For years, we’ve credited mainline advertising with giving us an opportunity to be a part of absolutely any industry. It allowed some of us to work simultaneously on varied categories like financial, telecom and fashion. Mainline advertising has exposed me to so many different industries. Add to that the gift of the gab and today most of us from mainline can hold a conversation on almost any industry. We’re truly The Jack Of All Trades.
Master of a medium:
Over the years some of us decided to specialize in a medium or a craft. Example, some mainline practitioners moved into design, some focused on digital as a medium, others on outdoor. Slowly, these specialized agencies attracted the best of talent. This is reflected in the recent award results too. Geometry’s (WPP’s activation/retail arm - erstwhile Ogilvy Activation) Lifebuoy Roti Campaign and PHD’s Kaan Khajura Teshan have been big winners, the last couple of years. These were the people who decided to be Masters of a medium v/s being a Jack. But this is not the mastery that this article is going to focus on.
Mastering an industry:
This column focuses on specializing for a particular sector or industry. Anant Rangaswami touched upon this in his book - The Elephants In The Room, where he mentioned agencies like Beehive and Happy, which by default or intent are seen as experts and specialists in certain sectors like real estate (Beehive) and e-commerce (Happy). With effect, other clients in these sectors are comfortable working with them. Some of this I presume happens by default. Like I would imagine ANC gets a lot of enquiries from real estate clients, who appreciate what they’ve done for Lodha.
Last year Karan Rawat, launched AutumnWinter, an agency focused on the Fashion and Lifestyle industry. While Karan had over 18 years experience in mainline advertising, fashion is where his passion lay. Over the years he’d built a reputation as a fashion communication expert, attributed with building brands like Killer and Lawman. I spoke to Karan and he explained that the kind of services and expertise he delivers would be difficult for a mainline agency to provide. Example, he actually helps his clients with the product design, working 2 seasons in advance, helping design the fashion-line and then creating advertising for the same. Another agency which has built an expertise in fashion, lifestyle and retail is Makani Creatives – on most days, you’ll find its key number on over 50 per cent of the ads in Bombay Times, be it Metro Shoes, ID Eyewear, Killer, @home and Swiss Eagle. With a team of over hundred people their involvement too goes way beyond advertising to trend analysis, IP Development and visual merchandising.
Then there are sectors that demand mastery and specialisation like Pharma and Healthcare. These sectors have their own laws and requirements, which only a specialized agency can possibly cater to. For example, Medulla, a specialized Healthcare and Pharma Communication agency offers services like claim development, medical content, doctor education, field force training, other than the regular above and below the line communication and digital marketing . To cater to the same they’ve married medical expertise with strategy and creative, with their team made up of an eclectic mix of doctors, bloggers, medical counsellors, marketing experts, social media experts and of course creative people; art directors, copywriters, animators.
Mastery of communications skills:
Just a point of caution, industry expertise by itself is not enough to be a successful specialist advertising agency. You have to be a master at advertising and communication. Any amount of industry expertise can’t make up for the lack of a sound strategy and great creative execution. And none of these specialist agencies would have made it big with shabby creative.
The advantages of being a master:
Clients depend on you for services beyond communication. If you’re seen as an expert in the industry, your fame will spread by word of mouth. Most specialist agencies I spoke to claimed that they rarely pitched and if they did it was because the client approached them. Being a master at an industry, allows you to keep your costs low by building a network of suppliers, at the same time you can charge a premium for your expertise. Also, the fact that the agency might handle a competitive account doesn’t seem to bother most clients – they’re willing to substitute exclusivity with expertise.
The year of the master or the year of Jack?
I have a feeling, at a point where mainline agencies have saturated their growth options and clients are looking for more from their agency, the opportunity for all of us in 2015 (and beyond), lies in specialization.
The author has spent over 18 years in mainline advertising, last as National Creative Director of Grey India.