With the fast growing number of ethnic media agencies in the UK, Here & Now 365 has held on as one of the leading companies in the field. BizAsiaLive.com ’s Raj Baddhan caught up with the founder, Manish Tiwari about where he sees the agency currently, the challenges it has faced over the past 12 years and the forecast for the years ahead.
When I initially came to London over 15 years ago it was a big thing to spot South Asian brands in the country. I still remember watching a group of Indians, possibly tourists, excitedly taking photographs when they spotted an Indian brand on the London Underground. Cut to today, it is common place to see brands from the sub-continent advertising around the UK – be it the underground, buses, TV and even print. This is where we have made the difference, where we have brought South Asian brands to the forefront and even mainstream brands have understood the potential of the diaspora.
Manish, you’ve come a long way since you started up Here & Now 365, with the media agency now one of the most recognised in the entire UK – how does that make you feel?
When I started Here and Now 365 in 2005, there was a gap in the market, where ethnic cultures weren’t well represented within the media and worse, were being stereotyped in communication, even coming from their own community . A decade later, today I feel there has been a change, not only within the industry but the British society has become more diverse. Britain is one of the few nations in the world where multiculturalism is successful and not just a minority affair. If we look at some of the European countries including France, there is a huge integration issue and even in the United States, we have not yet seen the success which Britain has achieved. However, like all good things we need to stand up for it and these diverse communities and cultures need to be represented, therefore making our jobs as multicultural marketers even more imperative. Even mainstream brands are realising the potential of the ethnic market and are slowly but steadily looking to target these communities in a bespoke manner.
Tell us about your clientele and how they’ve grown over the years?
When we started ten years ago we were two people and had one brand – Just Dial, which got sold to One Tel and subsequently One Tel got sold to Carphone Warehouse. We were lucky as we got an exposure to bigger companies because our expertise got carried over with the client. Today, we are a team of 20+ talented and diverse individuals and work with over 50 clients – ranging from South Asian to mainstream brands. From telecoms, to finance to FMCG products as an agency we have come a long way and are market leaders in our own right.
As well as PR & marketing, Here & Now 365 also specialises in media planning, tell us more about your services?
We champion multiculturalism and our service portfolio entails bridging cultures and brands. While we offer a full gamut of services like every full-service media agency would, are core strength is bespoke communication solutions – be it brand activation at events, media planning and buying, creative, production, digital and PR strategies, insights and market research. Everything we do at Here and Now 365 is steeped in consumer insights and knowledge of the particular culture we are trying to target and this is not just ad land jargon, we are able to beat almost everyone including the big network agencies when it comes to pitching on cultural representation.
With the rising amount of competition in most sectors and more demand to stand out in a crowded market, how important would you say is it for marketing agencies like yourself to help businesses to promote their brand(s)?
We are fortunate to be in a niche segment with a unique offering. Being one of its kind brings the advantage of being a leader and pioneer in your own field. But it comes with its own pressures of delivering beyond expectations each time and not having the luxury of making mistakes. All our clients have been long standing and truly believe in the way we bring cost effective solutions to target the unique audiences.
Asian clients from all types of business have become a lot more savvy in using media agencies to push their brand out in the various markets, why do you think this is?
There are Asian businesses who achieved success because they communicated with their audiences when the big British businesses were not interested in them. However, this has changed as now the mainstream businesses know the value of Asian clientele. A look into any rich list would tell you that Asian businesses are immensely valuable at all strata whether it is SME businesses or the bigger capital growth enterprises. Hence, it is imperative that Asian businesses become a lot more sophisticated as it not about finding all the answers rather collaborating with partners and agencies to gain maximum growth.
Marcomms is a specialist field, and there is talent who is qualified conditioned and experienced. And when you have this specialism handy which can become an extended part of your team, brands are able to fine time efficacy and economies of scale and get real value for their money. Agencies bring a knowledgeable, analytical and an independent perspective to any business problem which sometimes gets overlooked and it needs a holistic view keeping in mind the consumer, the category and the brand.
We have talent in the agency which is extremely capable and at par with big network agencies. Some of the team members like Abhishek is from Ogilvy India which has won several awards internationally; Mayank Bharara comes from TV background; Suhrud is ex Lintas and Preet who heads the team has spent nearly 10 years working on different brands in the multicultural arena.
What’s been one of your most memorable and effective campaigns undertaken by Here & Now 365 recently?
It was a matter of honour and absolute pride for the agency to partner with PM Narendra Modi’s visit and his iconic UK Welcomes Modi event at the Wembley Stadium. As part of leveraging the visit we took over the entire Wembley Park Station, where we only had brands targeting the Indian community advertising including Axis Bank, Eros Now, Union Bank of India, Star Network, NDTV and O2.
We have introduced iconic brands from India including Airtel, SBI, HDFC and very recently Unilever India. The launch of Brooke Bond and Taj mahal brings a smile to me as finally we are reintroducing quintessentially British Brands back to the UK. However, the most memorable campaign for me would remain when we made the first TV Ad for ASDA as it was nearly impossible considering the very stringent process at ASDA and we were no body. A David vs Goliath moment for me.
The PR & marketing field has become saturated with small players taking away some of the bigger clients, what’s your take on this?
Here and Now 365 specialises in broadcasting and narrow casting all communications, regardless of the size of the brand because we do not believe in off the shelf solutions. As a business owner and the leader at the agency I realise the importance of the fact that one size does not fit all. Therefore, I have invested in a team which not only specialises in catering to client needs but is adaptable and flexible to address variable scales. My business is built on two values – no business is too small and we have a yes, we can attitude. Being small is no crime, everyone has to start small but thinking small is not something which helps anyone. Most of the so call one man bands operating are wheeler – dealers who won’t do any good to the industry.
Every couple of years, the Asian media goes through a bit of a shakeup, which I feel is very democratic.
With Asian TV channels facing their biggest test this summer after they enter Sky’s Original pack, how do you think this would impact the entire media spectrum?
Time will tell how the South Asian TV market will shape up after August 2017 but I am very optimistic that it will open up the market to more number of viewers, presenting newer opportunities to advertisers, enabling agencies like ourselves to address briefs objectively and open up the market to a fair competition. Every couple of years, the Asian media goes through a bit of a shakeup, which I feel is very democratic.
Advertising has increased online, whereas press has seen a decline, what’s your take on traditional media vs digital media?
The market is constantly evolving and media needs to learn to keep up with its evolving audience. While we do not have audited publications in our industry, the print is coming under a lot of pressure to hold its ground. While digital is the way forward, the importance of print cannot be undermined. And no matter what the platform content will always be the king. The Asian press must keep pace with the changing trends and understand what the readers are looking for.
With the advertising pie being eaten by cheaper television rates, which other medium do you think will suffer the most over the next 12 months?
No media will suffer as long as they look after their consumer and their needs. There is always scope for innovation and that is key for any media to sustain its audience. A perfect example would be Sunrise Radio going national on DAB and expanding its audience base.
Two areas where we are planning to expand and conquer are research and creative. We take immense pride in the creativity our agency brings in every field.
What’s your view on bigger Asian TV networks increasing the number of services they provide in the UK, impacting viewing figures of smaller channels?
We have over 50 Asian television channels available in the UK. Giving the audience a variety of content to choose from. While bigger channels do hold the forte, at the end of the day content is king and where there is good content the audience is bound to be attracted to the proposition. As a marketing agency what we need to keep in mind is which channels audience and content is right for a particular campaign at that moment in time.
How important are BARB and RAJAR figures for an agency like yourself when media planning?
BARB and RAJAR both are great indicators of measurability and give us a fair view of the number of people our campaigns are potentially reaching. But just like any other research the results cannot be treated as absolute because it boils down to representation. The question we constantly ask ourselves is whether South Asians are well represented on the BARB and RAJAR panels and as an industry what are we doing collectively to enhance these tools of measurement. While there are many channels and sales houses who have leveraged these numbers for the statistically savvy mainstream agencies to capture their business, I am of the opinion that we all have seriously undersold the potential of our reach.
What’s the biggest challenge ethnic media agencies like yourself face over the coming months?
Here and Now 365 has been at the heart of revolutionising ethnic communications. It has taken us 11 years, 22 staff members and 65 plus brands to establish our prowess. Lack of mutual respect within the industry, insecurities triggered by changing market circumstances and cropping up of one man agencies dilutes the importance of specialism that we bring to this area of work.
Upcoming events and plans for Here & Now 365?
Two areas where we are planning to expand and conquer are research and creative. We take immense pride in the creativity our agency brings in every field. From media execution to large scale TV productions to events. We are planning a media conclave to bring together the industry at some point and also plan to create some knowledge resources.
Here & Now 365 is a media agency based in London. It can be contacted via its website here.