Those were the days when working in a single, large organisation meant there was only so much that outsiders could expect from the organisation so as to not go overboard with their demands. But that was in the past – around 15-20 years ago. Cut to 2009, and preemptive measures such as fragmentation, collaboration, etc., have led many firms to go as specialist as possible. The session on ‘Media Services Agencies: Is it time to rework the media agency model?’ at the exchange4media Conclave 2009, held in Mumbai on June 3, drew top-notch agency heads to discuss and debate the road traveled by media agencies thus far and whether there was need to bring in some element of change in their functioning.
The day-long Conclave was presented by Star News and powered by Hindustan Times. Yuva was the associate sponsor for the event. The event partner is Encompass.
The panel was moderated by Paritosh Joshi, President – New Ventures, Star India, and comprised panelists from both the client and media sides – Asit Mehra, EVP, Omnicom Group; Jasmine Sohrabji, MD, OMD India; Pratap Bose, CEO, Mudra Max; R Gowthaman, Leader, Mindshare South Asia; Rajesh Sawhney, President, Reliance Entertainment; and Ramesh Natarajan, Deputy Country Manager, DHL Express.
Paritosh Joshi began by getting the panelists to dwell on the changes that have transpired in the last few years and the dilemmas confronting them. Asit Mehra traced the growth from the good old days of Doordarshan to the present day, which has seen the emergence of multiple mediums like satellite TV, CAS, etc. and added that it was a combination of growth and competition that had led to the emergence of newer models and mediums.
Presenting the client’s side of the story, Rajesh Sawhney said that there was a large wave of change that was being observed, and more so between the domains of advertising and entertainment. “My thesis is that advertising and entertainment as domains are merging together. The consumer is developing apathy towards the 30-second model, leading to a change in his behavioural pattern. The same trend is being observed in the print and broadcast space as well. The need of the hour is to create a collaboration and specialisation model, something that can be done by the so called brand managers/ custodians,” he pointed out.
Pratap Bose noted that in the early 90s the agencies had a single face, but with the development of media that trend had disappeared. “It has got to be an integral and thought-provoking process between media, client and creative to decide on who does what. It is finally for the client to decide as to who gets what. But if you ask me, among the three, it is the creative department that should be responsible to drive the idea and the way forward,” he added.
Ramesh Natrajan was more candid as he said that it was not about one entity gaining access over the other, but it was more of team work that would possibly drive the way forward. He added, “Earlier, the onus was on the company or the brand manager to think of ways to appease the consumer. Today, though the approach has changed to some extent and though brands can change to some extent in their appearance and offerings, the end consumer always remains the same. It is on him that all focus should be drawn towards and this is only possible if all the three – media, creative and client – work by forging amiable partnerships.”
R Gowthaman felt that it was wrong to still refer to media agencies as agents, especially at a time when new models were evolving by the day. “My belief is that we cannot have a single or standard model approach. We need to have the ‘horses for courses’ approach, where the solution will be based on the situation. Today, apart from the successes, companies have to be accountable for failures as well,” he noted.
Stressing that they were not a small boutique, Jasmine Sohrabji assured the gathering that being a medium-sized start-up did not mean that they had a bleak future. “We are not a small boutique, in fact, we are a big start-up. We’d rather like to call ourselves late entrants. Like any other agency, we too are involved in pitch-making process, etc. It has only been two years now and a fair analysis of our strengths can be drawn only in the coming future,” she added.
The panelists also debated on issues like talent, analysing of balance sheets, margins, the need for constant evolvement, and going as specialist as possible. It was clear that there had to be tripartite relationship between the trio of media, creative and client, and that no one could get ahead without the support of the other.