What clients expect from their agencies is a question that has haunted the advertising industry for years. There are as many views on this as there are thought leaders. Discussing this crucial topic was a panel that was a mix of ad agency leaders and clients that included Anil Jayaraj, CMO, Pidilite Industries; Karthi Marshan, Executive VP and Head-Group Marketing, Kotak Mahindra Group; KV Sridhar, Chief Creative Officer – India Subcontinent, Leo Burnett; Nandini Dias, CEO, Lodestar UM; Ravi Deshpande, Founder and CEO, Whyness Worldwide; and Shubhranshu Singh, Marketing Director – India and South Asia, Visa. The session was chaired by CVL Srinivas, CEO, GroupM South Asia. The speakers shared their views at the 13th edition of the exchange4media Conclave, held in Mumbai on November 25, 2013.
Srinivas laid out the agenda for the session by stating that some critics feel it was time to go back to the full service mode, when one agency would manage all the work of the client, as opposed to the scenario today where work is divided among multiple agencies. “The agency once prided itself as being the client's trusted advisor. With digital disruption changing the way brands and plans are perceived, can a single agency today be the sole custodian of a brand?” he asked the panelists.
Marshan reiterated the cliché that the client continues to desire solutions that are better, faster and cheaper. “We are doing a lot of digital planning today that which is faster and cheaper, but it is not necessarily better. But to answer to the primary question of this panel, I want my agency to be on my side,” he said.
Dias elaborated how different persons for different jobs meant a lack of coordination, and thereby delivery, of the job undertaken on behalf of the client. She also raised a crucial point of value for work. She said that while the buzz is about value creation, agencies are never paid for it. She felt that agencies ought to be remunerated so that they could deliver that what the clients need by hiring good talent.
Jayaraj shared that the quest was for a centre point that could be managed, but very rarely would any one agency bring all the needed skills. So the reality is of dealing with multiple agencies. “But a real issue is that consumer behaviours are changing every six months. Agencies ought to be able to understand this speed like the way we see it and would like to address it,” he shared.
Deshpande, who recently started his own outfit just few weeks ago, said that there was a need to synergise creativity with technology under a single roof. “Often the digital solutions in our country are poor in aesthetics. So the designer needs to be involved right from the beginning to make the experience extraordinary for the brand and the consumer, and we believe this way of working together with all specialists is the best way forward,” he said.
Deshpande also explained the almost non-existent relationship between data and planners. “We work closely with research agencies and they intimately interact with data. Then the picture is created of the challenges ahead, and that is the only data that the agency deals with. But there is always some allergy towards data and numbers. If one doesn't know why the planning is taking place and the focus is only on creativity, then the latter doesn't make sense,” he explained.
Singh, on the other hand, expressed his concern about the fragmentation of consumers. He said, “I want a shared sense of destiny from my agency. TV and print are abundant, and digital will soon become abundant too. So there is a greater need for engagement various levels.” He also felt that patience is in short supply in the industry. “We feel we are drowned by activity and that we are not doing enough. We have to agree that there is nothing that creates greater impact than movies. But evolution of medium like digital will take place on its own,” Singh added.
KV Sridhar's idea was somewhat different. Drawing on his 34 years of experience, he put the focus on understanding people and ensuring loyalty, to be able to charge a premium. He said that the digital medium offered a short-term relationship with the consumers rather than offering consumers a long-term relationship with the brand.