The Goafest 2015 started off with veteran marketers with decades of experience explaining what the agency-brand relationship is today. And of course, delve into where they would genuinely like it to go and possible solutions.
The search for solutions has gained pace because the clients, or the brand owners, unanimously agree that the consumer’s interaction with her digital world has completely changed things for the agency-client relationship.
The brief from Nakul Chopra, heading the Goafest Organising Committee, and Publicis’ South Asia CEO on highlighting the agency-client relationship seemed to have struck a deep chord with these industry veterans. Marketers said that the world of social media and big data is scary to most as they are old and not digital native. In short, they don’t belong to what Sanjeeb Chaudhuri, global CMO and regional head, South Asia, Standard Chartered Bank, calls the Internet savvy generation.
PepsiCo India’s Chairman D Shivakumar says most companies are data rich but insight-poor (or DRIP) and need to get smarter. It is imperative to invest in real time marketing, even at double speed. And, that would mean having a full team ready, including even lawyers to succeed in the Mobile First digital world,
Anand Kripalu, MD and CEO of Diageo India, says that despite the incredible pace of change, what has remained the least evolved are the marketers in consumer industry. “Even supply chain has kept pace,” he rues. The marketers would have to wrap their minds around this with a department that is leaner, demanding more out of less people, says Kripalu.
Complications don’t end there, Kripalu proceeds, deciding to convey the challenges brands face which then translate into challenges for their agency partners. He echoes Shivakumar and says the response time has come down from the earlier 12 months spanning four different ideas, consumer tests etc. to a matter of weeks. The difficulty of driving implementation swamped by the amount of data and tasked with getting real insights is there too.
Kripalu segues into the agency-client partnership hurdles by saying the switching of agencies earlier seemed nothing short of a traumatic divorce. “Now, I see clients flirting with many agencies, but it only makes the understanding brittle,” he adds.
Having been with Cadbury in his previous stint, he says of course, agencies face the pressures of remuneration, mushrooming specialists which lead to a fragmented service environment and disruptive technology, creating a yawning gap between expectation and fulfilment between the two stakeholders. “We just have to find the media neutral ideas,” he says.
Kripalu expounds what he calls CAPED, short for Content and not just creatives, accountability moving from individual ad honchos and their inputs to a joint Accountability of both agency and client on the output, Partnership born from trust and engagement realtime as the campaign does not end with just a launch and Develop talent. He says, “Individual talent is very important for us, but we might not be important for them. I and my senior leadership at times struggle to with new joinees in understanding them, but we need to ensure we can retain them.”
“While many an agency person nowadays don’t understand the client’s business enough and look at it through a narrow lens, clients also get the agency they deserve,” says Kripalu. Consistently great campaigns can only come with time, trust and understanding and not with just one great ad, he adds. “Only then would the ad agency be able to influence strategy at the top table at the client’s,” he says.
Kripalu also brought into question on why creative people should not resist subjecting their work to metrics anymore, and the work should be measured for consumption, online advocacy generation etc.
Nestle’s head of communication and e-commerce, R Chandrasekar, says that digital acceleration calls for capability building, like the dashboard its media agency, Group M has in its premises, are needed.
Chaudhuri says the length of partnership has changed – if 25 years back, this would be 15 years, eight-nine years back about five years and now some are tending towards three years and minus. “You start migrating a large part of your budgets to a new activity, believing it is the new age. Therefore, let some of the strategic core requirements go haywire,” says Chaudhuri.
He says that specialisation needs have blurred different vertical divides, and fragmentation is taking away the time to cultivate agency-client relationships. His suggestions include how brand advertising, segment advertising and product-offer advertising should be integrated as each has an impact on the final sales. “It needs thought leadership from the agency, so, why can’t it think about integrating all my marketing assets and leverage it. Say, link all our marathon sponsorships,” says Chaudhuri.
Keeping approval process simple, as layers kill the magic, would also help. Clients aware of the output needs was another tip he handed over, “I tell agencies to show me the ads on a mobile phone screen and not on a large HD TV, that is where the impressions will come from”.