Q&A: Venkata Bhonagiri – Brands are Trying to be More Responsible on Their Journey to Connect and Create Experiences

Venkata Bhonagiri is Senior Partner, Group Director, Data Strategy & Analytics at Mindshare.


Leading up to taking a seat on the jury at the annual AME Awards, Venkata Bhonagiri, Senior Partner, Group Director, Data Strategy & Analytics at Mindshare, sat down to share his thoughts with some in-depth insights about consumer data and how brands can more effectively interact with it.

Over the course of the conversation, he covers a wide range of topics including data challenges facing marketers, the evolving ways brands are engaging with consumers, some brands he sees that are getting it right, and more.

What future-forward trends and innovations are brands embracing for 2023?

Top-of-mind is certainly a meaningful metaverse brand strategy. Several brands are already ahead of the curve e.g., the well-known athletic apparel brand NIKE launched NIKELAND, an interactive world where visitors get to play mini-games and indulge in a lifestyle centered on sport and play. Gucci, Coke are Forever21 are some of the brands that have been winning in the Metaverse.


The Metaverse has absolutely been a platform for innovation, experimentation, and opportunity. Brands are at different stages of maturity when it comes to the adoption of the metaverse, some of them are still struggling to get started but 2023 is a year for most of them to get a clear idea of what’s already working vs. not.

Second, with the looming extinction of 3PD cookies and restrictions on specific types of targeting, brands are preparing for an evolved ecosystem of customer experience and their engagement with the ad tech stack. Brands are trying to be more responsible than before as they are in their journey of connecting and creating experiences with customers whose information availability is receding. Audience engagement will be a lot more reliant on 1PD and contextual environments

With General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws and third-party cookie crackdowns, how will strategic marketers address this data loss?   

There is no single strategic way to address the data loss. Modern privacy has become a very complex data governance problem. Suddenly we now must operate around an individual’s data stored in disparate data sources. For brands and agencies to deal with this need, we need to understand where the individual data sits in the first place.


This is very hard, because they are stored in multiples places. Petabytes of personal information gets collected, stored, and processed across 100s if not 1000s of data systems. Our data at an individual level sits at multiple places across the tech ecosystem and these tech stacks change daily. Second, these data systems did not ever anticipate that this data will become a special class of information and requires a special level of handling.

Overall, GDPR and 3PD cookie crackdowns have certainly had a significant impact on data collection and usage in marketing. One of the potential approaches is to focus on first-party data, which is information that is collected directly from customers or users of a website or app.

“With the rise of social media, mobile devices, and other digital channels, brands can now reach consumers in more personalized and targeted ways than ever before.”

This could include data from customer interactions, such as purchase history, website browsing behavior, and email newsletter signups. By collecting and utilizing first-party data, marketers can better target their messaging and offers to specific customer segments, without relying on third-party cookies or other data sources.

Marketers can also explore alternative data sources, such as contextual data, which involves targeting based on the content of the website or app where an ad is displayed, rather than on user data. This could include targeting ads to users who are reading articles on specific topics, or who are using certain keywords in their search queries.

Another way to address this challenge is by enhancing advertiser’s first-party data by leveraging data clean rooms. These are places, where walled gardens such as Google, Meta and Amazon share aggregated rather than individual-level data with advertisers, while implementing strict controls. So, when first-party data gets ingested into a data clean room, it matches up with aggregated data from platforms and from there advertisers can design targeting, run analytics, and push media activation

How has media marketing changed the way brands engage with consumers? Are there standout brands that are excelling at skillfully reaching consumers in their own personal lane of interest? 

Media marketing has evolved, and brands engage with consumers in more ways than we could track and keep a tab on. One of the most significant changes is the shift towards personalized and precision-based targeting, which has been made possible by advances in data analytics and technology.

With the rise of social media, mobile devices, and other digital channels, brands can now reach consumers in more personalized and targeted ways than ever before. They can collect data on consumer preferences, behaviors, and interests, and use that data to tailor their marketing messages and offers to specific segments of their audience. This allows brands to deliver more relevant and engaging content to consumers, which can help to build stronger relationships and drive higher levels of engagement and loyalty.

“There is no single strategic way to address the data loss. Modern privacy has become a very complex data governance problem. Suddenly we now must operate around an individual’s data stored in disparate data sources.”

I am a big fan of Nike and how it markets, big brands such as Apple has been drawing inspiration from Nike for over 2 decades.  Nike is a brand that has long been associated with high-performance sports and athletics, and it has leveraged that association to create a powerful connection with its audience.

Through targeted marketing campaigns that feature top athletes and influencers, Nike has built a loyal following of consumers who are passionate about fitness and sports. On the other hand, Netflix has revolutionized the entertainment industry with its personalized recommendations and highly targeted content. By analyzing viewer data and preferences, Netflix can recommend new shows and movies to its users that are highly relevant to their interests, leading to a highly engaged and loyal user base.

Why are effectiveness competitions like the AME Awards important?

Award platforms such as AME, offer an incredible opportunity for recognizing and celebrating marketing campaigns that have demonstrated tangible and significant results. By highlighting campaigns that have achieved real-world outcomes, these competitions help to elevate the status of marketing as a discipline and demonstrate the value that marketing can deliver to businesses and organizations.

These annual Awards have been encouraging advertisers to focus on driving real business outcomes, rather than just creating glitzy, attention-grabbing campaigns.

They emphasize the importance of metrics such as sales, customer retention, and brand awareness, these competitions help to shift the focus of marketing from creative output to tangible results. Finally, I have seen several marketing, content, creative and media playbooks created coming out of these effectiveness competitions. They provide a valuable learning opportunity for advertisers. By analyzing several campaigns, brands and agencies gain insights into effective strategies and tactics that can be applied at scale as there is evidence and a clear line of sight to success.

This series is part of a content collaboration with New York Festivals. To learn more about entering this year’s AME Awards, and get all the latest info, go here.


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