Guest column: Be Bold, Stay Relevant: Ameer Ismail, PointNine Lintas

Communication agencies need to invest in big data and analytics, as the ability to navigate consumer habits individually will completely change the game

e4m by Ameer Ismail
Updated: Apr 16, 2018 8:53 AM

To say that the communications landscape is changing is a gross oversimplification. Over the past few years, driven by a rapidly evolving media landscape, technology developments and rising consumer expectations, communication agencies and holding companies are feeling the heat and are getting their best brains to figure out new models for sustained profitability and a longer term, relevant play.

Just last year, the industry was shocked to hear rumors that the world’s largest holding company was a possible takeover target. As surprising as these rumors were, perhaps the larger issue was the buyer - Accenture, a big consulting firm, which has been aggressively building up its marketing and communications capabilities. The convergence seems to be in the area of data and digital. Another member of the Big Four, Deloitte, has launched a digital creative consultancy, Deloitte Digital.

According to a joint report by M&A advisory firms Jegi and Clarity, almost half (48%) of advertising agencies acquired in 2017 were by companies from outside traditional marketing services groups, up from 41 per cent in 2016. Meanwhile, marketing consultancy R3, says that major consulting firms like Accenture, Deloitte, IBM, KPMG and McKinsey & Company invested more than $1.2 billion in agency acquisitions in 2017, a 134 per cent increase on 2016. This, more than anything, should be a wakeup call to agency heads about the very real challenge of increasing competition through investments and acquisitions.

Even as consulting firms like Accenture, IBM, PWC, Deloitte, Capgemini, etc., have been steadily building their marketing practice, both organically and through acquisition; holding companies have for the most part been resting on past laurels and turning a blind eye, either intentionally or otherwise, to a communication landscape that has completely transformed. Disaggregated service offerings make navigation a true challenge for clients and there is a growing viewpoint that the model of specialized business units and disciplines need to come together once again. We see some of this actually implemented across some large agency networks. The MullenLowe Lintas Group’s latest agency launch, PointNine Lintas, is India’s first omni-channel offering and our attempt be a solution to this conundrum.

Technology underlines everything today. New technologies like AI, AR, VR, etc. are revolutionizing the communications landscape. We are heading towards a world where the keyboard might become redundant and voice will become the primary interface for gadgets. Tried and tested formulas might no longer apply to this new world.

One thing that agencies need to do immediately is to invest in big data and analytics, as the ability to navigate consumer habits individually will completely change the game. All this needs to be coupled with great human intervention through bigger, bolder creative ideas. If communication agencies want to stay competitive and provide value to clients, this gap needs to be closed; and fast.

Some feel that data and creativity are always at odds but this does not need to be the case. Take the example of Spotify’s “Thanks 2016, it has been weird” campaign. Spotify created an entire global outdoor campaign based on insights gleaned from crunching user data. The result were quirky, yet, fun creatives that were also highly relevant. This is the perfect example of data-led insights utilized to fuel great creatives.

India still has some way to go before start seeing campaigns of this calibre but we can see the change in outlook even now and the wait should not be that long.

From the creative standpoint, we do some great work and it is getting better and bolder. Recently, brands have started getting out of their comfort zone to experiment with really bold concepts. A case in point is the ‘Move On’ campaign for Fastrack, especially, the TVCs released in 2013. The campaign has always had an edgy and provocative messaging and with the creative films; ‘Closet’, ‘Dining’ and ‘Live in’, Lowe Lintas and Fastrack pushed the envelope even further. ‘Closet’, which shows two girls coming out of a closet, adjusting their attire, was one of the first instances, if not the first, where an LGBT issue was addressed openly in an ad campaign.

As technology and new competition redefine traditional roles of agencies, it is not something to get agency folks worried. This sort of reinvention helps agencies stay relevant and if it requires putting aside our differences and collaborating for mutual growth, maybe it is something we can think about and take cohesive steps to move forward. As agencies, it is time for introspection but with an open mind, reassessment and bold work, agencies can continue to be an integral part of clients’ journey.

(The author is Chief Growth Officer, PointNine Lintas | President, GolinOpinion)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

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