While the future of commerce is “Creative Commerce”, creative agencies are far away from commerce and media agencies are far away from inspiring creativity. Let me begin with a disclaimer that this is not meant as a criticism. I’ve been part of that world for over two decades and decided to give up a decently paid job to chase a dream of helping few clients transform their customer/consumer connect. I see this perception/reality, whatever one may want to define it, rather as a great opportunity. Allow me to qualify my claim.
In my opinion, the convergence of content and commerce is the next big thing that will happen to marketing in India. With the Digital India vision and the push for a digital currency ecosystem, the smart phone will become far more of a prized possession than ever before. With this also comes abundance of data, which will compel the marketers to create strategies to look at each impression as a transaction opportunity. Some researches talk about 250 mobile moments each day in a consumer’s life. This is in digitally evolved markets. But even at a quarter of those moments, we can imagine what a billion mobile phones can mean for marketers. I know we are still a feature phone led market. But it is just a matter of time before these statistics change. If Netflix accounts for almost 40% of the data consumption in US, in India, data used for content consumption could be anywhere between 30-40% if not more. In addition content will also travel in theworld of traditional media. This is far from the world where a TVC once produced ran for 6 months through passive media plans.
I feel agencies are ill prepared for this reality, although any survey done today will point out that all agencies have their own “content” division.
As part of an interview in 2014 in an industry magazine, where many agency leaders aired their views aligning positively to the topic as to whether the ad agencies should retain the IP rights for their work, my view was that the agencies cannot retain the IPR unless the business model is reinvented. But I used the opportunity to make a pitch for creative and media agency collaboration from a content perspective. “Content” led conversation was still at a nascent state then. I felt this would be an opportunity for different monetization and possible discussions on IPR.
Media agencies may want to think otherwise. But there’s a growing realisation that they ain’t “creative”. When I say creative, in particular, I am referring to curiosity and imagination. These are capabilities that in future will help businesses from being disrupted. Hence, the construction of the fundamental cornerstones of “content” will involve very different skillset, tools and collaborations, particularly between the creative and media agencies.
The latest clients to follow the trend set up were Ford and Colgate when these marketers mandated Blue Hive and Red Fuse type of integrated set up, respectively. Omnicom group just launched ‘We are Un-limited’ an integrated agency to manage McDonalds US$ 1billion brief in US.
Eva Barrett, the global CMO of Philips says she finds talking to media owners directly for content collaborations easier than talking through her agencies. Coke in US invited O&M, a creative agency, into their media pitch. Unilever India gets media owners to their campus to brainstorm on content opportunities. Nestle in India is believed to be setting up their own internal content studio.
Content traverse a broad spectrum; impulse brands like Mondelez (Cadburys) and Coke to an e-commerce furniture brand Pepperfry and even the high end BMW/ Mercedes can be built largely on content. The list will keep increasing.
Agencies that have been focused on the mode of acquisition to add capabilities will be barking up the wrong tree if they feel meaningful content services can also be set up through such pipeline, unless the current way of working transforms into something deeply integrated.
Digital capabilities, by and large, have been added by agencies through acquisitions. These specialists helped clients deliver “advertising” solutions, mostly in a transactional manner where investment in search became more important than addressing the bounce rate.
This is also one of the reasons why we haven’t yet witnessed any innovative, technology led or extra ordinary marketing solutions, coming out of recommendations made by digital agencies as these acquired businesses normally work in silos.
In the next level of evolution where media and commerce converge, agencies are not going to be tested on programmatic skills alone, although real time marketing will become the key. As more and more clients will be challenged to embark on the journey of transformation and exploration, companies like Accenture could become a competition to digital services of agencies.
Content, as I described earlier, could become a big differentiator. However, content solutions unfortunately cannot work based on silo-ed verticals or algorithms loaded on computer hard drives. Content solutions, which we at the Un-agency broadly categorize into 3 buckets; Purposeful, Practical, and Participative, emanate from conversations and observations, This works very much like how stand up comedians work on their “content”. While agencies suggest to brands to look at comedians to add “humour” to beef up their content, this very insight goes un-recognized as the focus is again a quick transaction of a video that will getx number of views. A video that delivers 1 million views without any impact on sales or a video with 1 lac views and 1000 conversions will become the differentiator when content and commerce converge.
Real good content is human and will emerge for brands that protect consumer interest by being more responsible, more truthful, and more respectful of the consumer intelligence, sensitivities and sensibilities. Such brands will make multi-sensorial impressions on consumers and gain their empathy. The creation must happen by knowing the consumers as people and the delivery must happen by capitalizing the moments I spoke of above, differently for different consumers. Again, this establishes the need for greater creative–media agency collaboration.
Media agencies could well argue that their business model is to help clients distribute their content; the ads, and it can well remain so while the content is created elsewhere. But in the new world where content and commerce converge, it is likely that a quarter of their revenue, to start with, could disappear if they don’t play a role in content. It is the very content that will help clients build communities. Engaged communities in itself will be media channels, reducing not just the quarter, but a very large pie of the revenue also. And similarly for creative agencies, if they don’t move their focus from TVCs, perhaps even half of their revenues could disappear in the initial stage itself.
I would not be far off the mark in my estimation that there’s minimum Rs. 500 crore of billing leakage for each of the top 3 media agencies from their collective clients with AoR status, simply because the clients are engaging with other solution providers who are able to provide them with insight led inspiring consumer connect solutions. An insightful content solution will also mean adding to the client in many other ways, arresting and then eliminating this “leakage” villain
None of this is rocket science and I also believe the agencies are seeing these too. But, unfortunately, I don’t think the senior leadership is focused on such agenda since most of them push these away as “developments” that will not occur during their tenure. I would only say, the Nokia engineers who laughed it off seeing the Apple patent filing even before iPhone was introduced also felt exactly this way.
In order to walk the talk, triggerbridge, the Un-agency is willing to take up the challenge of working with one well-aligned agency group to bring its various capabilities together, and also set up capabilities those do not exist even if it means as a test case to prove how this practice can become the disruption/transformation unit which will deliver tangible results and reallytransform their chosen clients. This could also actually become a sizeable revenue earner for the agency business.
(The author is MD & Co-founder; triggerbridge, the Un-agency)
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com