How often do we pause and ponder about industry issues that have a bearing beyond just our rigmaroles? Share insights that can further the common understanding? Or, at the very least, point at things that need to be set right.
View Point - an exchange4media platform, will fill this void and become a source of understanding, action and perhaps some inspiration.
The Context of Existance
Swapan Seth, Co-CEO, Equus Red Cell
The advertising business in the pure-play sense is approaching its strategic demise. The services that advertising was conventionally expected to provide are no longer relevant. Clients can outsource strategic thinking, they can outsource the creative product and they are already outsourcing specialist media services.
Which really must leave all of us who run conventional advertising agencies, tossing in bed at night.
One fundamental question that we must ask of ourselves is why must we exist?
And that is one question that needs to be faithfully answered. Seeking a context to exist, seeking a relevance to be is the most significant search for both individual careers as well as organisations.
The fact of the matter is complacency is the easiest thing to set in. The matter becomes even more protracted when you are large. You have enough adipose to not worry about being relevant. Worse still, you don't even know when you have become irrelevant.
Attached squarely to this relevance is the issue of remuneration.
Because we are unsure of how we can be relevant, we take a hit on our fees. And let's face it, out there in the marketplace, who is taking the hit. The big boys, more often than not.
I genuinely believe that if one is worried sick to find a context in client corridors, one can demand and be given fair compensation. It is when we are unsure of the context that we are capable of providing; that we are willing to settle for a meagre fee.
So what in my mind are the bridges of relevance that we can build with clients?
I think the strongest bridge is knowledge. Do we know as much as we must or more about our clients businesses then even they do? I walked into one of India's most revered soap maker's office and asked a director in the company whether he had heard of a soap brand called Lush. He professed he hadn't. I thought we could be relevant to his business. We had a context that he hadn't. It's another matter that he hasn't hired us. And probably never will.
Knowledge is a sharp relevance provider. If you work on soaps and you don't know about what happening with Korres, REN and Lush, you need to smell the coffee and worry about your relevance. If you work on a banking business and do not know enough about Nordenbanken or the significance of Islamic banking products, you need to be scared. I could go on and on. Across categories and businesses.
Indeed, fear is the fundamental premise of seeking a context or relevance. Are you suitably scared of waking up in the morning and discovering that you have no client context? I am and thus I am driven to discover a newer relevance. Each day.
Another possible area of relevance is agility. The future in my estimation belongs to the agile organisation. Market dynamics have altered considerably. Client response times to market volatilities have quickened. In the face of that, clients look for response as a context and relevance. First class, first is an important offering.
Yet another critical area is the bottomline of the client's business. What are you doing to shore that up? What are your views on price-based costing vis-a vis cost -based pricing? How are you contributing to adding value to the bottom-line? How are you seeing shared distribution and alternate distribution channels?
I am increasingly spending most of my time actually looking at footprint marketing opportunities and looking at distribution from that perspective. And mere advice on this score is not the spine of relevance. Increasingly, clients will expect an agency to broker those distribution marriages. So if you have demo calling cards from a telephony business, how can you effect a co-operative distribution of that with say a newspaper?
This certainly wasn't what Stanley Resor was expected to do.
Another strategically sound bridge of relevance is the understanding and ownership of client anxieties. The Red Cell credentials presentation begins with a simple plea: DO NOT GIVE US YOUR BUSINESS. GIVE US YOUR PROBLEMS
Clients like people who are concerned about their concerns. At this very moment, just the advertising business of service brands hardly interests me. But yes, there is great opportunity for communication to consolidate business. Customer retention and brand stickiness are areas of great potential. Entering these gateways of grief with a client is a supreme context to be aligned to.
The point that one is aspiring to make is that if this business must survive, it will not survive on the basis of 360degree, holistic offerings. That was the model of the 90s: the supermarket solutions.
The historical umbilical cords of context for this business will only make it a stagnant pie into which we will all try and eat and finally end the party with crumbs in our hands.
I believe the time is ripe for a fresh new look at the relationships that we have with clients. It will require the construction of newer strategic cornerstones.
It's much like the interaction between Alice and The March Hare. Alice asked " Where do we go from here?"
The March Hare replied. "Well, that depends a great deal on where you want to go?"
So where is the business headed?
In my estimation for an advertising agency, it's finally headed towards where it must: our clients' business.