The agency churn phenomenon: - One of the big problems facing the industry today is that more people seem to be exiting it than the number of people leaving the stadium (or abandoning their TV sets) after India wins the toss and puts the opposition in. This has resulted in agencies resorting to some quite innovative measures to handle existing client relationships.

The client, Mr. C. R. Yadav (popularly called Mr. CRY within the agency), paused as he gathered his thoughts in the agency conference room. There were a few apprehensions that he felt, namely because this was the sixth time in seven months that he was being introduced to a new team to handle his business. .

Vikas, sat poised at the other end of the table, briefly dwelling on his customary ritual of adjusting the alignment of his tie, in the glasses of the person immediately in front. That was doing little to alleviate the discomfort that Mr. CRY was already feeling.

To Vikas‘s right sat a rather formal looking chap, sporting a thin pencil like moustache and a generous paunch. There were a few white strands of hair randomly sprinkled across his head. Vikas had introduced him as Shyam, the new account supervisor on the business.

"His junior Ram, is presently away at another client meeting. But these two will be taking care of your business. They are the best team we have and I‘m sure they will not disappoint you. I, of course will interject from time to time to help them when it comes to overall brand strategy and vision, but these are the necks you need to catch daily." Vikas ended with a calculated chuckle, uttered to connote that he had a sense of humor and that he was not to be bothered with mere operational things. Mr. CRY was humorless (one of the basic reasons for his name).

"I have heard the same words many times before. In fact six to be precise, and somehow all the people who work on my business always seem to magically disappear and I‘m left with completely new people about whom I‘m rather unsure how much time to invest in, because I‘m sure they will be on their way as well shortly."

Mr. CRY wiped an exasperated brow with his handkerchief feeling a touch better after having vented some of his frustration; the same could not have been said about the handkerchief. It bore tell tale scars of a long and sordid tale.

"The client‘s tale of woe is always about the average Joe." The hushed oriental tone unraveled a conundrum of wisdom in Shyam‘s ears and Chai-La (the mystical Chinese canteen boy) had express delivered the tea cup in Shyam‘s hands and vanished among the furrows of doubt that were being formed on Mr. CRY‘s forehead.
Mr. CRY though, was momentarily astonished with the speed with which the tea cup appeared in Shyam‘s hands, but put it down to an ‘out of the world, in house, catering service‘, which wasn‘t very far from the truth."And if they are a team then why isn‘t the junior guy over here? This is out first meeting and I wanted to speak with both of them together.""Don‘t worry Sir; I will completely debrief him on our meeting. We almost work as one and there should be no issues of coordination at all." Those words were the first that Shyam had uttered since the meeting had started. His voice was curiously muffled and was like something from some famous movie which one couldn‘t immediately place.Mr. CRY‘s eyes shone like there was suddenly and unexpectedly, Angelina (sans the Pitt) somewhere on a not so distant horizon. "That is what I have wanted to hear from a long time, because so many times the two members of my account team are utterly confused. One does not know what the other is doing and that makes me want to tear my hair out."

"You can‘t even imagine how these two guys think alike. Coordination between them will never be an issue on the account. I can guarantee that," said Vikas thumping the table with some amount of emphasis, frightening all the data bits on Mr. CRY‘s laptop. He flashed a mysteriously mocking smile at Shyam, that had Shyam not known otherwise, could have been interpreted as obscene.

PP, the creative director of the handlebar moustache fame, popped his head into the conference room and his face distorted into a momentary display of unfettered anguish when he glimpsed Mr. CRY."Ah! How have you been sir?""Not very well, thanks to the way you fellows are treating my account. I see so many people in creative leave that there is no consistency in the creative product. At least Vikas has assured me that the servicing problem has been solved with Shyam taking charge of the account. I hope to see a similar solution on the creative front as well" said Mr. CRY looking at Shyam with almost paternal affection.

PP diverted his gaze to Shyam and for a moment Shyam and Vikas actually thought they saw his moustache jump. But he quickly regained his composure before other untrained eyes could detect anything amiss."Welcome on board Shyam. Hope you are able bring stability to the account." He concluded, feeling a dire need to leave the room, as there was a tremendous backlog of mirth that was building in his system, and he needed to purge that instantly to survive. "I want a similar solution on the creative front PP."

"I will handle it sir, but trust me you don‘t want a SIMILAR solution," quipped PP as Vikas angrily began tapping his fingers on the table. "I will call you and tell you who I will put on your business on a permanent basis, got to go now," concluded PP as his head vanished from behind the door.A huge explosion of sound followed. Like all the elephants in the word in a rare and not to be repeated moment of synergy had chosen to blow their noses at the same time.Mr. CRY cowered in his chair in alarm. Vikas patted his hand in a sagely manner."That‘s only PP, he probably understood the joke I told him two weeks back," vintage Vikas, covering his tracks, as well as using the same opportunity to run down his arch nemesis."Shyam now has to leave for another client meeting, but Ram has just messaged me that he will be here in five minutes. So don‘t worry we can continue when he arrives."Shyam solemnly shook hands with Mr. CRY (curiously limp handshake) and staggered out of the room.He made straight for the men‘s room, pausing briefly to exchange smiles with PP and his team who were rolling on the ground with laughter.

Entering the cloakroom he looked at himself in the mirror. Spat out the two pieces of chewing gum that he had in his mouth, changed the tie, tucked in his paunch to the extent that was humanly possible, washed off the white strands from his hair and erased his pencil thin moustache. Then he put on his spectacles, God, he had been hardly able to see anything in the meeting. And Ram Shankar stood in front of the mirror.His mind went back to the previous day‘s conversation with Vikas."Look chief we need to put two people on this account, it‘s in a deep mess. Everyone on it has left over the past seven months. I don‘t have any new people so you have to manage. We need a person your level and one immediate boss, say a supervisor.""What about my boss?"There was an evil glint in Vikas‘s eyes."There is a DVD of Golmaal in the library, watch it intently tonight. Also study the Godfather accent. I want to be able to mimic that for tomorrow. You are going to be your own boss." Vikas ended with a high pitched sinister cackle

"How can I do this? It‘s so wrong. Aren‘t we being unfair to the client?""Unconfirmed account executives never ask questions, they only execute." And that had been the final word on the issue.Ram strolled back into the conference room. Face and hair cleanly washed, however conscience is an altogether different issue. "And here is our account executive Ram," said Vikas.
Ram engaged in a ferociously firm handshake with Mr. CRY who was left silently yelping as his hand had been conditioned for softer things by Shyam.
"You really look familiar," began Mr. CRY. "In fact a lot like Shyam, just younger. Are you related?"The question was tricky and needed instant contemplation.

"To cover a single lie, one has to utter a thousand before you die," the hushed Chinese tone in Ram‘s ear indicated Chai-La‘s presence as did the tea cup which materialized in Ram‘s hands out of nowhere.Mr. CRY gasped, "Even Shyam produced a tea cup from nowhere a few minutes ago, you guys must teach me that trick when you meet me together the next time."

Ram hurriedly looked round for Vikas, But like all good bosses he had excused himself from the scene long before trouble came knocking,"It‘s like this sir, Shyam is my elder brother. But we don‘t really see eye to eye, which is why even though we can work wonderfully well together, it is impossible because of family reasons for both of us to ever be in the same room?."

As he was mouthing these words, Ram realized that this would be the longest meeting of his life.

The writer is Vice President, Rediffusion DY&R. He is also the patron saint of Juhu Beach United, a football club that celebrates the ‘unfit, out of breath media professional of today‘. You can write to him at (

(The views expressed here are those of the author and need not necessarily subscribe to the same)



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