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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.

"Oh, you don't work Saturdays" and other taunts!"


G S Murari, Director, Fidelis Advertising and Marketing

Advertising is a strange business that is if you concede it is a business at all!

On the one hand it is really glamorous and always in the public eye. Even the extremely idolised IT industry does not have a regular weekly supplement in Economic Times while the advertising industry gets its Brand Equity!

On the other hand, no survey on the performance of various industries even considers including the advertising industry. Maybe because advertising employs too few people, maybe because it is worth just a few thousand crores (despite the industry desperately counting its clients' adspend as it's 'billing', when actually the revenue is a theoretical maximum of just 15% of that billing!) Or maybe because nobody thinks of it as an 'industry'.

While banking, IT and even education are part of the service sector, advertising seems not to meet that definition either. However, ask any advertising professional and he'll tell you that he is in the service industry. Indeed, judging by the way most CEO's of advertising agencies talk, and the various stories written about the industry it does seem that everyone is convinced that advertising is in the 'service business'.

Clients certainly think so. Which is why they're annoyed when their ad agency has a two day weekend. Or when client service executives are not available on mobiles all the time or if their ads are not delivered 'yesterday'.

Agencies haven't helped matters either, by routinely claiming to be busy working late nights and weekends and thereby proudly displaying their commitment to producing ads 'yesterday'.

The entire problem comes from seeing us as part of the 'service industry'. Banks are part of the service industry. So what do they do? Introduce 24 hour banking, ATMs, telebanking, delivery and pick-up of cheques/cash etc. They are always working to make your life easier for you. But they don't 'think' for you. They don't for instance tell you how to save, where to save or invest and so on. At least not in 'traditional' banking. When some banks do offer services, which involve 'thinking' for you, they're no more part of the service industry. They are part of the 'solution industry'.

Take IT. Indian IT giants were all built on providing IT services offshore at very competitive prices. Today when MNCs are setting up shop in India the Indian giants are losing their competitive edge. One way of retaining the edge is to keep cutting costs and be a low cost service provider. An alternative way is to move up the value chain and become a consulting company, which provides solutions. By becoming a part of the higher order 'solution industry' IT companies can legitimately charge more and still be price competitive.

When you are a hard core service industry like BPO, the only USP you have to offer is comprehensive service at the most competitive prices. Comprehensive service has limitations. If you're a BPO transcribing medical documents you can only be 100% accurate. That level of skill will soon be available with several vendors and the service will become a commodity. Naturally there will be price pressure and discount wars, and scaling-up may seem like the only solution. That's because a hard core service organisation is a 'doer' not a 'thinker'.

And therein lies the problem for ad agencies. By defining ourselves as 'service' providers we feel obliged to offer 24x7 work time, waive creative charges and discount our services. However when we see ourselves as part of the 'solution industry' we become our clients' consultants. Clients come to us with problems in sales, brand perception, competitive pressure, positioning et al and we provide solutions. This does not necessarily mean creating ads. But it certainly means being creative in providing solutions that work. 'Service' oriented agencies have wrongly interpreted this to mean that we have to provide more comprehensive services like DM, PR etc. In the process they've allowed themselves to be compared with printers, PR agents and other freelancers providing sundry services. This has only served to devalue agencies and encouraged clients to treat us as 'suppliers' of creative products.

Offering creative solutions is not 'doing' more. It is 'thinking' more. If we change our mindset and see ourselves as consultants offering solutions, we won't feel the pressure to become 'comprehensive service providing agencies'. Clients won't expect us to deliver yesterday. All they'll want us to do is deliver.

At Fidelis, we've made the choice. We don't work Saturdays.

 
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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.
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exchange4media has been calling me for my Viewpoint, but like a true advertising person, I have no time! So I decided to write it in sleep (if you can walk in sleep why can't you write in sleep?) If it hurts your sensibility or you disagree with my views, please disregard this as a piece of junk - because I know it is impossible to pour water in a glass full of water - to give gyan to advertising gyanis.
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