When WhatsApp forwards became client briefs to agencies

As several codes followed between agencies and clients are being willingly discarded after COVID-19, we find out how written client briefs have disappeared in less than a month due to the lockdown

e4m by Neeta Nair
Updated: Apr 17, 2020 8:28 AM
WhatsApp Forwards

There was a time when a client brief was a sacred piece of document or email which ran into paragraphs on the client’s challenges, the expected result, sales targets etc. Today they have been reduced to frugal words over an unplanned call or in some cases even a Whatsapp message. A month into the lockdown, both the client and the agencies are functioning more casually with each other, exchanging ideas over calls and messages.

A creative agency head who didn’t wish to be named says, “Where earlier we used to get long emails, now we are getting WhatsApp forwards from clients. Some of them even say ‘hey see this is what the other brand is doing, can we do something bigger than that’. Others share reference points on WhatsApp, or just a news article which they want us to ride on and in some cases they just forward their company’s internal messages saying we are taking an initiative like this to help out the government or the community, see what communication you can create around that’. Whatsapp has become a new place to share briefs.”

Adding to that, Bodh Deb, Vice President, AutumnGrey says, “The subjects which are being forwarded by clients on WhatsApp as briefs are all similar in nature. After all, every brand is just trying to find relevance for their product in the handful of available subjects, post the virus outbreak. For e.g. manifestations of ‘work from home’ and ‘start something new during the lockdown’ there will be 30 other brands running to town with the same broad idea. Another interesting aspect now is that earlier a brand would only keep track of what the competitor brand in his category is doing, now a lot of cross-category learning is also happening.”

In fact, creative leaders have told us that they have received WhatsApp messages and forwards from banks who said that they want to do something that was done by a fashion brand and paint brands saying they want to do something similar to what an FMCG brand has done. Elaborating on one such film whose genesis was a WhatsApp forward, Rajeev Juneja, MD & CEO, Mankind Pharma says, “Our film #ThanksForBeingMyFamily was born from a WhatsApp message that was forwarded to me. It said, ‘all the places of worship, temples, mosques, churches are closed, only the doctors and medical workers are still at our service, without care about getting sick. So we should instil our faith in them more than ever now.’ So this message gave us an idea, we thought why not really propagate this idea in a big way and tell everyone who our real heroes are. So we conveyed that to our agency and they made the film.”

The outbreak has shown our industry newer ways of approaching the same problem and has made us more agile. After all conversations with the client were always the best form of briefing. Rahul Mathew, NCD, DDB Mudra sums it up best, “COVID-19 has brought a lot of informality into our client interactions. They get to see our houses and we can see theirs’. Kids and pets are making unexpected cameos. And conversations are more free-flowing. Maybe it’s because we’ve been released of our corporate trappings. Or maybe it’s because we’re all trying to make sense of the bad dream that we’re stuck in. But the one thing social isolation has done is that we’re all talking more--about the present, about the future and every scenario that it holds. We’re all bringing our personal experiences and feelings into our discussions. There’s less of mail exchanges and more of quick zoom catch-ups or WhatsApp conversations.”

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