Cavelossim Beach, Goa: Clients of advertising agencies are increasingly cynical of the value agencies bring to the table, and it appears that agency chiefs also have their share of scepticism.
D. Shivakumar, vice-president of Nokia India Pvt. Ltd, set the ball rolling when he remarked that the respect quotient between ad agencies and their clients was heading south. He was speaking at India’s premier advertising awards festival Goafest 2008, which kicked off on Thursday with an industry conclave. The awards will be presented on 4 and 5 April.
In an afternoon session, called ‘Adwalle — Kaarigar ya Kalakaar’, Harit Nagpal, marketing and new business director at Vodafone Essar Ltd, said, “With all the leaps that the market is taking, every buck has to push itself harder. It’s simplistic to say that I deliver an idea and the rest will all follow. Agencies need to bring more to the table.”
Nagpal said that most companies had stopped inviting ad agencies for long-range plans because agencies did not seem to be interested. “So I have my marketing manager, the finance guy, the guy who does distribution, etc., and even the reseaChirch agency, but the ad agency is not invited.”
As a result, both agencies and clients lose out in the long run, he said. Nagpal, however, clarified that Vodafone had corrected this.
Ad man V. Shantakumar, chief of Saatchi and Saatchi Pvt. Ltd, underlined that agencies need to be paid adequately.
“The word agency is Victorian. It refers to us as brokers. We seem to think of ourselves as a facilitator of ad spends, for which we get commissions. Getting a 1% commission is demeaning. Apart from commodity dealers, real estate and arms dealers, there is no industry in the world that works on a set commission based on somebody else spending some amount for a service.”
Shantakumar agreed that agencies should step up efforts to command their rightful monies.
He said that agencies are not being seen as consultants or as strategy partners by the client. If the client spends sleepless nights about profits going down, then agencies, too, should worry about it.
“We are so busy creating 30-second commercials in our offices that most ad agency people do not travel to small towns to see what consumers are really like,” he said, adding, “We want to be kaarigars (artisans). But the science of advertising has come a long way than the art of it.”
R. Balakrishnan, chairman of ad agency Lowe India, who was sitting in the audience, said he did not agree clients were losing respect for agencies.
“If anything, they place greater value on the idea than us. They know it brings profitability to the business and they value it. A great deal went in creating a 30-second commercial and clients know it.”
In a separate conversation with Mint, he said, “Today the biggest problem for most ad agencies is time. I cannot be a part of the client’s long range plans, annual grand meets, etc., and frankly, its not my job to do so.”
“As for travelling to small towns and seeing what consumers are ‘really’ like, no advertising man can have a 1,000 people on his mind and then create an ad. Why do I have to go out and discover this elusive consumer? I myself am a consumer. I live in the same world.”