"Marketers' current mantra of visibility over content is a challenge"

The growing school of thought that a highly visible campaign targeting a wider set of TG can offset the lack of idea & clarity in communications is a dangerous trend, says Roy V Mathew, MD, Stark

e4m by Deepa Balasubramanian
Published: Nov 6, 2013 7:57 AM  | 4 min read
"Marketers' current mantra of visibility over content is a challenge"

Despite being a small-sized agency, Stark Communications has been strong on the creative front, bagging awards such as Art Director of the Year and Creative Director of the Year year-on-year. Moreover, some clients such as Kerala Tourism and Malayala Manorama have been with the agency for years.

Roy V Mathew, MD, Stark Communications has been spearheading the agency’s operations ever since he joined in 1994 as Director.

In conversation with exchange4media, Mathew speaks about the trends in advertising, challenges in the Southern market, encouraging talent, retaining long-term clients, and more…

What are the trends in advertising to watch out for?
The one thing you can’t predict is tomorrow. Anything can happen in this game. We keep our eyes pried open all the time, our ears to the ground without fail. We always look at the small trendsetters in our business and see what they are doing. We examine the moves that advertisers are making in evolved markets and see if it is leading anywhere. But the future is so very difficult to foresee. However, when we find something interesting that could help our clients, we embrace it and invest in it. One fact that we are very conscious of is that tomorrow is another day, but we cannot await it as if it is just another day.

What are some of the challenges that Stark Communications is facing in the Southern market?
A major challenge is the increasing number of large advertising agencies and small creative shops desperate to gain business at any cost, luring advertisers purely with prices. The general drop in standards and the acceptability of mediocre work, coupled with the difficulty in obtaining entry and mid-level talent, are other hurdles.

Marketers’ current mantra of visibility over content or message is a new challenge. The growing school of thought that a highly visible campaign targeting more can offset the lack of idea and clarity in communications is indeed a dangerous trend – especially keeping in mind the highly volatile media scene, which is getting ready to explode and create a media landscape like nothing we have ever imagined.

How does Stark keep up with the changes with mobile and digital? What are the agency’s initiatives in this direction?
We have established a good in-house young and experienced digital team to meet the challenges of our clients and have invested in nurturing this talent with ongoing induction of technologies and developments. Yet, it is difficult to stay ahead of the game as new developments are flooding in from unexpected quarters and we never know which one is the game-changing one. But, we are on the ball 24x7. We are also beginning to live the concept of not thinking traditional and/or online, but we look at the problem-solution environment as one universe – approaching it as a whole, rather than doing it in fragmented compartments.

Year on year, certain awards such as Art Director of the Year and Creative Director of the Year have been picked up by Stark. Please comment on this.
Talent wins. Stark is a great platform for talent, however anarchist it may be. We have some fine leaders at various levels, driven by the desire to explore the unusual and the unknown. Naturally, it leads us to all kinds of situations, including packing awards with our people and work. But, awards are incidental. As a policy, we do not create work for awards. We are happy that our day-work wins awards and, more importantly, wins markets and constituencies for our clients.

Though Stark still remains a small-sized agency, across time we have greatly benefited by practising a culture of think big and beyond boundaries.

Accounts such as Kerala Tourism and Malayala Manorama have been with the agency for years. What is the kind of approach used to get and retain more such clients by Stark?
We are honest and collaborative. So, our clients welcome our ideas and advice. That helps. We do not let anything leave our doors if we are not convinced about its effectiveness. So, a lot of good stuff eventually comes out. Most of our clients are highly trained, experienced, shrewd and sharp. They are also friends, such as Malayala Manorama. We value these relationships and try to get outstanding outcomes for them.

In the case of Kerala Tourism, we have a wider sweep and work very closely with the client, scanning the opportunities and making the most of the resources at their disposal.

What are the agency’s areas of focus for the coming year?
People and work, in its varied combinations. This will also mean acquiring a couple of bigger brands that will enable us to do great work both nationally and internationally.

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