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Guest Article: Changing times for agencies - challenge or opportunity?

15-September-2011
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Guest Article: Changing times for agencies - challenge or opportunity?

What does Google, Apple, Facebook have in common? They are amongst top 10 brands of the world. Yes, they are. But, what’s more interesting about these brands is that they have become top brands without spending anything/ legible on advertising.

Everyone has heard about Groupon, fastest growing company to touch a billion-dollar mark ever in this history. I recently read about Groupon’s approach towards Marketing. I am quoting it for discussion sakes: “Groupon's approach reflects a bit of the transformation of markets and the way in which advertising agencies have to respond. Because the marketing appeal is built into Groupon's product, it doesn't have much need for what Madison Avenue specializes in: the creation of brand images and strategy, and distribution of them through paid media”. Brands are not built only through advertising. Groupon has certainly proved it.

HP, in the US, is piloting an activity where they are directly working with media owners, skipping the agency altogether. Google has stayed away from advertising for a long time.

Let’s look at another example. Suppose you get a brief from your client. You have exactly a week’s time to get back with your ideas. How many ideas you will get back to the client with? Two, three, four or five at the max (a rarity). Imagine a client getting 50 different ideas to choose from. If you happen to work in an agency, you would be shocked to hear this. But, now think as a client. Would you not be happy to get 50 ideas from your agency? Hell, yeah. That’s what ideabounty.com does. Clients post their briefs on their site and they get back to client with various ideas. Ideabounty works on the concept of crowdsourcing. They solve business problems for their clients. Clients can pick and choose the idea they like and pay them far lesser than they would pay their agencies. Brands are taking more and more ownership now.

Agencies need to take notice and think as to why brands are doing that. Is it that brands think agency is not adding as much value as expected from them? Is your agency offering TVC for every business solution? Is it that agencies lack the expertise in handling new media? Is it that agencies are still stuck with old forms of media? All of these could be reasons. So, whether it is a media agency or a creative agency, it’s high time to do this introspection.

But, what is driving this change? In my mind, it is the innovative ideas with technological advancements which are responsible for this change. I have put few points on how technology is affecting how brands will communicate with consumers.

1. Media Is Becoming More Portable: Today, it’s easier to reach out to people. Thanks to iPods, iPads, tablets, smartphones that people are carrying. Technology has made media more addressable too. But, even with reaching out to so many people, it has increasingly become difficult to get people’s attention. The challenge for the communication fraternity is to be relevant to users instead of blindly following him.

2. Everything Is Searchable: Technology has made consumers more empowered. They have the ability to verify your claims anywhere and anytime. Be honest with what you have to offer.

3. Media Is Becoming Interactive: New media is highly interactive, giving marketers the weapon to get consumers to spend more and more time with their communication.

4. Emergence of New Measurement Metrics: Marketers are moving beyond traditional measurement metrics. Digital is making traditional media more measurable. Digital OOH is a great example of how digital can provide more teeth to something so immeasurable. Marketers/ agencies need to move beyond traditional Reach Metrics (Reach, CPT, Freq, GRP) to Engagement Metrics (Buzz Potential, Receptivity, Viralibility, etc.)

5. Media Usage Will Go More Social: Technology has brought this world closer to each other. All thanks to social networking sites. Challenge for brands is to give people something worth sharing.

6. Fragmentation Will Increase: More channels mean more fragmentation. Brands need to ensure that they speak a consistent language across channels and to a precisely targeted user.

The above-mentioned points throw a challenge to all communication experts. This scenario also presents a great opportunity to brands to be as closer to their users as it can get. Agencies certainly need to move up the value chain and regain confidence of brands (who see diminishing value add of agencies). It is easier said than done. But it’s not impossible.

(Maninder Singh is Media Director at Lintas Media Group.)

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