W Power 2024

Digital Marketing Mavericks: Publicis Groupe's Digitas India looks at marketing from a fresh lens

In conversation with Digitas India's CXOs Unny Radhakrishnan, Sonia Khurana, and Abraham Varughese on new biz demands, enriching talent, and more

Published: Dec 20, 2022 03:38:43 PM IST
Updated: Dec 20, 2022 04:37:08 PM IST

Digital Marketing Mavericks: Publicis Groupe's Digitas India looks at marketing from a fresh lens(From L-R) Unny Radhakrishnan, Sonia Khurana, Abraham Varughese

Digital Marketing Mavericks is Storyboard18’s new series featuring some of the best digital-first, future-facing, homegrown and globally networked agencies that are building brands and businesses fit for the new age.

Digitas, which is owned by French network advertising company Publicis Groupe, calls itself ‘the connected marketing agency.’ Digitas forayed into the Indian market in 2008. Since then, the agency has seen silently working with brands that are looking for more than creative and media solutions. In India, Digitas India has two units. One is focused on Indian clients and the other is a global delivery centre on technology services.

Unny Radhakrishnan, a seasoned digital marketing expert, joined Digitas India as chief executive officer in 2020. It was a year when companies around the globe were nervous about doing business in a socially distanced world. However, Radhakrishnan, observes though things were tough, marketers understood the need for digital business transformation more than ever before. “Digital agencies like us have a lot more to offer. Clients have understood that over the last couple of years. The fact that digital marketing is just not about drawing communication pieces are being accepted by brands. In real life, consumers are looking for end-to-end experiences from brands,” explains Radhakrishnan.

Sonia Khurana the chief operating officer of the agency has similar views. She tells Storyboard18, “Digital is a heavy-duty word. There are so many aspects to it. We look at matters from different funnels. For instance, we are looking at creating solutions around how content can drive commerce. There is a huge opportunity to bring the two together.” Abraham Varughese, who joined the agency earlier this year as the chief creative officer, believes consumers are looking for meaningful conversations and experiences. The role of an agency is therefore to get better at offering specialised services. For this, the trio is constantly looking at upskilling their talent pool and getting professionals that bring in new dimensions to their work.

Also read: Digital Marketing Mavericks: Why Schbang wants to stay independent and be a truly Indian agency brand

Fact File

  • Founding year - Publicis launched Digitas in India in 2006. It merged LBi & Digitas into a single entity in 2013.
  • List of CXOs - Unny Radhakrishnan, Sonia Khurana, Abraham Varughese, Abhishek Chaturvedi, Mohammedullah Shaikh, Paresh Maru, Saurabh Aggarwal, Ranjan Singh
  • Total employee count - 470 plus
  • Total number of clients - 50 plus
  • Number of clients onboarded this year: Okaya, MGH, Celio, Marvel Realtors, Duolingo, Godrej HIT, Embassy Group, Olive, Disney Delights by Keventer, Matter Motorworks, Kinetic Green, Syngenta, MyTrident.com
  • Top campaigns: boAt – The Unheard Break
On June 21, 2022, for World Music Day Digitas India and audio-wearable brand boAt bought all peak time ad space on the music streaming app Gaana, so no one could run an ad, not even boAt. Instead, the brand gifted free users (almost everyone) with The Unheard Break - hours of uninterrupted music without the expected commercial breaks. The campaign got extended for two more hours from the scheduled time because of the response it was getting on social media.


  • 2 million plus unique listeners across the country
  • 22 million plus songs streamed
  • 19% increase in listening time (compared to weekly average)

Nissan Booking Engine

Digitas India identified that a car buying process includes 28 touchpoints. The pandemic saw a lot of these moving to digital. As the digital experience partner of Nissan, the agency’s challenge was to provide the purchase journey experience in a digital environment with the end goal of driving test drives and bookings. Digitas India created a booking platform using the UX process.

The booking engine gives customers a start-to-finish solution – from exchanging their existing car; applying and availing online finance options (along with document submission); calculating and comparing EMIs, and tracking the estimated delivery date of the vehicle.

Results: During the launch of the brand’s SUV Magnite, 12% of the audience reached, and booked the vehicle on the booking platform. Over 8000 bookings have happened online on this platform to date.

MP Birla Cement

For a leading cement manufacturer, Digitas India designed and currently run an industry-first CRM program called Armaan Nirmaan. The program was designed with the goal of driving influence for the brand and capturing secondary sales from masons, dealers, retailers and contractors. It’s also a digitized sales ordering process to track and capture revenue, and that is integrated with larger enterprise systems. It gives a multi-lingual experience to connect better with the audiences.

Also read: New epicenters of influence are growing: Asmita Dubey, L'Oreal global marketing chief

Results: Several lakh contractors, masons, retailers, contractors, and others have downloaded and enrolled in the program from across 547 cities that belong to the remotest districts of India. In addition, the app has enabled the brand to track crores of revenue including revenue from offline sources.

Enriching the talent pool

Radhakrishnan opines talent is linked to the culture of an organisation. “Improving the work culture is a constant work-in-progress effort. We are looking at building a team on high empathy and function.” He says that he wants his teams to always remain curious. Radhakrishnan works closely with the learning and devolvement team to identify value-added courses for his teams. A yearly learning calendar is mapped out. The agency also conducts a survey to take employees’ suggestions on these areas. Marcel, Publicis Groupe’s AI platform, which is designed to help employees connect and learn better also has a repository of courses that are open to everyone in the company to enroll for.

Varughese, who is constantly speaking to creative professionals, observes it’s challenging to keep the interest of entry-level talent. “They do have good sparks but it’s like the problem of having plenty. Today, there are so many opportunities out there that their focus gets shifted easily. It’s challenging for the agency business but from a macro level it's interesting times for people who are just starting off.” On the other hand, he says the mid-level talent are the enthusiastic lot at the moment in the industry. They are ready to learn and unlearn quickly. These upskilling courses are therefore widely taken at Digitas by mid-level executives.

What really marketers want?

Not so long-ago Radhakrishnan asked a bunch of CMOs from his personal network what they want from agencies today. He shares with Storyboard18 some of the notes he picked up from the dipstick. “Marketers by and large understand the complexities of modern-day business. Some even are humble to admit that they still work in silos and agency partners are simplifying things for them,” he adds.

Khurana agrees with Radhakrishnan. She says, while some clients know what they exactly want from their agency partners, there are many who come with ambiguous briefs. This happens during pitches too. “The way to deal with these marketers is through various rounds of conversations. Sometimes they may not know that agencies can come up with more than communication and media strategies. The corridor conversations most of the time turn into developmental work in our case because marketers understand that we bring a lot across the table,” she adds.

At a time when marketers are eyeing web 3.0 and the metaverse as new shiny objects, Varughese, Khurana, and Radhakrishnan are just keeping their eyes and ears to the ground. They are observing the space. Varughese explains why. “Brands like to follow trends. Honestly, there is nothing wrong with it. However, there is so much platform and web technology to be explored.” Brands can deep dive into these opportunities before chasing newer buzzwords, he concludes.

Post Your Comment
Required, will not be published
All comments are moderated