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January 3 2018

PHD India’s Shavon Barua on the Year Ahead

Our People Perspectives

This blog post was first published by Sandeep Goyal on Campaign India.

Shavon Barua is managing partner at PHD Media and leads cross-functional teams for business at HUL and VW. I invited Shavon to write this year end piece because she is one of the rare individuals in Indian advertising who after many years in client servicing moved to a global digital agency. Such a switch is not easy but Shavon seems to be doing well in her assignment and loving every minute of it. Shavon and I have been colleagues at Rediff, and then at Dentsu. She ran the Colgate-Palmolive business for me 15 years ago. She was even then much mature beyond her years, with excellent client-handling skills and even better creative handling skills! 

Shavon Barua on 2018:

Teenage and the joy of being audacious!

I have chosen to look at 2017 and 2018 pretty much as teenagers. The behaviour of 2017 has certainly been teen like. Seventeen is perhaps a year when young people try and do as much experimental stuff as possible. I recall I did, many moons ago and not so long ago, saw my young son do it as well. Challenge the set process, break a few rules. Change the standard way of doing things. Perhaps the reason to do so is the word adult getting associated with the next year. So, I was not surprised to see 2017 being a year where a similar behaviour pattern reigned supreme. Stereo types got broken, unexpected ways opened up and a new way emerged.

In the India context if we look at seventeen, every possible conversations has centred around DEMO, GST, JIO, DATA, OTT. Their impact, and the opening up of the flood gates. While I personally don’t think there is much original stuff left to say (actually most people don’t either, but they say it nonetheless) on those topics, but what really stood out was how we embraced all the change these events brought about. If on the home turf we saw changes galore we also saw some big predictions and changes at the world stage.

Seventeen has to be about big bold audacious predictions. Close to the heart was PHD Media’s launch of the book at Cannes Lions called – Merge. Merge talks in depth about technology and us, how technology and humanity both symbolically and literally fuse. In a world where the role of AI, VR, VPA, Nano Bots have become the conversation currency, it is an insightful and delightful read.  While we talk about all the brilliant technological advancement, Seventeen also was about movements. Movements that brought out issues often hushed up and pretending not to happen. #MeToo gobsmacked all. And to have Feminism as the word of Seventeen on Webster was a befitting tribute.True to its nature of Seventeen , the year, yo -yoed from the trivial to terrific, tremendously.

And with such a high voltage 2017, what can we expect from 2018?

Again, eighteen is looked at as a teen number, and it is about milestones. Its stepping on to the other side. Of gaining licences. Of growing up. I recall that I voted the year I turned eighteen and though our son missed that when he hit that age, he did start enjoying new things like independent accounts and membership. Eighteen changes the tone and expectations but most importantly the perspective.

I feel 2018 will be about realisation. If the ball got rolling about wanting change across platforms in this year, the coming year should be about making the change a reality.Pundits of trends are predicting it to be the year of reckoning. We will see the change take shape and form. From conversation to conversion. More engaged consumers will want more bespoke brand relationships. Reality will be both virtual and augmented. Technology will continue to be the driving force and the works.

But yes, the greatest hope is that we will not need to have #MeToo2.0 versions. Because it is with all the advancement if we continue to still struggle to gain the basic respect, the rightful equality in all spaces of life, it will be quite a shame.

Let’s hope eighteen stands for enlightened adulthood.

Have a fantastic year ahead.

Shavon’s perspectives are indeed different. Her likening of 2017 and 2018 to seventeen and eighteen years olds is in itself a refreshing take. Her point about 2018 being a year where conversations shall move to conversions is well made. Also #MeToo is a completely new dimension in this year-end debate. Kudos to Shavon!

With Shavon’s piece we wrap up this series of guest writers. I hope you enjoyed reading their views on the year gone by, and the year ahead. Each of Rana, Ravpreet, Nary, Manoj, Pavita, Pratap and Shavon had their individual interpretations, each different, each equally valid. Let us see how much of the crystal ball gazing comes true in 2018.

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