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‘My industry witnessed a boom throughout Covid-19’

Business Head-Key Accounts at Intellect Ads, Neha Sawhney, discusses top trends in the field of digital advertising



An alumna of Apeejay School, Pitampura, Neha Sawhney, is a vibrant professional who has spent several years sharpening her skills in the field of digital advertising. What more? She is unstoppable and ready to conquer the world as she is now looking to tap into markets such as the Middle East, South East Asia and South Africa. Since Sawhney is adept at sharing key insights about the field, we asked her to take us through her journey. Read on, edited excerpts from the interview:

Please tell us about your educational background.

My parents enrolled me at Apeejay School, Pitampura in Kindergarten. And, my entire schooling was done there. I graduated from school in 2003 and in the same year, I began pursuing a degree in B.Sc. Analytical Chemistry at Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi. After its completion, I enrolled at Alliance Business School, Bangalore for a degree in Management and Marketing.

Do detail out your professional journey.

I started my career in 2009 with IndiaMART, the country’s largest online Business-to-Business marketplace. At that time, the organisation was at a nascent stage. My stint in the company was about 2 years long, and there, I also acquired the foundational digital skills. Since then, I have grown professionally by the day. The next big change for me was working at GroupM, a global media investment company. During my tenure in the firm, I dealt with sizable brands and handled their communication strategies.

In my next stint with Starcom Mediawest, I was the Associate Director and Client Lead for Citibank. My focus areas were online and offline advertising. After maternity leave, I joined Intellect Ads. It was founded in 2016 by a group of marketing executives who had been involved on all sides of the fence, such as agency, merchant, performance marketer, affiliate manager and technology provider. At present, I am a Business Head-Key Accounts in the company and some of my clients include, Amazon, Myntra, Maruti, MakeMyTrip, Bajaj, amongst many others.

So, what’s new in the field of digital advertising?

Over the years, India has expanded exponentially in the field. And so, whether it is food, automobile, real estate or cosmetics, organisations like ours are increasingly becoming instrumental in boosting performance, sales and marketing.

Some generic trends would be: firstly, advertising has moved to applications. Users seem to find it convenient to view items, services and products from their mobile phones. Secondly, everything is programmatic. By that, I mean that brands are becoming more and more inclined to tap into their users’ psyche. And so, the targeting too has become a niche. Thirdly, due to greater use of technology, advertising is immensely tied to the behavioural trends, moods of the users. Understanding these key insights are further helping brands reach out to the right prospects. Fourthly, thanks to government-run initiatives such as Make-In-India and Digital India, many entrepreneurs and brands are doing well. With the coming in of 5G and smooth access to internet services, the pace of work in online advertising will only shoot up.

According to you, how has Covid-19 changed the industry?

Ours is an industry that did exceptionally well during the pandemic. And, this happened across sectors and categories. Covid-19 has certainly altered users’ behaviours till date. Even now, the consumption habits of people in the areas of shopping, travel and lifestyle have remained similar.

In the online sphere, great deals and discounts attract most users. And so, many millennials and Gen-Z have shifted there. Another interesting change has been how a user’s behaviour or purchasing criteria is linked to emotions. And, this is why many brands advertise with the help of human-centric stories. This simply helps users connect better with the brands.

How do you cater to countries in South East Asia and the Middle East?

Markets like South East Asia have made it big in Fin-tech and Online Gaming. And, users’ behaviour in those countries is largely professional and informed. The impulse-buying trend is low over there and most people enjoy loyalty towards certain brands. In the Middle-East, cult brands are common, and unique to them. Their lifestyle is quite luxury-oriented.

Your message for students?

Apeejay has played an important role in my personal as well as professional journey. The school has groomed me and given me ample opportunities to shine bright. I very proudly tell people that I am an Apeeyajite. During my school years, Dr. Bedi was our Principal and he mentored me well. The school also gave me very many friends and relationships across the globe. My suggestion is for parents, I would say that they must stick to a single school for their wards because it is a massive journey that they need to take on. And, during this time, they will form meaningful relationships that can last a lifetime.

Mrini Devnani is a Senior Correspondent and Marketing Coordinator at Newsroom. She covers student achievements, interviews and contributions for the website. She was a former Correspondent covering Edutech for the India Today Group, and has passion for Social Media and Digital Marketing. You can reach her at [email protected]

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