Panasonic)?

Well, if you are a part of the digital industry you know how volatile the market is and it is very important for every planner to be constantly updated on the new technologies, trends, and ideas. While every client poses a different learning experience, the basics of how we approach the brief do not change. Every campaign brief for every advertiser needs you to deep dive into the audience insights, business objectives, metrics etc. While insights cannot be extrapolated across brands, they surely give an idea of what works and what doesn’t across platforms.


How has the buying and planning process in digital evolved from the time you have started working in this industry?

When I started off with my career, digital was still in its nascent stage with limited platforms available to advertisers. Most of the buys were on CPM and there were few metrics for us to evaluate the true performance of digital and how it drove numbers and ROI for the brand. However, with the advent of new technologies, we now have- multiple platforms, different buy types, enhanced audience targeting basis their interest, dynamic creative optimization for customized messaging etc. While the industry has grown so has the challenges with it; like ad fraud and low/no viewability. It is estimated that because of mobile ad fraud, Indian marketers and advertisers would lose $350 million of their marketing spends to fraudsters. Hence it becomes very important for a planner to take viewability and brand safety into consideration to ensure that every impression served is shown to a real user. With a suite of available analytical tools, we can now have a holistic picture of where we are spending and what actually moves the needle.


You must have a pretty big team to handle, how do you make sure that each of them is equally productive?

It is very important for a Team Lead to understand the strengths and weakness of each member. I also strongly believe in a phrase ‘praise in public and criticize in private’. This has really helped boost the morale of every individual in my team and recommends most effective behavior.


What has been your biggest challenge at work recently and how did you and your team overcome it?

The toughest challenge that one faces as a lead planner is keeping yourself calm especially under pressure. While challenges and escalations are a part of agency life, I generally ensure that I am proactively overseeing all work on my set of accounts to ensure that I can foresee these initial hiccups and address them before they reach fire-fighting situation. Usually, when a problem arises for a client especially during campaign execution, instead of just finding a reason for the same, I also ensure to get back to the client with a possible solution on how we can rectify it. This enables me to build trust with my advertisers in the long-term.


What are your current and ideal work/life balance?

I believe it is very important for everyone to have a healthy work-life balance. Prioritization of work at hand is a key to maintaining this. I ensure that while I am at work I give my 100% and while I am off work I ensure to take up hobbies and activities that make me happy. I love to travel and I ensure that I take at least one overseas holiday every year. Taking some time off from work helps you to relax and unwind so that once you’re back you are can start afresh. Setting your priorities is important both on and off work to be more productive, happy, and healthy.