Are small & mid-sized ad agencies struggling?

While some industry players say the environment is challenging for the small players, there are others who believe there is room for all to grow

e4m by Tanzila Shaikh
Published: Feb 20, 2023 2:44 PM  | 5 min read

Mainline agencies have big MNCs as Agencies on Record, an impressive clientele and a strong team to able to deliver their best. However, when it comes to independent agencies the picture may not be so rosy.

There has been a lot of conversation on forums with agencies coming under the mid-size stratum speaking about the disparity and the creatives getting paid less despite increase in workload.

Sharing an overview of the advertising business last year, Aejaz Khan, Chief Executive Officer, Makani Creatives said, “The Indian advertising market was forecasted to grow by 16 per cent in 2022 to reach USD 11.1 billion (Rs 88,639 crore). This would have led to over 14.5 per cent growth by TV and 31.6 per cent on the digital side. The numbers for 2022-2023 aren’t out as yet, but if we did manage that, we will become the fastest-growing market globally. In 2023, businesses will have to deal with the war in Ukraine, economic challenges, as well as an ever-faster development of technologies impacting digital advertising.”

SMAIs paid less?

We reached out to small and medium advertising players to understand if they were getting the fair share and right penny for their efforts. The reactions were mixed. While some agencies said that they were struggle to get the right money, others shared that they were getting top dollars and the right amount.

Limited resources

A mainline agency often has a team of up to 25 people working for a singular client but in a mid-sized agency it could be down to four to five people.

Sharing more on this, Apurv Verma, VP – Operations, SRV Media, said, “Mainline agencies benefit from their huge teams. They showcase 20-24 people who will be working on a brand. That automatically gives them a good way to negotiate as far as the retainer is concerned. Whereas, small-scale agencies can't allocate more than eight to ten people and almost each member of the team is on the tactical and the execution front.”

Digital/Social media increasing workload?

Speaking on how digital marketing has increased or contributed to the work share of creative agencies, Rahul Vengalil, Executive Director at Everest Brands Solutions, says while KRAs are discussed when an agency is onboarded eventually the work doubles due to the changing trends of social media. However, even if the workload increases the budget might not increase.

Vengalil notes that there is a disparity between mainline agencies and mid-size agencies. “I remember a time early in my career when I was working with a marquee client in India. My retainer for being the digital creative agency was x and the retainer that my counterpart charged then for being the mainline agency was nothing less than 30x. This gap has significantly reduced over the year but still exists. Digital or more rightly put social media has become the lead medium for every client in India today. The expectation is for every piece of content that is put up on social media to provide the brand’s POV, and if possible make it viral,” Vengalil had remarked in a column he wrote for e4m.

Meeting client expectations

MNCs and legacy brands often go for mainline agencies, who in turn give work on a project-basis to SMAIs. However, those who approach SMAIs directly are often new-born businesses led by people with less to no ad experience.

Seconding the same, Prathap Suthan, Managing Partner and Chief Creative Officer at Bang In The Middle, said, “For example, if there are 10 best soap companies in the country, they will all go to the 10 top agencies in India. The moment there is a new brand in the same category they will come to mid-size or smaller agencies.”

He went on to explain that a majority of new businesses might not pay the right amount as they are not able to understand nature and effort put into the work. However, there are cases when they come around, Suthan added.

Scant client-loyalty

“It is a sad that size matters when it comes to the agency world. Our experience has been that we’ve partnered with start-ups and small brands. But once they grow then they go for a large network agency. They end up being a small fish in a big pond. Agencies within a holding company, media and creative, keep opening doors for each other.”

Despite these nagging issues, there are some in the SME circle who are still hopeful. Siddhartha Singh, Managing Partner & COO, Infectious Advertising, said, “Fortunately for us, our roster of clients includes a lot of pedigree marketeers, the likes of Ultra Tech Cement, Bayer, IDFC Bank, Tata’s and TBZ, who in turn work with other agencies too but have never discriminated against us because of our size. If the thinking and the output are at par then no one likes to cut corners.”

Echoing the sentiment, Abhik Santara, Director and CEO, atom network, said, “There are many occasions where independent mid-sized agencies are able to charge a premium over network agencies. Midsize agencies are able to offer far more value, as they don’t have layers of hierarchy, and the ones that are charged for, are actually the ones involved in the business. Clients are smart enough to see that, and the cost advantage they get is because of that.”

The future of SMAIs

Speaking about the future of SMAIs in this ever-thriving space, Khan said, “The independent mid-sized agencies are going to have a solid run in the future. Big brands will want better, more engaged service and will turn to independent mid-sized agencies. The big network agencies will be here for sure but the independent mid-sized agencies will thrive too.”

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Star Sports pays tribute to MS Dhoni with ‘subtitled feed’ for hearing-impaired

The innovative feature will provide live match commentary subtitles, catering to the needs of differently-abled fans

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 27, 2023 4:49 PM   |   2 min read


Star Sports, the official television broadcasters of the TATA IPL 2023, has launched a ‘Subtitled Feed’, a first-of-its-kind initiative in sports broadcasting in India, for the hearing impaired.

The innovative feature will provide live match commentary subtitles, catering to the needs of differently-abled fans.

To celebrate 15 years of MS Dhoni in IPL and the launch of the landmark initiative, Star Sports launched a special promo that brings out the love that all fans have for MS Dhoni. Viewers can now experience the ‘Shor’ that comes along while watching their favourite cricketers like MS Dhoni, who has transcended the ideology of just being a player, but now an emotion.

The promo film showcases fans of MS Dhoni chant his name in a packed stadium, showcasing the passion and emotion that he can bring out among cricket aficionados. This has become an emotion that has been seen time and time again in the TATA IPL, and this season all kinds of fans can experience every second of ‘Thala’s adrenaline-pumping moments differently on television, drawing them closer to their favourite player.

Commentating on the launch of the film and the innovative feature, a Star Sports Spokesperson said, "Star Sports has always been at the forefront of revolutionizing the viewing experience for fans. We are proud to introduce the Subtitled Feed, a ground-breaking technology that aims to make the excitement of the TATA IPL 2023 accessible to everyone, including differently-abled fans. By providing live subtitles of commentary, the innovative feed ensures that no one is left out of the action that only the IPL can bring. With this latest technological advancement, we are bringing fans closer to the game, allowing them to experience the ‘Shor’ of the IPL like never before."

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Candere by Kalyan Jewellers launches Akshaya Tritiya campaign #NayiShuruaatHeereKeSaath

The campaign went live on 22nd March and will continue until 23rd April

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 27, 2023 4:38 PM   |   2 min read


Candere by Kalyan Jewellers has announced the launch of their campaign #NayiShuruaatHeereKeSaath on Akshaya Tritiya. The campaign introduces a quick & hassle-free solution and a problem-solving fix with Candere’s 100% Lifetime Exchange Value on diamond jewellery.

“Akshaya Tritiya is considered one of the most auspicious days for purchasing gold or jewellery in the Hindu calendar. However, the ideas behind any jewellery purchase during such occasions had been strictly inclined towards gold. Candere aims to provoke a change in the outlook of owning one’s ‘pehla heera’, marking the day's auspiciousness and new beginnings. The 25 seconds campaign film highlights the problem statement surrounding the purchase of diamonds which otherwise has this ‘wow’ factor but there is a persisting hesitation owing to the product's resale value. The campaign primarily motivates the customers to make diamond purchases allowing them to avail the exchange offers anytime in addition to 100% future valuation. Candere wants to solve this particular pain point and address the doubt revolving the purchase in the customers,” the company said.

Speaking about the Akshaya Tritiya campaign, Rupesh Jain, Founder & CEO, Candere by Kalyan Jewellers, said, “We are thrilled to launch this year’s Akshaya Tritiya campaign, and strongly believe that our messaging will reach out to our valuable customers. While this day is marked auspicious with the purchase of gold mainly, we at Candere want to encourage the customers to buy diamond jewellery and celebrate as well cherish new beginnings, providing them with the maximum benefits on product exchange in future.”

Akshay Matkar, Head of Marketing & Brand Experience, Candere by Kalyan Jewellers, further added, “Marking the new beginning with Diamonds (#NayiShuruaatHeereKeSaath), this Akshaya Tritiya will not only give an extra edge to our diamond category allowing our customers to purchase from a wide collection but also avail exchange offers with 100% future valuation of the purchased items.”

The campaign went live on 22nd March and will continue until 23rd April.


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Himalaya Wellness launches campaign for Himalaya Ashvagandha

The campaign says ‘ab stress nahi, de-stress kijiye’

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 27, 2023 4:31 PM   |   3 min read


In the wake of rising stress levels, Himalaya Wellness Company has launched the campaign “Ab Stress Nahi, De-stress Kijiye” to raise awareness about the impact of unaddressed stress, while focusing on natural ways to handle multiple stressors in life.

“Modern lifestyle has its own stress triggers that often go unnoticed or seem common. But this leads to stress that affects one’s body, thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Building on this insight, the campaign brings these triggers into the spotlight and emphasizes the role of Himalaya Ashvagandha in minimizing stress in daily life and helping bring calm to chaotic stress,” the company said.

With three digital advertisements, the campaign focuses on the lifestyle of three individuals from diverse backgrounds who struggle to cope with stress. The advertisements highlight the after-effects of stress, where the protagonists experience sleeplessness, anger, and tiredness, respectively, when exposed to certain stressors regularly. The communication is reinforced by the doctor talking about the benefits of Himalaya Ashvagandha in helping manage stress better. Ashvagandha is an adaptogenic herb that has been used for centuries to help the body cope with stress and promote relaxation. It improves energy levels and helps relieve stress and anxiety.

The campaign is strategically amplified via radio, internet, and digital media, to raise awareness about the impact of stress on individuals' lives and motivate people to take action on managing stress effectively.

Dr. Sanjiv Shah, an eminent endocrinologist and diabetologist from Mumbai, shares, "Common aberrations like ‘anger, sleeplessness, and tiredness’ are often ignored by many. Most lifestyle disorders are also commonly triggered by stress. According to research, over 70% of adults in India report experiencing stress daily. Stress has emerged as a major issue for many people. Unmanaged stress can have a negative impact on an individual's health, including sleeplessness, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Making a few simple lifestyle modifications such as walking, exercising, pursuing a hobby, and avoiding smoking and drinking can help manage stress better."

Vikas Bansi, who heads the OTC business at Himalaya Wellness Company, shares, "With this campaign, we want to highlight the fact that stress is the most common trigger and can lead to physical, emotional, and behavioral changes, which over a period may result in lifestyle disorders. The integrated radio and digital campaigns are expected to build awareness for Himalaya Ashvagandha and how Himalaya Wellness Company is committed to promoting natural healthcare solutions that help individuals lead healthier and happier lives. The Company's products are developed using natural active ingredients and are designed to be safe, effective, and affordable. We aim to encourage more and more people to take steps to manage their stress effectively and consider Himalaya Ashvagandha as a supplement in their daily routine and, at the same time, promote better health and wellness across India."

“We recently conducted an e-CME titled ‘Stress and Metabolic Disorders,’ where Dr. Sanjiv Shah emphasized the rising incidences of stress-related metabolic disorders. The e-CME was attended by more than 500 doctors, highlighting that the issue has become extremely critical and occupies the center stage in doctors’ practices today," he added.

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CEAT launches two-wheeler campaign with Harmanpreet Kaur

The TVC has been conceptualised by Ogilvy

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 27, 2023 4:30 PM   |   2 min read


CEAT has launched its new TVC ‘For The Game Called Road’ for its two-wheeler product range. The campaign features Harmanpreet Kaur, captain of the Indian Women’s Cricket team.

The new TVC conceptualised by Ogilvy, shows an interesting conversation between Harmanpreet Kaur riding a two-wheeler and her coach riding pillion, as she faces various obstacles enroute to her destination.

The campaign reiterates CEAT’s purpose of ‘Making Mobility Safer & Smarter. Everyday’.

Speaking on the campaign, Lakshmi Narayanan B, Chief Marketing Officer - CEAT Limited said, “CEAT has been passionate about cricket and as the cricket fever grips in – we all see cricket in every moment. ‘For The Game Called Road' is Harmanpreet’s perspective of Indian roads and how she sees cricket at every turn and corner. It’s a light-hearted and fresh take of a rider on road seeing a parallel world of cricket. It’s CEAT’s way of paying a tribute to the sport and its fans.”

Rohit Dubey, Executive creative director, Ogilvy said, “On the face of it, it’s a safety and product story with metaphors from cricket. But if you look closely, it’s the story of learning from the young, entrusting them - with a senior male coach, confidently taking the pillion seat, we’re implicitly trying to break stereotypes as well. And when it comes to riding, Harmanpreet does it so affably, without a sense of malice towards the road, but a playfulness…we were pleasantly surprised with her performance. Having said this, none of it would have been possible without a strong marketing intent from team CEAT, which finally decided to bring its cricketing association to its communication forefront, reading the media landscape right and aligning all the vectors towards it. We’re positive that this will elevate the love for the brand.”

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GroupM tops India leaderboard in business wins: COMvergence report

The media spends were estimated to be around $1.5 billion

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 27, 2023 4:17 PM   |   1 min read


COMvergence has released its latest new business barometer for FY 2022.

India saw a lower number of account moves and retentions this year. The media spends were estimated to be around $1.5BN as compared to a higher number of account moves in 2021.

In 2022, 66% of the total pitches held globally were local in nature (country-specific pitches). India was well above this average with 81%  of total pitches being local, which is $1286M, whereas global and multi-country pitches made up 19% of the pie with  $297M in 2022 for India.  

Mondelez, Pepsico, ITC, Nestlé, Meesho, Lenovo, Hyundai-Kia, NPCI, Abbott Nutrition, Rebel Foods and Truecaller were among some of the account moves that dominated the Indian market in 2022.

The Media Agency Groups were led by GroupM with a totally new business value of +$332M, followed by Publicis Media Group at +$289M new business value and dentsu International with a new business value of +$194M, respectively.

Zenith from the Publicis Media Group stable and Wavemaker from the GroupM umbrella led the media agencies’ ranking, interestingly the 3rd rank was tied between Initiative,  Havas Media and Spark Foundry ( Publicis Media Group) followed by Madison Media and Carat.   


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Fenesta Windows shows ‘Life is a circle’ as it celebrates 20 years

The campaign film, directed by Titus Upputuru, shows the evolution of a father-daughter relationship with time

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 27, 2023 3:18 PM   |   3 min read


Fenesta celebrates its 20th anniversary with a heart-warming campaign ‘Bees saal, tumhaara khayal’ that strikes an emotional chord with its customers.

The company has released the campaign across all digital platforms.

It highlights the journey of Fenesta with its customers over the years, showcasing the brand's commitment to delivering exceptional products and services.

The digital video captures the relationship between a father and daughter over a span of 20 years. The thought behind the digital films was to celebrate the brand that has been a part of its customer’s life for 2 decades.

The film shows an enduring relationship between a father and his daughter. Through the years, the little girl grows up waiting for her father to return from work…When she was a little girl, when she turns into a tween, studying by the window on a stormy night, when she turns into a pretty teenager and is lost in a conversation with a boy.

The different times are interspersed with evolving relationship between the father and the daughter. In the end, the roles change and we see the father waiting for the daughter to return from work. The film signs off with the super –  ‘20 years of care’

The beautiful lyrics of the song celebrates the relationship between the father and daughter and give insight into human relationships – how a huge part of love is waiting – waiting by the window.

Speaking on the occasion, Susmita Nag, CMO, Fenesta Building Systems, said, “20 years is a huge milestone for Fenesta. Fenesta has been a brand which has been built with a commitment to serve customers the best windows and doors solutions and services. To celebrate this anniversary, we are excited to present this heart-warming tale of a father-daughter relationship that has been captured through our windows. Fenesta windows have always been the protector and the eyes to the outside world, and this ad beautifully showcases how they can also be the witness to life's most precious moments.”

According to Santanu & Joydeep, producers of the film “When we got the brief our challenge was to create an authoritative positioning of the brand showcasing the 20 years legacy in a minute’s duration, none other than Titus could we think of to appoint as the creator of the content. Talent aggregation as we call it was the key to crack the project”

Titus Upputuru, the writer and director behind the film said “It was a wonderful privilege to do this film for Fenesta. 20 years is a long time and Fenesta is part of Indian fabric for two decades now. When we started thinking about the role that a window plays in our life, we realised it is not just to provide a view. The emotional attachment that we all have with our windows is so much more. We have all waited for standing by the window and life is a lot about waiting too. We wanted to capture this insight. The film celebrates this idea capturing the enduring relationship between Fenesta and the Indian consumer through the father-daughter metaphor, showing different ways the relationship evolves over time. It was a challenge to create twenty years in the space of two minutes, showing different times and seasons but as always God helped.”


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Tata Gluco+ releases ‘energy on, game on’ campaign

The campaign conceptualized by Wunderman Thompson

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 27, 2023 3:09 PM   |   2 min read

tata gluco

Tata Gluco+, an energy drink from the house of Tata Consumer Products Limited, has unveiled its first national campaign that embodies the brand’s purpose of making challenges fun. The campaign conceptualized by Wunderman Thompson, brings to light the brand promise of providing a refreshing energy shot in a differentiated cup format in four flavors Orangy Burst,Lemony Zing,Lychee Zap and newly introduced Cola Twist to help out in situations which can look challenging.

“All of us have those moments where sometimes all we need is an energy boost to make the toughest task look easy and fun,” the company said.

Tata Gluco+ new advert weaves the brand proposition in a similar slice-of-life situation –  a group of travelers who run out of Petrol in a desert and seek help from a group of youngsters who are enjoying sand surfing on a hot sunny day. The youngsters energize themselves with Tata Gluco+ energy drink which gives them the instant energy to dig their way through the sand to take out petrol for the stuck tourists. The film is light-hearted and has used humor to connect with Gen Z while gamifying the brand experience through the Energy On Game On narrative.

Commenting on the new campaign, Vikram Grover, MD, NourishCo Beverages Ltd said, “Tata Gluco+ has always been about a lovely energy shot when on a hot sunny day even small things can look challenging. This campaign is about bringing out the same promise in a humorous manner and gamifies the brand. We hope consumers love the TVC and the extended gaming experience that we have also rolled out on all our packs as an extension of the campaign”

Senthil Kumar - Chief Creative Officer, Wunderman Thompson added, “Tata Gluco + has created a unique brand language and celebrated quirky Indian humour while being rooted in Indianisms in all our films over the years. This new film with a refreshed tonality takes the brand language to the next level”

The new advert would be supported with a 360-degree surround plan covering TV, Digital, OOH and Cinema. The brand has used gaming technology with a Scan,Play and Win on the pack using which the consumers can scan the QR code on the Tata Gluco+ cups and get a chance to play engaging games on their phone and also get rewarded. Gaming has high skew among Gen Z and  the unique way of using gaming in the consumer journey during the campaign will help the brand meaningfully engage with the consumers.



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