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5 minutes with...

5 Minutes with… Anush Prabhu

Deutsch’s media and data whizz on sitting with creatives, online privacy and the joys of being a foodie

5 Minutes with… Anush Prabhu

Anush Prabhu is a seriously smart chap. He’s the Chief Channel Planning and Investment Officer at Deutsch and is responsible for the agency’s comms planning, media buying and data strategy. And – curiously in an age where even creatives are trying to get their heads around the whole ‘data’ thing – he’s the first and only agency media heads with a data background. What’s super cool is that he’s absolutely integral to Deutsch’s culture – it’s a roll-your-sleeves-up, dive-right-in, make-things-happen kind of place, where creative, media, accounts, innovation and production all sit together and draw from all perspectives.

LBB> You’re a bit of a trailblazer as you’re one of the first people with a data background  to head a media offering at an integrated agency – what benefits do you think that background has given you?

AP> Coming up as a data guy in advertising you learn that the best results are driven with solutions that have the right balance of rational and emotional. Showing up to the right audience, at the right place at the right time, works in driving efficient results. But to drive exponential impact, you sometimes need to be emotionally unexpected. 

Being at Deutsch, I have been able to use the power of data-driven insights to empower and integrate media and creative toward developing solutions that generate efficiency and drive the exponential impact.

LBB> You left Deutsch in 2007 and came back in 2012 after stints at JWT and mcgarrybowen – What was it about Deutsch and the culture there that meant that you just couldn’t stay away? 

AP> Deutsch has always taken pride in cultivating a culture of being a business partner for our clients. A culture where data had a seat at the table. A culture where we developed one of the broadest toolkits, from creative to digital to media to experiential - with one profit centre - so we could arrive at the best business solutions for our clients. 

I was drawn back to this culture and to work with an integrated gathering of talent, rare in this business, that cares about your business FIRST, beyond anything else – whether it be our awesome COO Erica Grau, who helps us shape teams and funnels funds to the right solutions, or creative talent like our GCDs, Jeff Vinick and Jeremy Bernstein, who are more curious about data-insights and results than most planners or account people.

LBB> Deutsch is a really innovative place – we came in to visit last year and were blown away by the inventive minds and hands-on ‘do-ers’ in the creative and production teams, who seemed quite at home hacking things apart, making things happen. How does that mentality feed into the way the media operations work? 

AP> We believe innovative thinking happens when people approach a particular opportunity with different perspectives. A creative person or a data person will approach a Brand Awareness issue from a different perspective than a media planner.

Our creative and media people sit together – not just in the same office, but right next to one another. When we approach a media project, we make sure creative folks are in the room – whether it be at the planning stage or when briefing media partners. 

This integrated cross-functional approach allows us to arrive at more impactful, more original media solutions that can deliver more with less – making us the only media offering in the market whose goal is to reduce our client’s spending in paid media.

LBB> I’m really curious about how the media team collaborates with the creative team at Deutsch – I’m guessing one of the benefits of having all that media planning, comms and data strategy capabilities in house and integrated is that you can really bang your heads together with the other creative and innovation teams to come up with some interesting projects… How do you make sure that you’re all collaborating as well as you can?

AP> We have developed a proprietary process at the agency, designed to meld commerce and culture and bring the right people together at the right times around specific topics. 

That said, what works best in my opinion is when people talk. Creating a work environment – via elements like office structure and cross-functional seating – that allows and encourages disparate minds to talk has been critical to our success in becoming what I believe to be one of the most integrated agencies in the world 

LBB> Which recent projects have you been involved in that have really excited you from a media perspective and why?

AP> With the possibilities today in media, I get excited about every media project we come across. 

I have been thrilled to be working on one of latest clients, Sherwin Williams Diversified Brands group – where there is a potential for data and creative thinking to bring together over 42 Brands within their portfolio in a holistic approach that drives efficiency and impact. 

LBB> So. Let’s talk data. In the past couple of years it’s become a really sexy term – even (gasp!) creatives are intrigued and seem to want a bit of the action. But at the same time I suspect it’s a term that’s often misunderstood or used in a really general, vague manner. What are the misconceptions that you often come up against?

AP> I often come across the belief that data kills creativity – and I call it a belief because I don’t think it is a misconception. The way many agencies and brands approach data, it does kill creativity.

Data needs to be used to derive insights that will help achieve the objectives – by giving strategy and creativity a box to play in that will be most impactful. Many agencies focus on the data or answers that may be easier to get to, leading them down a path where they end up dictating elements like the colour of a banner, that does kill creativity.

LBB> The ending of the Patriot Act in the States has been pretty big news recently. Do you think it has changed the way the American public think about their personal online data (if so, how, if not, why not?) and do you think there will be any trickle down implications for the advertising and marketing industry?

AP> People are more aware today of how much of their data is out there and how it is being used for marketing – to keep it within our area. 

That said, I do believe people today expect brands to be more relevant, smarter and customized to them. I want Delta to remember my preferences and act accordingly. It is when we as Brands go too far that people have a problem. 

With more data comes more responsibility, and potentially the introduction of guidelines by the industry, as not all act responsibly.

LBB> What new media platforms or developments in media are particularly exciting or intriguing to you right now?

AP> Super excited about so many new developments in the media space like voice targeting in mobile, programmatic TV, cross-device behaviour data and many more. We are entering a world where the use of data is going to explode and having all our agency talent, not just the data geeks, make sense of it will become critical moving forward.

LBB> I’m absolutely fascinated by the behavioural/psychological side of media strategy and planning. What do you think is the key to building a media strategy that engages attention and shapes behaviour?

AP> The best media strategies need to be insight-driven and idea-led. 

Rich data-driven insights help formulate where the idea has to live to drive impact/shape behaviour, while being idea-led helps, getting to places where the creative idea wants to live – that will engage attention

LBB> You’re massively into cooking – we’re huge foodies here at LBB! What’s your favourite cuisine/dish to cook? And does your data-driven, attention-to-detail approach from your work life bleed into your cooking? 

AP> I love cooking various types of cuisines – from French to Indian. That said, my favourite cuisine is French. I especially like to cook French food –dishes that takes a long time to cook, bring out the most concentrated flavours of the ingredients and in many ways transforms the ingredients – whether it be making some mushroom stock from scratch for a yummy mushroom risotto or spending three days prepping for and making sweetbreads. 

In some ways, my approach to cooking is very different to my attention-to-detail approach with data. I usually don’t make anything that requires a very specific measurement – for example, I don’t bake. That said, I believe in bringing my own creative approach to cooking as I do to exploring data.  

LBB> Photography’s another one of your passions – who are your photography heroes and why?

AP> I admire many of photography’s greats – like the gloriously mesmerizing lines in Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work. That said, if I think of photography’s heroes today, I look for photographers who have used their talent to bring attention to critical subjects like global warming. Photographers like James Balog, whose work was shown in the Emmy-award winning documentary, Chasing Ice, was inspiring, breathtaking and haunting.

LBB> What’s on the cards for Deutsch in the rest of 2015?

AP> Inventing original and shareable ideas that drive our client’s businesses.


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Genre: Strategy/Insight