Q&A: Rohan Philips – ‘Relationships With Consumers are Being Shaped by the Role of Sustainable Media’

We recently caught up for a conversation with Rohan Philips, Dentsu International President, Global Product, Media. Based out of Singapore, Philips was appointed to the position back in November, tasked with developing the 2025 product strategy and roadmap for dentsu clients worldwide, with coming rollouts through its network of global media agencies, Carat, iProspect, and dentsu X.

Philip’s has been in the industry for over 12 years having held senior leadership positions including Global Chief Product Officer at iProspect and prior to that positions within GroupM and Publicis Groupe.

Over the course of our conversation, Philips talks about the 2025 product strategy and roadmap, rising expectations of consumers to engage with brands that have strong sustainability policies, big data, creativity, and more.

 
 

What’s been keeping you busy lately?

2021 was tough for everyone. At dentsu we are making a concerted effort to improve the well-being of our people. Typically, January involves a lot of planning, however, this year the planning is oriented around people as opposed to people around plans.

With hybrid working becoming the norm around the world, a closer emphasis on how we bond together as a team, understanding the various working environments of our people, and reducing virtual meetings are some new and interesting areas that are keeping me busy.

Tell us more about Dentsu’s 2025 product strategy and roadmap and what it entails.

The dentsu media ecosystem powers our services and solutions and we are moving much faster in developing our products. Through our Media brands, Carat, dentsu X, and iProspect, our accuracy in predicting business outcomes have improved significantly. The traditional siloes of brand and performance, addressable and linear are being bridged by products that have a consistent data science capability at their core.

 
 

As a result, our products can use machine learning tools against a consistent data set and standards. We are also very bullish on attention, our work in this space has been leading the industry for a few years and now we are moving from measuring attention and optimizing attention, to predicting and planning on attention.

It is becoming the single most important input metric.

You recently said that the whole media industry is at a turning point with myriad factors influencing agency and client decisions in areas such as sustainability. Can you talk more about what data you’re seeing in terms of consumer expectations regarding sustainability?

Our relationship with our clients and brands, relationships with consumers is being shaped by the role of sustainable media: Sustainable media brings the spotlight on social and environmental impact at its heart. In our latest research, The Rise of Sustainable Media, over 88% of respondents said they will make sustainable purchases when they can.

“Our relationship with our clients and brands, relationships with consumers is being shaped by the role of sustainable media: Sustainable media brings the spotlight on social and environmental impact at its heart.”

This is especially prevalent with Gen Z and Millennials with 82% of them saying they will only want to spend money with brands who practice sustainable media in five years’ time. This has an impact on everything we do, from how we are organized and behave, to ultimately our work. It is an exciting opportunity to reshape our industry from the ground up rather than tinkering with the edges.

How are agencies and clients embracing these expectations?

Our agencies are embracing these expectations with open arms and dentsu has been leading the way in its commitments to sustainability for quite some time; we are the first agency holding group to be 100% powered by renewable energy and have a science-based commitment to be a Net Zero emissions business by 2030, not to mention our commitment to society through other official programs.

“With hybrid working becoming the norm around the world, a closer emphasis on how we bond together as a team, understanding the various working environments of our people, and reducing virtual meetings are some new and interesting areas that are keeping me busy.”

Many of our clients have had an emphasis on sustainability for some time now, this is amplified when it comes to their expectations of their partners – media has a huge responsibility to lead the change. 

The industry has become more dependent on big data than ever before. How do you see the relationship between tech and creativity evolving in the future?

In some sense we are seeing the pendulum swing back to creativity, the emphasis on a connected customer experience has given data a purpose and creativity a broader canvas to express itself. In the future, I think it will be difficult to categorize people or their work in such broad categories.

This is going to unlock some interesting work where technology and creativity are layered on top of each other, as opposed to being distinct of each other. The emphasis on privacy is also going to unlock a change in mindset with how we think about data, we are going to be more inclined to making creative leaps.

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