We believe that big work will always trump big brands: Kawal Shoor, The Womb

Founder of The Womb on their work for Carvaan that has become all the rage, making it big in the industry space without pitching and more

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Sep 27, 2018 8:58 AM

To say that there has been no dearth of independent agencies that have cropped up in India in the last couple of years won’t be far-fetched. However, the point of departure from the norm is when a Planner and an Account Management person come together to start an agency, more importantly without a head of creative and with an talent pool which includes anthropologists and clinical psychologists. Safe to say that premium advertising and innovations agency, The Womb started by (ex-Ogilvy &Mather) Navin Talreja and Kawal Shoor is not your mainstream creative agency. One of the Founders, Shoor chatted with exchange4media on their work for Carvaan that has become all the rage, making it big in the advertising industry space without pitching and more.

Ditch the pitch

Unlike many other agencies, The Womb doesn’t choose to go through the pitching route. Shoor emphatically states that a four week pitch exercise is unlikely to solve a problem a client has been grappling with for months or years. “We abhor the psychology of a pitch. It immediately puts one party above the other. ‘We will decide, and come back to you…’ is not something we wanted to build relationships on. Often, even the pitch brief is not real. So as a senior heavy team, we feel it a serious waste of time that is better spent on clients who pay us,” he asserts. He is quick to add that he would have absolutely loved to work with Spotify & Netflix. “Two of the hottest new-age brands, but we chose to very regretfully decline those pitches. Someday…” says Shoor.

The turning point

Shoor attributes the actual turning point for the agency as working on the memorable ‘Fogg chal raha hai’ ad which was just within a few months of starting out. “Perhaps that was a turning point in the eyes of potential clients – who saw that we could do famous work, without a regular agency creative structure (NCD, etc.) And that brought us lots of pitch offers (which we politely declined), but also a few clients who understood our way and aligned with us. And then of course, Carvaan happened,” he says.

Work, wins and walking tall

Shoor calls the agency’s current mix of clients as a motley crew of believers. “From MNCs, to home-grown, from heritage to new age, we have them all. But there’s one thing they have in common – they fully resonate with our thinking that big work will always trump big brands. Some say that there should be big work on big brands, but what’s ideal is big work that makes brands big. Across all our clients, our points of contact are the decision-makers, and we like it to be that way,” he says. The Founder believes that no one should have the right to share a job brief if he or she doesn’t have the power to approve or reject the work coming off it. “It just cuts short unnecessary and painful hours of intellectual and creative slogging,” he lets out.

The agency’s work for Carvaan won them reams of awards and shortlists. When asked what went behind the making of it all, he recounts, “To begin with, the brief from the client was that they have over 1.20,000 songs from the Golden Era of Indian music and wanted us to develop a plan to monetise this asset base by getting the young Indian (16 - 35 year olds) to start listening to this music.”

While typically agencies would have responded with an ad campaign on a brief such as this or thought of small activation ideas that would get people interested in the music, what The Womb chose to do instead was to re-frame the problem. “Why would the young listen to this music? Are we barking up the wrong tree? Doesn't it make logical sense to sell these songs to the audience that grew up with this music? With the death of CD's and Cassettes and their own discomfort with the digital medium, this audience had no access to this music. So instead of designing a campaign or a small unscalable activation, we chose to offer them that music in a form that they were accustomed to- The Radio,” explains Shoor.

“And it all made sense when they see the top-line growth and the growth in the share price of the company post the launch of this product,” he continues. When quizzed about if the awards mattered, Shoor admits that only the effectiveness awards mattered. “Because they mattered to clients. They provided validation that good (bold) work works. And they set off a virtuous cycle,” he opens up.

A candid Shoor says, “But even in those, there is now a new villain emerging. The scam case in an effectiveness show! Such cases for instance are typically built on some activation or engagement idea which may have been supported by just 10% of the overall budget, and may have been exposed to only 5% of the overall target audience. And 70% of the budget would have likely gone to the good old solid but utterly non-sensational product demo ad on TV, which may have really done the job. Of course, this is craftily hidden by the case-writer. I was doing jury duties for the WARC Asian Prize for Strategy a few weeks ago, and true to expectation I encountered some of these. And agencies have won big on those very cases. You can just throw your hands up in exasperation, and wish that truth can prevail.”

Speaking about the way forward for the agency, he says that the only thing he is sure of is that they will try new things and continue innovating. “We continue to believe that good work, and happy clients will be our biggest advertisements,” says Shoor with an air of finality.

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