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Agencies must change with the times: Sameer Satpathy

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Agencies must change with the times: Sameer Satpathy

At the Advertising Conclave on the second day of Goafest 2014, eminent brand managers were asked to speak about their expectations from their agencies. Sameer Satpathy, Executive Vice President and Business Head of Marico was among the speakers. While starting his presentation, Satpathy called it a case of a patient being called by the doctor to give a diagnosis. He called agencies important for clients to succeed, though, he asked them take a more long-term view.

“The long-term is nothing but a series of short-terms. We need to start today but address the root cause of the problem, not just the symptoms,” he said. The ‘root cause’ denotes the fundamental changes happening in the market, which agencies might perhaps not be understanding completely. According to him, agencies need to understand these changes and then the brand’s problems.

He further touched upon some of these disruptions occurring in the industry. A basic issue facing all brands, said Satpathy, is that the consumer has become more aware and has many more choices; a case of the consumer “seeing what he wants to see”. The situation, according to him, will only allow the strong brands to survive. He gave the example of e-commerce to highlight the changes happening in the industry. “E-commerce is changing everything. It will destroy industries but will also create new opportunities,” he said.

Another disruption that is being currently seen and will become even more prominent in the coming years is the convergence of the message and the medium. He questioned whether agencies and clients were thinking about this and whether the industry, as a whole, was prepared for these types of changes. “If you take Indigo Airways, everything from the service to the seats is of high quality. If a budget airline can do this, why can’t more clients? It is no longer a question of money but of intent,” he stated.

Talking about clients complaining of poor margins, Satpathy said a poor product would always result in poor margins and the only way to rectify this was for innovation from all sides. He put forward a couple of questions for the audience to ponder upon. Are the current business models optimal? Is a new communication model in place? According to him, the answer to both is negative.

He also touched upon the issue of talent. “Do you have the right talent? The kind of talent needed to solve current problems is changing. The required talent lies somewhere between the creative and technical aspects,” he asked. Continuing with his thoughts on the role of the agency, Satpathy stated that he needed a partner who gives him a solution, not one that is part of a solution. His opinion was that agencies spend a lot of time building other brands, but they need to now start building their own brand and being clear about what they stand for. The question that agencies should ask themselves, he said, was whether they want to build brands or just provide creative solutions. According to him, this change in agencies’ mindset could only happen if the leadership was “future facing”. He concluded by asking, “The world is changing, the only question is do you have the will to do it?”

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