The acquisition of Naked Communications (NC) by the Photon Group in February means the communication planning agency has all the financial backing it needs to enter new markets, India included. Nigel Long, chief executive officer, NC, talks to Mint about the future plans and key focus areas of the London-based agency which handles brands such as Nokia, Coca-Cola, Kimberly-Clarke and Unilever.
What are NC’s India plans?
At the moment, we are really just reviewing the potential of India generally, but Mumbai quite specifically, for a Naked offering. Which is about obsessing over the level of client demands for communication strategy in particular, but also (about) how the market would react to Naked more generally as a brand and as a proposition.
I think we need to assess the level of client appetite, the level of complexity. We do well in markets that are pretty mature and pretty complex, where clients are looking for advice and navigation. So, it is not that we have major concerns or anything. It is more that we are selling advice and so, is there a preparedness and appetite for that kind of service? So, I suppose you could call it a feasibility study at the moment.
Why wouldn’t there be a preparedness for this service?
Nigel Long, CEO of Naked Communications
I think some markets are very executionally driven. There is a kind of unhealthy obsession with the end of the value chain. We are an upstream advisory firm. We really add most value where communication issues and communication problems are quite complex. That normally involves multiple territories, the application of digital, multichannel media markets, and so on.
So, we are obviously interested in Mumbai, it’s at the top of our list. The broad macro trends are already of interest to us; if at all, we’re just getting more granular. So, if we do come, we will aim to come towards the end of 2008.
How would NC plan to enter India—as a start-up, an alliance or through an acquisition?
We would look at all three…a pure start-up, an alliance, and we would look at acquisitions. Our preference, and the thing we’ve had most success with in big markets, is start-ups. And my preference would be to find the right talent and build something from the ground up.
Following its recent acquisition by the Photon Group, which areas will NC focus on?
We will look at some in-filling, possibly a second office in the US; might also look at some in-filling in Germany. And, China is always on the agenda. It is on everyone’s agenda. But, Mumbai is probably the most significant market we are currently looking at.
In terms of specialized services, three areas that we are increasingly looking at are digital and the roll-out of our digital network, which is called Hyper; also, we’re looking at data—data mining, data analysis. And we are looking at evaluation, brand evaluation so, looking at evaluation of campaigns, basically greater accountability of client expenditure. With all these new channels, new ways to market and new ways to reach clients, there is more and more pressure for marketing expenditure to be accounted for.
How has advertising changed over the years? What impact will it have on award formats?
If you go back in time to the 1960s and 1970s, advertising meant everything that spoke to a customer. It was really an evolution of the word publicity, sort of publi-tizing, if you like. And then it really just became about the paid-for media; we moved into advertising, meaning TV, radio, press, posters.
I think we are in a time where, once again, it is about everything. So, I think it has become all about communication, and advertising is a very small sub-sector of communication. Which is the thing all of us must try and understand. What it means for awards is that they have to encompass everything, which is very hard. It’s a dilemma—do you have an award for every single channel between a consumer and a brand? It’s not feasible, nor do I think it is in the best interests of everybody. But, equally, you have to encompass all the new and growing things, from social networking to sports, and so on. It’s not easy. But I think there is too much focus on awards, really.
How important is it for agencies to be peopled with specialists from diverse backgrounds?
It’s extremely important. Clients are much more knowledgeable about what we do and about what does and doesn’t have an impact on their consumers. In order for agencies to add value…to be value additives rather than just the executional, delivery merchants, really, we have to have specialist knowledge and it has to be at different levels within the organization.
I think that at the senior level within agencies, you need to have a broad understanding of integrated communications; probably, at the junior level you need to have highly specialized knowledge to guide individual components of the communications mix.
Does Naked handle any clothing brands?
Yes, we do, we do some work for GAP!