By Vinod Nair
The term ‘game changer’ is perhaps used a bit too much in management parlance these days. Everything is deemed to be a game changer, from an incremental product improvement, to the adoption of a new process or technology. But the pandemic, which has unfortunately affected billions of lives across the world over the last few months, perhaps truly fits that concept. It has turned several things upside down, inside out. It has caused a severe disruption in the way advertising agencies look at themselves. It is redefining the way they function. And in some important ways it has accelerated their evolutionary process. Here are a few imperatives which I think are necessary to take cognizance of in this changed new era. It is perhaps time for agencies to reskill and retool.
1-The need for more exhaustive immersion
Clients have always wanted more agency involvement in their businesses. It has often been agencies which have maintained a ‘social distance’ from establishing deeper ties. But all that will need to change. Now for agencies to thrive, they will have to roll up their sleeves and learn to talk business realities and numbers with clients. Most business plans have been turned on their heads. Clients are looking for lateral solutions, much beyond just advertising, to resurrect their fortunes. This is where the need for the extra thinking minds an agency setup can provide comes into play. However, that entails knowing the client business at a far deeper and strategic level, rather than the superficial competence usually on display. It demands a willingness to have important conversations away from the purview of conventional advertising, but vital to business interests. Put another way, the more an agency ‘sinks’ into the client business, the more their stock will soar on the other side of the table.
2-The need for providing an integrated offering
The realities of this pandemic and lockdown have made one resource all that more precious-time. As managers struggle to balance life, juggle work, and interact with various external partners, the need for having the possibility of one window for interaction when it comes to all communication requirements is going to get more accentuated. That added to the fact, it is now even more important all communication efforts exude a sense of ‘strategic synergy’ going forward. Budgets are going to be limited in this phase. This is why it has become absolutely vital to get every single piece of communication pulling in the same direction. Organizations having the capability of strategy, creative and media offerings under one roof might have an advantage. This new era could see the return of the ‘one stop shop’, not just when it comes to brand communication and marketing, but in several other areas of human interest as well.
3-The need for preempting the brief
There were days in the past when agencies used to begin work, only POST the formal client brief arriving. That period now seems be have a sepia toned nostalgic tinge to it. Response time is going to become even more of a decisive factor when it comes to market success. Clients are going to be hard pressed handling many other things. This is why waiting for the brief, might present the same prospects as that of Godot finally arriving. It reiterates why the immersion mindset alluded to above is so important. Even writing the brief is one level away. Agencies will now be expected to spot the business opportunity, often even before the client, and make proactive recommendations in the most detailed manner possible, complete with the campaign and all costs involved. The onus is now truly on the agency side. And the efforts involved will be anything but brief.
To conclude, I am really looking forward to this new age. I think independent, Indian agency systems are going to prosper, given these implications. This period is going to make us better-both individually as professionals and as an industry on the whole. And such an event should only be welcomed with open arms.
-The author is managing director, Network Advertising. Views expressed are personal.