Ad Debate | Should agency models go the old, full-service way?

Ad Debate | Should agency models go the old, full-service way?
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First Published: Wed, Apr 09 2008. 10 30 AM IST

Meenakshi Madhvani
Meenakshi Madhvani
Updated: Wed, Apr 09 2008. 05 38 PM IST
Mudra Mumbai is a full-service agency again. It recently brought media buyers and planners back into its fold. Media planners have teamed up with strategic planners to offer clients the synergies of integrated brand planning and a more holistic way of looking at brand communications, according to the agency. Mudra’s media specialist brand OMS doesn’t exist any more, and a separate umbrella brand takes its place—Mudra MAX.
Globally, however, most specialists knock the old rebundled agency model and espouse new open architecture models based on collaboration across creative and media disciplines in a fluid project-based manner. Their view: Full service doesn’t help media specialization. Also, media decisions will be affected since media planners work closely with account planners, who prefer traditional media (print, TV, radio) solutions with less accent on non-traditional (direct, PR, events, digital etc.). Four ad and media experts debate the pros and cons of rebundling, or going back to the full-service agency model.
Meenakshi Madhvani
Managing partner, Spatial Access Media Solution Pvt. Ltd.
Yes
Meenakshi Madhvani
The hurry to launch media independents was triggered off in India when I set up Carat way back in 1997. By 1998 every agency had realised that there was a business opportunity in setting up media independents and all the media departments of agencies were spun off into media specialists.
The intervening decade has packed in close to 25 years of action and it’s time to change the model again. The media landscape has changed so radically it is scary. The market has become more competitive and consumers more demanding and less forgiving. Media fragmentation has accelerated to the point where inflation has to be examined every 6 months despite the fact that channel rates are going down every fortnight!
A marketer needs to be able to pivot on a penny and take decisions knowing that the only certainty is change. In such a scenario, it gives the brand a huge advantage if the media, market and consumer insights are all locate under one roof. It empowers the partners responsible for the health of the brand by ensuring they share knowledge of each specialist domain with each other. It gives the brand an edge when it comes to prioritising concepts and implementation to build synergy for the brand.
For agencies too the interaction across different disciplines stimulates ideas and concepts. More than anything else it will force creative teams to think beyond the myopia of 30 secs! Something that is sorely lacking today.
Will media neutral decisions be affected? The whole concept of media neutral solutions is based on the assumption that media agencies are committed to providing media neutral solutions. This basic assumption is flawed. Most media agencies (which are separate from the creative agency) get a brief saying ‘give me a media plan for xyz brand with ACD (average creative duration) of 30 seconds. Obviously the output will be a TV plan! Not enough attention is paid to the smaller less “powerful” media in an attempt to be quick (media agencies are never given enough time to develop plans) and efficient (same commissions with less effort).
Will specialization be impacted? True marketing professionals are generalists who can understand all aspects of the brand. Similiarly in media we need generalists who understand the spaces where the brand intersects with consumers and vehicles. This skill is dying out and in my opinion is crucial.
Patrick Stahle
CEO, Aegis Media Asia Pacific (holding company of Carat)
No
Patrick Stahle
One of the main reasons for creative agencies to bring back media in-house is because they are starting to lose the strategic service for clients to media agencies (and other agencies specialists such as PR or web). Almost as a matter of desperate action do they now claim re-bundling is the solution for the future. The creative agencies should rather start looking at their business model and service capacity.
The issue is not bundle or not. The issue is clients want an open architecture of consultants BUT with one of the consultants taking the strategic lead. That is not necessary the outcome of rebundling. Carat started in the mid sixties in Europe as an unbundled agency, fought and made good progress for decades and I think we can claim success by showing our growth, today we’re the largest single brand in Europe. Almost 10 years ago we realised we have to offer all communication services (except creative production) but it needs to be delivered in an open architecture. Again, these services represent more than a third of our business today.
Suggestions:The success factor for any agency constellation in the future is the ability to use the best specialist and integrate them in an effective solution for the clients. Two factors remain very important, first to understand consumer behaviour, secondly to be able to engage and connect the consumer to the brands in the new media landscape.
Again rebundling has nothing to do with this. Scale, media neutrality, transparency or creative execution can and are being solved in today’s unbundled market.
Don’t try to wind the clock back because it worked then, let’s find new solutions for the future instead.
Amit Ray
chief strategy officer, Bag Films & Media Ltd
Yes and No
Amit Ray
It all depends on the kind of clients that you hope to attract. Is the agency focusing more on PSUs? Indian public sector companies who go in for empanelment have always preferred full service agencies. Or even smaller companies with Indian roots as they need a well rounded and cost efficient structure. Agencies that adopt a full service model could be hoping to win or service significant business from such clients. Foreign multinationals operate differently. They look to put their creative business in one place, and the media business in the other.
Agencies that look to bring the full service model back may be those that are unable to attract sufficient spends from the multinationals.
Full service agencies could come with a lot of excuses (on work delays/inefficiencies etc) which is why most clients want two separate contracts; one with the media agency and one with the ad agency. In a full service model, you tend to look at overall delivery, but do not concentrate or focus on parts or specialization. My feeling is that the full service model will not come back so soon. International and in India, the trend is to bifurcate business because accountability is emerging paramount.
Would media-buying scale be impacted (since Mudra has separate media specialist brands too)? Scale does not help you get better rates. It’s a fallacy to think that way. If that were true, then all clients would seek only one agency.
Suggestions: There are many structures globally that are fluid collaborative models, but are not necessarily full service. These are all different ways of saying the same thing. It depends on what your end objectives are. Do you collaborate better via a fluid kind of set up? Or through a full-service model?
Mahesh Chauhan
Mahesh Chauhan
president, Rediffusion DY&R Pvt. Ltd
Yes
The international mandate is to keep creative and media separate. But if an agency wants to bring in a truly integrated set up, I see nothing wrong with it. There are clients that have full-service requirements and need well-rounded solutions. Clients have a choice here of taking what they want since the media agency exists side by side, with the full service model.
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First Published: Wed, Apr 09 2008. 10 30 AM IST