Ad agencies, and particularly media agencies, dedicate themselves to their clients, especially those with big ad budgets. Check out the number of agencies serving a single, significant and usually multi-brand/business advertiser. Media specialist Mudra Max has a discrete entity called Mudra Radar to expedite planning, buying, knowledge, technology for Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group. GroupM’s MindShare is restructuring and will have client-specific units, while a re-engineered Lintas Media Group has nine client-specific collectives staffed with specialists across disciplines.
Client-specific huddles are not new. MindShare Fulcrum served Levers (Hindustan Unilever Ltd) in a perfect match of names, while the Lintas group had Interactions for ITC. Such agencies clearly offer a single identity or face to a client.
Media agencies are offering new services such as consultancy and content creation, and specialists working together on a brand or client can generate sharper insights and a more integrated communications solution. Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG), for one, has Future Works for client Future Group, with a retail and non-retail vertical. In the US, Starcom has GM Plan—around 400 people working only on General Motors Corp. Similarly, SMG United, a unit of SMG, handles Procter and Gamble’s media work in the US and Starcom’s Coca-Cola City focuses on Coca-Cola, says Ravi Kiran, CEO, Starcom, South-East Asia and South Asia. Most client-specific media ventures have dedicated specialists in buying, planning, digital embedded within, and then draw from sibling or outside agencies for specialized skills. It’s vital not to force specialization, he says.
The math is simple. When a client’s billings go beyond a critical mass, you need to put in dedicated services, action plans, investments and consolidated financial and reporting systems for that client. Lynn de Souza, chairman and CEO, Lintas Media Group, mentions that deals with vendors and media owners are at client-level, rather than at the media agency-level. These consolidations can hence drive synergies and help agencies invest more astutely. As clients diversify, client mastheads will proliferate and dedicated units will help agencies handle business rivals without fear of conflict.
Branding an informal client team creates a sense of identity and purpose. It locks in a client-agency relationship and encourages long-term strategic vision. In a fractured media scape, these independent profit centres will definitely put the arclights on returns on investment on an advertiser’s hefty ad spends and ensure better accountability. A one-stop branded point also makes it simpler to estimate fees to be paid to the media specialist and helps attract senior talent to steer that unit, says Chandradeep Mitra, president, Mudra Max.
Ad agencies usually work on brands, while media agencies are often agencies of record for clients and handle their entire brand portfolio. That’s one good reason why media specialists, more than creative agencies, have client-flagged camps. Also, since media specialists deal with media buying and strategy, there is a greater need for client confidentiality and separate agencies can ensure this.
Still, mainstream ad agencies are also dipping their toes in these waters. Ad agency Lintas India Pvt. Ltd earlier had a family of Bombay branded units, with some focused on the Levers’ business. Ogilvy and Mather India and Lenovo work together at Lenovo’s global hub for ad services in Bangalore. And at holding company level, WPP Group Plc. has just formed dedicated agency Synarchy Worldwide to handle Dell Inc.’s marketing services business globally, although this agency would also take on other clients. It’s not clear if this dedicated resource would draw on talent from within WPP’s various creative, media, specialist agencies globally.
Creative and media agencies working together in such dedicated set-ups could be the next emerging flavour. In China, marketing communication agency Arc Worldwide, creative agency Leo Burnett and media agency Starcom collaborate under a dedicated agency for Coca-Cola called Red Lounge.
Is anyone tonight setting up an agency just for you?
Marion Arathoon is Mint’s advertising editor.
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