Even as several international agencies are setting shop in India, there have been quite a few mainline agency people, who have ventured out to set up their own small communication start-ups. Bangalore has been seeing its fair share of such creative hot shops gaining ground.
Standalone agencies such as Fish-Eye, Temple Advertising, Brown Potion & Coconut Chutney, Circle, White Canvas, Plan B, Purple Zebra, Axis, and Saint Waters are some agencies that have set up shop in Bangalore and are doing quite well. There are many more such agencies in the offing. What is it that is encouraging this trend?
Kartik Iyer and Praveen Das, who started their agency Happy less than a year ago, explained that they decided to venture on their own when the realisation dawned upon them that they were running the entire process for a client despite having the support of teams in strategy, planning, creative or execution. They thought that when they could make it happen for the best advertising agencies in the business, why not do it for themselves.
There is also some discontentment with the way the big agencies have been conducting their business. Speaking on this, Iyer and Das said, “Big agencies have become like dinosaurs, forgetting their origin or value systems. They are successful, and for them, selling ideas is like selling sugared water or a packet of chips. These are all packaged mass produced ideas with a brand name attached to it. Today, if you can get laughs at the end of a commercial, you have arrived in advertising. Also, the industry itself fails to breed passion in this business today.”
This sentiment is echoed by Vasudev Prabhu, who started a ‘creative thought shop’ Out of The Box Advertising with Srikanth Bhaskaran primarily because both felt they had enough of the ‘MNC way’ of advertising. Both have had long careers with agencies like O&M, Lintas, Rediffusion DY&R, and Euro RSCG, among others.
There is definitely a risk in venturing on one’s own, but then it is risky to start any new business. The motivating factor is the empowerment that one gets for creative freedom and do things the way one perceives to be right. Add to it the fact that one gets to sell the ideas one believes in. This apart, there is no bureaucracy, no insecure seniors, one gets to choose whom one wants to work with – be it clients or employees – and get credit for the work one does. The risk gets diluted when one sees the benefits of venturing on one’s own. As Prabhu puts it, “It is always a struggle, especially in the beginning. It’s not so much about making a name amongst the big daddies, but more about overcoming the hurdles that all small creative agencies face.”
But do the clients come easy to these small agencies? Srikanth VS of Temple Advertising, who has been in the business for a while, said, “It’s a struggle to the extent that the big accounts, the ones with deep pockets, don’t easily come to small agencies. It means that the work that small agencies do will never be as visible as the work a large agency does, because our campaigns are not backed by deep pockets. But keep in mind that clients move to a smaller agency from a big agency as they want offbeat, interesting work.”
According to Anirudha Mukhedkar of Plan B, “To clients who are confident, size of the communication partner does not count. They understand that issues like size and location are of no significance. What counts is the quality of the people, their thinking, involvement and passion. One of our largest businesses is the Dalda brand and the client is based in Mumbai. But that has never been a problem. They had the option of working with any agency they wanted. They chose to work with us for the value we can add within the boundaries defined by the hard, unbending business of real life.”
Iyer of Happy is of the opinion that the big agencies are, in fact, at a threat because a good idea can come from anywhere. He said, “With a client who believes in our ideas, you can get your ideas out there. Probably the only area a big agency would do better in is using their money and clout to publicise the last average campaign they produced.”
As to the reason for several small agencies mushrooming in Bangalore, Srikanth VS of Temple attributes it to the frustration of not being given a free rein to do good work. “Honestly, there is only one explanation,” he said.
Mukhedkar of Plan B, who has been consciously rejecting any kind of pigeon hole definitions for his agency, explained, “It is the failure of Mr Big Daddy’s advertising agency model. Most people, who leave the comforts of a big agency to start something on their own, do it for a reason. I can guarantee that most of the people who have started on their own are extremely passionate about the business. They are disgusted with the industry, but still in love with the profession. I am pretty sure we will see more venturing out on their own or joining a place like ours.”