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Agency hopping may not always be a growth-booster

26-April-2004
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Agency hopping may not always be a growth-booster

Though we all know that change is perhaps the only constant factor on planet Earth, man often tries to introspect deep with an eye to understand the basic modalities of this indomitable human character. Is it change per se, or change as need of the hour? He tries to figure out the blurry backdrop of a change and, when he fails, there’s nothing left for him other than to watch the movement blithely.

We refused this stand of blasé. And we, as exchange4media.com Group, moved ahead once again to study whether the trend of change swaying the Indian advertising was for good or evil.

To share their views on the increasingly inconsistent client-agency contracts, an assembly of luminaries from across the Indian media, advertising and corporate circles flocked to the Capital on Friday, February 23, as the three-city exchange4media.com Conclave 2004 got rolling with the Delhi leg.

A palpably high churn rate of agencies has put the client-agency relationship in the middle of a crisis, making pitch a regular event these days. The advertising and corporate brass united at the Conclave to discuss the different aspects of this increasing attrition and its possible aftermath.

The first session of the second annual Conclave was titled: Accounts musical chair: Lack of delivery or lack of clarity? Playing as the moderator for the session, Shivjeet Kullar, Creative Director, K Factor, set the debate on fire, raising the issue whether there was at all any perceptible churn in accounts and if it were there, what could be the possible preventive steps.

Looking deep into the issue, Ashutosh Khanna, Chief Operating Officer, Grey Worldwide, observed media fragmentation and unbundling were primarily responsible for the increasing attrition. With more and more alternatives coming up, Indian media – be it the ubiquitous print or more advanced electronic medium, or the upcoming alternative media like Internet - is suffering from an abundance of options. “In today’s world, brands always need an innovative approach and they need to be redone regularly. And, in order to attain the difference, clients may look for different hands,” Khanna observed.

Unbundling of media indeed has been one of the major issues to baffle the industry’s future. But, was that the only factor for which today’s corporates are shying away from retaining the same agency for a longer span of time? There are more, of course. Transparent sharing of ideas and intent between the client and the agency – perhaps the basics of successful advertising, has been in the dark over the last few years. “There is a growing difference in intent among both the client and the agency. And, successful advertising is impossible without both sides sharing the same intent,” said Hemant Sachdev, Corporate Director – Marketing, Bharti Enterprises, while accepting the media unbundling factor.

But, what has been the reason behind the expanding distance between the client and the agency? “It is the competitive pressure,” responded Rajeev Karwal, Managing Director, Electrolux. “Just being creative is not enough and brand building alone doesn’t suffice the need of stimulating sales. This is what agencies should realise,” he insisted.

Escalating pressure, lack of clarity, media unbundling – all may sound adding up to make the client-agency relationship flimsier. But, to what extent? How grave is the situation? Debates seemed endless at the Conclave. “I don’t believe in the business of musical chair,” averred Shekar Swamy, President, RK Swamy/BBDO. In his crisp and short speech, he refused to accept the situation as worrying as it was being perceived. “The volume of account-transfers counts to Rs 300-400 crore every year and, this is nothing threatening for the Rs 9,000 crore Indian advertising industry,” Swamy said.

As the debate advanced, certain other factors emerged as potential provocateur for churning of agencies. Change in the top-order management or a rapid shift in business dynamics were perceived as possible factors for clients hopping across agencies. But, not everything is an external stimulator. Even agencies are on fragmentation. The crater between the creative and the media businesses have led to agencies losing focus. Media, despite playing a major role in planning advertising, has been isolated from the creative and this has impacted the quality of advertising.

Corporates, however, accept change as a sign of growth. To retain the innovative approach to the brand, clients seemed to be at short of options other than change their agencies. Delhi Conclave delved deep into the issues plaguing the industry and assessed the possible threats posed to the future of Indian advertising and media businesses.

With the four opinion makers trying to focus on the issue from different angles, change seemed to be an obvious decision in the media world. But, how valid is a change? The speakers, however, converged at one paradigm: Change for the sake of change cannot lead to growth.

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