Advertising as a business today has become far more complex than it was a few decades back. With the re-structuring of the larger MNC agencies into various specialized discipline based independent companies under holding groups have gained momentum and separate creative, media, digital, PR agencies today are the new order. As a result the 360 offering through a single window service has now more to do with total services being offered by a Group or a Holding Company rather than one brand of the advertising agency. This being the trend of last 10 years or so, and the start-up agencies in India today are also being built on the platform of specialized services, be it creative, media or digital.
The other phenomenon is that the global Agency Groups (or Holding Companies) have strategically placed multiple agency brands to cater to clients of various sizes and categories and most importantly help in resolving the conflict crisis. The strategies of global agency groups’ are to handle the globally aligned clients’ businesses and leading Indian brands through the larger and dominant agencies of the group at the top-end, and capture the medium sized businesses and reputed mid-sized Indian brands (and conflicting categories) through their younger brother agencies to acquire larger share of the pie.
There has also been a sustained strategy of global agency players to buy up indigenous agencies formed by eminent break-away professionals and M&A s are taking place regularly. This is helping the global players consolidate and increase the width of their offerings. The most recent examples have been that of Scarecrow and Taproot a few years back.
However the recent news about Indian promoters & stakeholders buying back Rediffusion shares from Y&R is a welcome move and Indian owners of large and mid-sized agencies are watching the Rediffusion experiment with keen interest.
Now with this perspective, let me focus on the main issue at hand. How to build an agency and take it forward not just on the Wow Factor created by its campaigns, but also enhance its Worth Factor for it to gain brand value of the agency in both tangible and intangible terms. Most successful agencies across the world and in India have been founded by breakaway groups (or individuals) from large agency set-ups with a few marquee clients and creating a few Wow campaigns for these clients’ brands during their start-up phase and create ripple effect in the market.
Many old timers in advertising will remember (or would have heard of) MCM (Mass Communication & Marketing) formed by the legendary Kersy Katrak (an outstanding creative person and a poet) in the late 60’s and had nurtured some of the advertising stalwarts like Mohammed Khan, Arun Nanda, Ajit Balakrishnan, Ravi Gupta, Anand Halve, and many more. MCM those days was like a breath of fresh air in a mediocre advertising scenario in India dominated by JWT, Clarion McCann, S H Benson, Grant Advertising and a few Indian agencies. Some of the campaigns MCM created for their clients were path-breaking in that era. They built a huge impact through the Wow Factor of the advertising they created for their clients and leading MNCs and Indian companies started moving their brands to MCM. Story has it that Kersy never solicited for any business. They came to MCM on their own.
However it was too good to last! Being a totally creative focused agency, they possibly did not concentrate enough on building a strong business and financial eco-system which is always the backbone of any agency that fancies itself as a long term player. Towards the end seventies, MCM ran into severe financial problems and talented professionals and large clients started deserting them. Soon the agency wound up after a dream run. A brilliant era in advertising ended due to wrong reasons.
History of Indian advertising is replete with many such stories of pre-mature deaths of agencies due to lack of understanding of the business and financial side of advertising by its founders and owners.
While every agency, existing or newly formed, need to create impact through the Wow Factor of their campaigns, not many realize that advertising is also a business and that needs tight controls, processes and disciplines and strong focus on the Business of Advertising which is the most important component to sustain and grow in this competitive industry. Long term agency players have been built that way the world over. Sir Martin was at the end of the day a businessman who built a huge advertising empire. And he made no bones about it! Or felt embarrassed about being a businessman.
Yes, great campaigns have to be created for our clients’ brands (because that’s what our expertise is!) but many of us advertising professionals are too idealistic to ignore the fact that building the Worth Factor of the agency is equally important. And this is not an overnight process. It takes single-mindedness, patience, hard work, mental discipline and due-diligence, systems & processes in place to build & grow a value for the brand. While very few (if any) agencies can create Wow Factor through their advertising consistently over a long period, the Worth Factor is a slow, brick by brick building process and while it substantially relies on the Wow Factor of their campaigns to build the agency brand, it also is dependent to a large extent on managing and controlling the business side of the agency on a sustained basis and not letting it run astray.
Towards the start of BEI Confluence (then Confluence Communication) in 1998, we followed this model of creating a Wow Factor to start building the Worth Factor. The launch of Ernst & Young’s (E&Y) ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ campaign in 1999 and the Air Sahara campaign with Sourav Ganguly as the brand ambassador (‘Sixer in the Air’ that made Air Sahara one of the largest airline in those days) in 2000 / 2001 immediately catapulted BEI Confluence into the ‘Wow League’ of agencies and practically launched us in the advertising landscape of India. Some of the other Wow Factor campaigns that put new agencies into the big league were the Dunlop Spectra-wide campaign by Trikaya under Ravi Gupta in the mid- eighties and the more recent Airtel campaigns by Taproot. There are numerous other such examples.
So my submission to my fellow industry colleagues and friends who are heading agencies, big and small, or are aspiring to start one, is that focus on building a brand value (Worth Factor) for your agency brand as much as you endeavor to create campaigns with the Wow Factor to build value for your clients’ brands. Building the Worth Factor for your own agency brand helps you to survive, grow & see another day (or another year or even next 10 years!) for you to continue to create the Wow Factor through your campaigns for the brands you handle.
The biggest learning in my twenty years of running my own advertising agency is to have patience, perseverance and single-mindedness to build its Worth Factor every day, brick by brick, to bring it to a position where we are today after two decades!
The author of this article is Tapas Gupta , Founder & MD – BEI Confluence Communication Ltd.
(This is an authored article and views expressed do not in any way represent the views of tvnews4u.com)