War on slowdown: Contract, armed and poised for attack

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | February 27, 2009
Contract Advertising has devised an initiative on the lines of an ideas pool for its clients - a process of exploring cost-effective ideas in non-traditional media, to counter the threats posed by the slowdown

Ravi Deshpande, chairman and chief creative officer, Contract Advertising, has no plans of letting the economic slowdown slow his agency down. To ensure everyone's on their toes with cost-effective communication solutions for clients, Contract has devised an ideas pool of sorts, and christened it "Let's Make a Difference". Essentially, this initiative is to improve clients' bottom-lines in these tough times.

This is how it works. Contract chose some clients who require cost-effective solutions in non-traditional media, and urged every individual in the agency, whether in the servicing, creative or planning departments, to come up with an idea each on the selected brands, with deadlines to boot. But this was kept flexible - a person could come up with more than one idea per brand, or even ideate for Contract's other brands that were not presently in the list.

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As a result, Contract had some 215 ideas within a few weeks of the first exercise; almost 85 per cent of its staff came up with some idea or the other. These ideas were shortlisted to 95 feasible ones, which were further cut down to 54. These were then put to a jury, which comprised some of Contract's own clients.

These ideas weren't without rewards. To encourage employee participation, a Grand Prix, a Gold, a Silver and a Bronze metal will be awarded to the top four ideas, while 10 Merit awards are also being given out.

According to Deshpande, the slowdown challenge can be handled effectively by flipping it around and creating low-cost, meaningful consumer engagement models, which end up saving client monies.

This could be a media innovation, a creative solution, a promotion idea, a business idea, a new distribution channel, cross-selling ideas, feasible collaborations/alliances, or even a new product idea.

The agency plans on continuing this activity for two years at least, with one such contest every quarter or sooner. The next brief to the Contract team is to create ideas for the digital medium. Other non-traditional media, such as retail, may follow. If the slowdown reverses before that, well, then nobody loses out, as cost-effective solutions are always welcomed by clients.

"We're very clearóLet's Make a Difference has no room for TV scripts, above-the-line activities or larger campaign thoughts," says planner Rohit Srivastava, Contract's executive vice-president. "This is a proactive initiative to partner our clients and help them keep the wheels of their business turning."

According to Srivastava, an economic recession can be handled as long as there is no "recession of ideas", which is exactly the area that this activity hopes to address.

Umesh Shrikhande, CEO, Contract, says, "In an era when consumers are postponing major purchases, or coming up with reasons not to buy things, it's our job to engage them in a manner where they see value in the brand." And the right to come up with this solution, according to him, need not just be the creative department, which is why the initiative pans all the three key departments of the agency.

"With client budgets under strain, and cost-effectiveness being the order of the day, we're hoping that this is one of the many ways we can fight the slowdown," says Deshpande. "And judging by the enthusiasm and response that we're getting, I think we're on the right track."

On execution, if these solutions work well in the marketplace, then gradually, this activity will spread across the Contract clientele, Deshpande tells afaqs!