Media agencies may have recently come out of the shadows of advertising/creative agencies but they do realise the importance of brand building and are working on it. Research shows that there is a need to do so also.
A study executed by ACNielsen in July 2006 -- ACNielsen Media Agency Track -- showed that unlike advertising agencies, media agencies have low brand recall. In general, spontaneous recall is less than two-thirds for all media agencies. Only two agencies -- Mindshare and Madison -- crossed the 50 per cent mark.
Another interesting finding of the study is how agencies are perceived differently by influencers and decision-makers. For Mindshare, in comparison to 19 per cent of decision-makers, 16 per cent influencers are in favour of the agency. For Madison however, it’s just the opposite with only 8 per cent of decision-makers favourably disposed towards the agency in comparison to 15 per cent influencers.
In perception of aggregate billing, Mindshare tops the charts with Maxus and Madison following suit.
Studies like the ACNielsen Media Agency Track clearly bring about that visibility has to be enhanced to increase brand equity, even for media agencies and that is what is seen now. Despite their schedules, agencies are increasingly making more time for investing in self-image -- whether it is communication with the media, presenting viewpoints on industry issues, participation in industry awards or just simply making noise around whatever they do.
Do media agencies pay attention to brand building? GroupM’s COO, South Asia, Vikram Sakhuja, asserted that they do. He said, “The image is important today and agencies do take care, to whatever extent they can, in ensuring that time and attention is given to this aspect.” Madison Communication’s Chairman Sam Balsara agreed, stating, “It is only right that an agency does some conscious thinking about its brand image amongst its core target audience.”
Starcom MediaVest Group’s, South Asia, CEO, Ravi Kiran elaborated more on the importance of brand building. He said, “In most monopolistic or non-competitive markets, players don’t think it is worth actively building image. However, things change when competition goes up and that is when building brand image is important.”
Stating that brand image is important for every business, he drew comparisons with other sectors and cited examples like MTNL, UTI and so on and the change in their advertising today.
However, are media agencies doing enough to build their brands? Ravi Kiran thinks that there is still time to go for that. He said, “At least in our business, perception is the only reality and that is all that the advertising business is about. But when it comes to ourselves, we have been very pathetic about it.”
He added, “There is no commonly understood purpose of the sector. Are agencies corporations, or are they shops? For far too long, agencies have described themselves as shops. Informality is not such a bad thing but it is important to have practices and processes that make corporates and that is an area where we have to work on.”
Sakhuja believes that there is work happening by agencies to build their brands. He said, “Advertising is just one of the ways in which any brand builds equity -- a lot happens through product experience and communication and that is happening. There are several things that you get from a brand – combined brand experience, clients used to getting a certain degree of service and continuous relations. Then there are industry events like awards and so on also, that adds to an agency’s brand building initiatives.”
Balsara added caution here. He observed, “Media agencies are under the mistaken impression that they play a very important role and hence are concentrating on brand equity and not only sending press releases but also press conferences. But clients are smart -- they can differentiate between chalk and cheese. Brand building for an agency is it is important but it is not a must or critical. It can help you get to a certain stage.”
Ravi Kiran on the other hand is of the opinion that things have changed today and business is not only about networking. He pointed out, “Earlier agencies where known by the head -- take the example of the likes of Alyque Padamsee, Ravi Gupta or Arun Nanda. However, agencies are growing into corporations today rather than just being personality driven set ups and so they have to actively build brands.”
He said that one of the reasons consulting companies such as McKinsey and Deloitte never complain about being paid low, is that over time they have been able to create respectable equity not just for their brands but for their industry. “We need to take some inspiration from them,” said Ravi Kiran.
He divulged, “We ranked fairly high in the Brand Equity study and there are times when clients have called based on that. The brand image does make a difference.”