The capabilities of agencies are often questioned: are they doing enough, and what stops them from doing more? The moot question is whether the agencies are getting distracted from their core function of creativity by venturing into different verticals. The session on ‘Time to grow – Agency capabilities’ on Day 1 of GoaFest 2010 addressed these questions and more. The panellists included Srinivasan Swamy of RK Swamy BBDO, LK Gupta of LG, and Shailesh Rao of Google India. Colvyn Harris of JWT was the moderator of the session.
Colvyn Harris commenced the session by explaining to the audience about the use of different verticals in an advertising agency. According to Harris, “Having verticals is important because it brings the agencies’ energies together to work on many more approaches to give the client a better and a 360 degree output. As clients these days want to be seen and heard everywhere, the more the agency offers, the better it is for the client. It is all under one roof.”
Srinivasan Swamy had a few points to share with the audience. He started by commenting on the structure of the agencies. “I think our structure needs to be changed. We as advertising agencies have not altered our structure in the last 50-60 years. This is something we thoroughly need to look at. In our agencies, we have an account executive, who does the mediating. Media agencies, on the other hand, which is a fairly new industry, have only planners and buyers. This is what should be done,” he noted.
‘We should stop calling ourselves agencies’
The second point that he made was that agencies should stop calling themselves agencies. “We should stop calling ourselves agencies. We were called agencies because we were agents then. Now we are not agencies, we are people who give advice to clients who consult with us. We should call ourselves creative consultants or anything else, not agencies.”
Another issue addressed by Swamy was the lack of discipline that existed in the industry. Apart from that he also spoke about how agencies should engage the clients. “There should be complete emphasis and focus on how we engage the client. We need a well-defined process and definitely a team that works on new business development.”
Speaking on the talent issue, Swamy said, “We make the mistake of taking people who are available. What we should be doing is taking people who have the potential to grow and this is where we will see progress. We need people who we can train to be ‘Jack of all and master of some’. We should promote people with potential and not just people with good track records.”
He concluded by stressing, “It is of utmost importance for people to transform themselves.”
Giving the audience a brand, or rather a client perspective, was LK Gupta. He stressed on the fact that as an advertiser, brand building was extremely important and this was what a client was looking for from an agency. “As an advertiser, we need an advertising agency for brand building through communication. However, even though it starts with this objective, it ends up being something else altogether. Most of the people who handle accounts are those who know marketing and know what a brand means and know exactly what should be done to get the communication across, but sadly, in the process of things they somehow get lost and there is more emphasis given to the creativity of the communication rather than communicating the brand through the creative,” he added.
He further said, “Agencies must see and notice how the clients need their brand to be communicated, because at the end of it all, we want the brand to be noticed and not just the creative. I personally feel that advertising agencies should be talking about building capabilities in the market in the next decade.”
Talking about brands influencing consumers, Gupta commented, “As a marketer, very frankly, I would like to know how brands are influencing consumers. Today, consumers are different and ever changing. What I would like to know is what leads them to know a brand and how can advertising agencies guide brand managers to understand communication patterns of our consumers better?”
Shailesh Rao went on to present a detailed account of how at Google they encouraged programmes to help agencies better the understanding of the digital medium per se. “The web is changing dramatically and we are trying to give our audiences a rich experience through interactivity.” Talking further about the programme they had launched, Rao said, “We launched a product called Agency Academy to make sure more information can be shared and evangelised to tell the digital story and make aware its wonders.”