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Guest Column: The Digital Agency Manifesto - What won't happen in 2014?

05-February-2014
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Guest Column: The Digital Agency Manifesto - What won't happen in 2014?

It’s early days yet. And I wanted to write a piece on the role of the Engagement Planner in the digital agency of the future as a continuation of the last article, which dealt with the way hiring will have to change in digital agencies (Guest Column: The Digital Agency Manifesto - Hiring your team). However, the New Year hijacks your resolutions. So, here goes my take on what will not happen in 2014 in the digital agency landscape of India.

1. The much-awaited integrated campaign led by the digital agency will not happen. Why? Because there is too much baggage that has yet to be shed, both by clients and agencies (traditional and digital). I wish this was not true, but I fear this shall not come to pass. There is too much resistance, too much fear over the potential loss of the media commission on TVC as well as the loss of the 17.65 per cent (Net) commission on TVC production that the traditional agency would otherwise make. On the digital agency side, there is a slight timidity in taking on the onus of conceptualizing and producing an integrated campaign lead by digital.

2. Facebook will still not get the mobile platform right. Why? Because the mobile consumer has moved on from Facebook. Also, I think FB has moved a little too slowly on this front. FB on mobile won’t work until they become more brand friendly. And right now, FB on the web itself is less brand friendly than it was two years back. Tabs are not working. No one goes there anymore. Tabs are not accessible on the mobile. No one can go there even if they want to. The critical mass of social media users are young people glued to their mobiles. I won’t belabour this point anymore.

3. Websites will stop being digital billboards. Why? Because if you genuinely want to own a digital asset, nothing quite replaces the website of a brand. And the importance of a website for a brand will gain more prominence this year. This will give rise to content generation, which has threatened us so far with not-quite-a revolution, but genuine content is still missing on a consistent basis. Where has co-creation gone? Right now we have content factories, but not enough brands putting the power of creating content in the hands of their audiences or identifying the right kind of people they can co-opt for to create content that genuinely speaks to this generation of digital natives. But some brands are going to plot their way to website nirvana for sure. I hear some rumblings already.

4. Digital agencies will not be paid peanuts anymore. Why? Because there are some genuinely talented people working in some of the best digital outfits, who refuse to be railroaded for Rs 2 lakh a month. The idea will start to count and not just the execution. The caveat here, however, is which agency will bell the cat? Let’s start charging for man-hours. I know of some agencies that are already doing this instead of relying on ancillary revenues from web development and video production to make up for the lack of any kind of profitability from five people working on a brand for Rs 2 lakh a month. A couple of brands I know are paying upwards of Rs 20 lakh a month as retainer and there are some, which are paying upwards of Rs 5 lakh a month as well. That’s more than a lot of traditional agencies make on so-called big brand clients.

5. Finally, founders will stop getting all the attention in digital agencies and we will see creative leaders start to emerge. It’s high time this happened, because we are in the creative business. Don’t get me wrong, I am a suit myself, but I fully support glory for the creative leader. I mentioned in my first piece that there are a couple of creative leaders who are already greatly respected. This year will see the emergence of more such people. And more power to them, I say. The agencies need them, the founders need them, and most importantly, the people who write the cheques for point No. 4 to come true, need them.

I could have done five more, but you need to stop somewhere.

The author is Senior Vice President and General Manager at iContract.

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