Betting big on hyper-specialisation, Zoo Media eyes 65% growth in FY23: Best Media Info

Suveer Bajaj

With a focus on doubling down on its narrative of hyper-specialisation within verticals or agencies, Zoo Media has grown exponentially in the past two years as per its Co-Founder, Suveer Bajaj.

“When we started Zoo Media in 2020, we were a portfolio of seven agencies and from there we’ve moved up to eleven agencies this year and a lot of our growth has been stimulated by the acquisition of agencies that conform to the idea of hyper-specialisation,” he said.

Bajaj also went on to state that in the past two years, Zoo Media had added The Starter Labs (specifically focused on D2C brands), Twenty-First Century Media Platform (focused on sports management), XP&D (focused on large-scale events), along with Metaform (focused on Web3 and Metaverse) to its agency mix.

Commenting as to what made the co-founders pick up ‘Zoo Media’ as the name of the founding company, Bajaj stated that it was chosen because the first agency that the co-founders had built together was Foxy Moron, followed by The Rabbit Hole, and Pollen, etc. but the theme behind all the agency name was animals.

“The question that we asked ourselves was what’s the one common setting where you find all the animals together while they function harmoniously and thrive together as a community, the answer was ‘Zoo’,” he said.

Bajaj also went on to add that while the formal holding company is called Zoo Media because that’s where people need to maintain order, decorum and discipline, the fun side or the slightly more casual brand is ‘the jungle’ where the animals come out to play in the night and have a good time.

In terms of account management as well, the global network has added over 50 new clients this year, taking the tally of Zoo Media’s clients to over 150, as per Bajaj.

Some of the accounts that are currently being managed by Zoo Media include Netflix, YouTube Shorts, P&G, Aha,  Kingfisher, Western Digital and SanDisk, Kimberly Clark, Hero MotoCorp, TVS IQube, Nykaa, etc.

Furthermore, Bajaj also highlighted that during the current times, when everybody talks about living the American Dream, Zoo Media wants to change the narrative and honestly live the Indian dream.

“If we sell our company to an American or say a British company, we won’t be living the Indian dream anymore and our dream is to live the Indian Dream which we can only do by continuing our journey as an independent agency,” he said.

Bajaj also went on to add that with international companies laying off thousands of staff due to the impending recession, it is finally time that Indians realise that there is a massive opportunity for the country to prove their mettle in marketing and advertising like it has been done in other sectors like IT and technology.

“Many Indians, like us, also have the opportunity to globalise our offerings by remaining independent agencies who continue their own narratives and run by their own formula of success and have the world know our story and save lots of drowning businesses or countries from recession by offshoring their work to India,” he suggested.

Elaborating further on Zoo Media’s idea of hyper-specialisation, Bajaj stated that under the network’s vision, the various agencies get a lot of room for growth and wings which further helps them grow independently.

Sharing an anecdote, Bajaj stated that The Rabbit Hole came into existence in 2016, as they had just lost an important pitch due to not having a specialised team in video marketing. In just two years, the agency works with brands like Netflix, Unacademy, Tinder and the likes thereof. Since then, it has doubled down on the narrative of capitalising on hyper specialisation for becoming a video content studio, which sits outside the paradigm of a digital marketing content services agency.

Bajaj also highlighted that Zoo Media’s TCMP was responsible for the IPL auction and closing ceremony along with the campaigning this year. The agency vertical later also went on to diversify into spaces other than cricket and it also organised the Chess Olympiad, Hockey World Cup, etc. in 2022.

Apart from this, Zoo Media’s TCMP also won the mandate for the launch of Formula E Racing in Hyderabad in 2023.

“From 2020-21, we saw a growth of 35%, followed by 100% growth in 2021-22, thus we expect that in 2022-23, we will see a growth of another 65% as the bet we’re taking on hyper-specialisation is increasingly adding up,” Bajaj said.

In the views of Bajaj, it is because of the network’s integrated operating style that Zoo Media can take the best of all the agencies and put them together, thereby demonstrating massive scale for the agency at large in terms of its integrated vision, as well as its hyper specialised agencies.

Commenting as to how Zoo Media performed in 2022 with regards to meeting its predetermined objectives, Bajaj stated that the integrated agency has stood strong on its ground and has successfully met its expectations in the current year.

“Because we’re very passionate about sports, we took our bet for sports with TCMP and we’ve had a phenomenal year as we were able to make a significant dent in the sports industry in TCMP’s first year itself,” he said.

In fact, Bajaj later also pointed out that amongst all other verticals under Zoo Media, TCMP was the highest and fastest performing vertical for the network as the wing which started with a focus on cricket went on to diversify and do everything.

“The current year was generally also a very good year for sports because after two years of Covid, the sports category was finally gaining momentum and everyone was coming back into stadiums, grounds, etc. So, in my opinion, we capitalised on this wave beautifully,” stated Bajaj.

Additionally, Bajaj also went on to emphasise that at the start of 2022, Zoo Media had made a promise of becoming a global network, and the integrated agency stood true to its words as it already planted its flag in New York in November and will soon be expanding to Dubai as well.

“Since our narrative has always been content, media, data and tech, we wanted our next investment in hyper-specialisation to be in data science. Also, with Google planning to sunset its endeavours for access to third-party data in June next year, brands have also become a lot more conscious about the collection of first-party data,” he added.

He also added that with regards to the same, Zoo Media has been working with various data warehousing companies and customer data platforms to start building customer education and awareness required for building the infrastructure of first-party data for the clients.

“Google will take time till June of next year, so we didn’t want to wait for the sunset of third-party data and thus we began inching towards it while we still have time to create the right technology, right infrastructure, right conversation, right narratives amongst other things,” he added.

Commenting as to what are some of the fundamental challenges that Zoo Media has faced in the past, Bajaj stated that while the founding network’s narrative is to be as integrated as possible, there are times when clients prefer hiring multiple agencies for separate work rather than hiring one integrated network.

“We try to overcome this challenge by highlighting our key common narrative of taking data-backed and data-driven decisions as technology acts as the backbone for all that we do in terms of social listening, online testing, panels and activities etc. which lead to the stimulation of real-time customer insights while the backbone of the campaign continues to be technology,” he said.

He also went on to add that the ‘blame game’ is one of the largest challenges that clients face in today’s scenario while working with multiple agencies.

“But if we cement our ways of working with our clients, which is decision making, backed by data and using technology as the backbone for all infrastructure that we build for a campaign’s execution, then we create a lot more predictability in terms of the outcome,” Bajaj emphasised.

Upon being questioned as to what were some of the key trends that he witnessed in the past one year, Bajaj replied that the audience consumption pattern changed in the aftermath of the pandemic- which is why OTT and Connected TVs both saw a huge surge in users’ preferences and also towards regional content.

“At the same time, what witnessed a substantial decline was social commerce at large, be it video-commerce, live-commerce, influencers, etc.,” he added.

Furthermore, Bajaj also went on to state that the biggest USP of Zoo Media is that the network is integrated at the core. “Our philosophy lies in the integration of our verticals (several agencies and specialisms) and horizontals (practices and purposes), so we try to integrate the two as our way of working. As a result, we take full accountability for the end-to-end success of campaigns, which is why our clients like working with us,” he said.

Bajaj reiterated that Zoo Media is very bullish when it comes to doubling down on its bet on hyper specialisation, and it will be making more acquisitions in the same industries.

“We feel that this will help us acquire more hyper specialists who specialise in various functions under each of these industries. The idea is to either be able to bundle them into the existing practices and increase our depth of engagement with our clients. At the same time, we also want to acquire a lot of digital-first and digitally native brands that may have already been able to perform various functions in-house but require an outside organisation for certain specialist capabilities,” he said.

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