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Goafest'13: How to make client-agency relationships work

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VARCA,GOA: When Arvind Sharma was asked to kick off the Advertising Conclave at Goafest 2012, he said one line, which turned out to be more prophetic than he would have imagined. He started his speech saying “Some of the most meaningful conversations one has, are the ones he avoids the most.” He was referring to this year’s theme at the Advertising Conclave which was ‘Time to Listen’.

The first day of the annual ad fest in Goa on 4 April witnessed advertisers across categories address an audience filled with the cr?me de la cr?me of the advertising world. They frankly shared their perceptions of the shortcoming of ad and media agencies and where the latter were not living up to their expectations.

HUL MD Nitin Paranjpe delivered an insightful narration where he pointed out what in his experience are the kinks in the client and agency relationship. He started off admitting that it is not just the agency that should be held responsible; the entire marketing environment that needs to be looked at hard to find some answers.

According to him, the biggest challenge today is the abundance of choice. There is an abundance of options for each product in the market and brands are vying for the TG’s attention in a heated environment. On the other hand, media itself is facing the tyranny of abundant choice where the audience is becoming increasingly fragmented and engaging it is very tough. “What we have is scenario where choice is abundant, but there is very little to choose between each,” Paranjpe explained.

This has led to an urgent need for brands to differentiate themselves which in turn possibly leads to desperate measures. Tata Sky MD and CEO Harit Nagpal‘s view in this regard was that "in order to be different, it is necessary to actually be different rather than just standing different.” He supported this this statement with a picture of five zebras where the one in the middle had its rear facing the camera.

Another point that was unanimously pointed out by all the advertisers was that the 30 second television commercial is becoming redundant and agencies need to strategise innovatively to factor in this change. The rise of social media also needs to be accounted for when planning in today’s environment.Amul MD RS Sodhi spoke from his experience with agencies – DaCunha Communications (outdoor), Draftfcb Ulka (creative) and Lodestar (media). He expressed that for any marketing strategy to work, there needs to be a long-standing relationship between the agency and the client. This builds the basis for trust and understanding that is required in any marketing relationship. It also offers consistency, which is paramount to maintaining a brand’s identity among the TG.

“According to me, what agencies need to remember today, is that the goal of advertising is to sell the product and not the creator of the campaign. What the product stands for, what the audiences relate to with the product and the brand should be the first consideration," he elucidated. "Accolades for the creator should not be the reason behind creating any campaign."

He also added that the whole concept of advertising awards should either be discontinued or be revisited and reworked upon. “These awards look at and honour work that is created by the industry and judge by the industry. What is the point? Either discontinue them or ask the clients and the audience to rate the ads,” he suggested. His suggestion was met with a thunderous applause fom the audience.

SBI Capital Markets MD & CEO Arundhati Bhattacharya spoke about the importance of research. “It is important to understand both the brand personality and the TG profile in order to come up with a relevant campaign,” she said. She also feels that advertising should be done in order to further the business and it should be kept simple and short. It is the consumer whose minsdset has to be appealed to,she further said.

Arunabh Das Gupta of BCCL feels that the death of planning as a practice in the industry has led to a lot of complications. Today one sees a gap in the marketing research done by agencies and this leads to a shortfall of breakthrough creatives. He also offered that creative agencies need to look at talent retention seriously since their employess are the touch points that the clients deal with and form the basis of building a relationship between the two.

Tata Sky‘s Nagpal begged to differ from the rest on a couple of points. While most of the speakers felt that the fragmentation of the advertising agency into media, creative and account planning has led to a decrease in efficiency of client servicing, Nagpal feels that hiring specialised personnel for specialized work is the order of the day and if need be, this talent should be imported.

He added that there should be clarity regarding wha the agency and the client expect from each other in order to have an efficient and fulfiiling working rapport. Suresh Bandi from Panasonic pointed out that what matters to a clients is the value that an agency gives them for a given price. “The way I see it, when an agency increases its fees, the value the agency brings to me decreases,” he said.

Nagpal on the contrary feels that clients should not look at cost-cutting every time. Specialized work comes at a certain cost and while agencies in a bid to compete and win clients may lower their rates, it may lead to a lowering of quality. It is the basic princliple of “Itne mein sirf itna hi milega.”

Another grievance recorded by each advertiser was that while the pitch process is spearheaded by a known senior agency executive/professional, once the pitch is won, the clients end up dealing with newbies who are not trained enough to handle the account or have no clue of the pitch in the first place. This creates a disjunct and gap in the dynamics and is often the reason why most client-agency relationships fail.

In conclusion, the panel agreed that while agencies and clients needs to introsopect and make some changes, the key takeaway was that the relationship between the agency and the client is what decides the effecniency of a campaign. An integrated team will function much better than a fragemented one and a team that knows each other is the one that will take the brand all the way.

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