Second agencies come to digital advertising

By Tarana Khan , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | June 04, 2008
BC Web Wise has launched a second agency to handle competing clients. Are digital agencies coming of age?

In the & #BANNER1 & # first such move by a digital agency in India, Mumbai based BC Web Wise has launched a second agency, Big i Tuna, to handle conflicting accounts.

BC Web Wise already has clients such as Hindustan Unilever Ltd, PepsiCo, Hero Honda, Junior Horlicks and Microsoft. To handle conflicting businesses such as Georgia (Coca-Cola India) and Bournvita, it has launched Big i Tuna. The new agency also has Rolling Stone magazine in its kitty.

Chaya Brian Carvalho, managing director and chief executive officer, BC Web Wise, says, "The lesson actually came from traditional agencies. I think it's a natural progression to capture the business opportunities in the market."

Besides handling conflicting business, the two sibling agencies will have non-identical images. Carvalho says that Big i Tuna will be more "creatively led", while BC Web Wise has its strengths in community building and design. Big i Tuna is a subsidiary and a separate entity, but both agencies will share production resources.

Chaya Brian Carvalho

Harish Bahl

Ajit Narayan
The concept of second agencies is not new in the advertising agency business. When business conflicts get too large to handle, most large agencies create second agencies to handle competing accounts. Some of these have gone on to become successful agencies on their own, while others have simply faded into the background.

Contract Advertising started off as a second agency of JWT, but is a full fledged agency in its own right today. Other well known examples are Leo Burnett's Orchard Advertising, O&M's Meridian and Rediffusion's Everest Brand Solutions. On the other hand, Euro RSCG closed down its second agency, Lemon, probably because it did not deliver to expectations. In an effort to revamp its second agency, SSC&B Lintas, Lowe India recently created a new agency, Pickle.

The question is, are digital agencies coming of age where they can consider second agencies to handle the increasing volume of business in online marketing? Apart from winning competing brands, the move could also help agencies such as BC Web Wise to scale their business in a medium where advertising expenditure is still below 10 per cent of the budget.

Harish Bahl, CEO, Smile Interactive Technologies Group (SITG), says that the company did consider a second agency for its digital agency (Quasar Media), but found that having separate teams worked just as well. Of course, this also depends on the nature of the duties performed by the agency.

Bahl explains, "Whether you need a second agency actually depends on the clients' mindsets. In the e-commerce business, it is actually considered a strength if you have already worked in the same industry. Therefore, if we have created a job portal, another job portal would have no qualms in approaching us to create their portal. However, second agencies may be necessary when you are dealing with large media clients."

Bahl adds that Quasar's competing clients have no major problems when their accounts are handled by separate teams.

The reservation still remains: Does the volume of business in digital advertising justify creating a second agency? Ajit Narayan, head, strategic planning, Asia, 1010 (141 Sercon's digital agency), says, "It only makes sense if you have a big account. However, the creative pie in online advertising is not that big, neither is the value of the business."