Introducing… Akhila Venkitachalam, Senior Partner

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Akhila, who works with brands such as Diageo, DFS, and Kellogg’s, tells us why she loves Cadbury ads, what can be done to improve diversity in data and analytics, and which book all marketers should read.

What’s the burning issue that brands are talking to you about?

TV advertising inflation is a big issue that brands are facing at the moment. Alongside wider macroeconomic and geopolitical trends, such as the cost-of-living crisis, rising interest rates, and the war in Ukraine, it is putting pressure on brands’ profit margins and their ability to increase marketing spend. Thanks to valuable lessons learned in the past, brands realize the importance of maintaining overall advertising investment. Using market mix modeling to enable robust, granular measurement is one way they can better quantify, forecast, and align on the optimal channel mix to achieve both short- and long-term growth targets.

What’s the best advert you’ve seen recently and why?

I have been a fan of Cadbury ads for several years. My recent favourite was the ‘Mum’s Birthday’ ad for their ‘There is a glass and a half in everyone’ campaign, which won the IPA Effectiveness Awards Grand Prix award 2022. Cadbury campaigns focus on the brand’s intrinsic purpose – the generosity within all of us – and this one clearly demonstrates how purpose that is connected to brand and product can drive affinity, equity, and sales.

When it comes to data and analytics, the industry has a long way to go in terms of diversity. What can be done to improve this?

An open culture in which everyone feels they belong, and visible, inspiring role models are key to making our industry more diverse. Providing relevant training, coaching, and formal mentorship programmes can also help to drive change, although this will take time.

I think it’s vitally important that the executive leadership, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) councils, and employee resource groups (ERGs) work in harmony. Executive leaders need to be the role models of the diverse and inclusive organisation they aspire to become – we must be aware, ready to learn or confront our own blind spots and our own habits. For their part, DEI councils need support from the leadership and have clear objectives, outcomes, and actions. Meanwhile, ERGs can provide a safe space and sense of community and belonging for members of underrepresented communities. Here at Gain Theory, we have two ERGs dedicated to diversity – Lumena inspires, empowers, and supports our women, while Roots champions greater ethnic and cultural inclusivity.

Beyond this, change at the grass-roots level is needed too. More awareness around DEI at schools will encourage more applications in STEM subjects to universities from people with diverse backgrounds.

What book would you recommend to our readers and why?

How Brands Grow by Byron Sharp is a must-read for anyone interested in marketing or effectiveness. It would be fair to say this book had a disruptive effect among both marketers and academics. The author’s views about the importance of new customer acquisition driven by increased mental and physical availability, resulting in behaviourally loyal buyers, are seminal.

Contact Akhila to discuss any of the issues raised in this Q&A.

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