BBH, which had set foot in India towards the end of 2008, with the clear intention of not becoming "yet another advertising agency", has introduced a new discipline in the sub-continent -- engagement planning.
The agency claims to have been the first one to introduce the concept globally about three years ago. The agency's London, New York and Singapore offices already have this function in place. To steward this function in India, BBH has roped in Chandrashekhar L from Walt Disney, as brand partner, engagement planning.
Touted as one of the hot topics of discussion for communication companies globally, engagement planning brings in strategic inputs from the world over, about how people engage with a brand. After media and creative agencies got separated, this area of strategy is believed to have suffered, and creative agencies have been losing out on this opportunity. Especially with new media, engagement strategy and content strategy need to go hand in hand.
Sinha feels that, as of now, the creative agency in India is only about "what to say", but with the new function, it will be also about how the brand should engage with the audience. So, in a way, will it take a leaf out of the books of media planning and buying agencies?
Refutes Sinha, "We will not do any media planning or distribution; neither will we compete with media planning agencies. What we would be suggesting is the medium, whether interactive or TV or anything else."
Unlike media planning, which delivers on the basis of creative campaigns and suggests where best to expose them, engagement planning would step in at the initial phases and will deliver key inputs for the creative campaign.
New media will utilise this function all the more, especially because, unlike traditional media, it is very audience-specific. As a result, when it comes to this medium, the need to engage the audience in an appropriate manner becomes essential.
Chandrashekhar elaborates, "While the strategic planner in an agency would think from the brand point of view, the engagement planner would consider the consumer point of view. For example, if we take Axe as a brand, the strategic planner would talk about seduction, while the engagement planner would suggest the best medium to engage in, may it be mobile, virals, etc."
With advertising moving away from being a passive to an actively engaging function, the need for engagement planning is all the more pressing, he feels. "Globally, Johnnie Walker and Axe are some excellent examples of brands built through this function," he says.
Though Chandrashekhar is the lone member of this division as of now, the agency is planning to hire four to five more people by the end of the year. When asked about the profile of an engagement planner, Chandrashekhar maintains that the person has to be media savvy, with experience in both broadcast and digital media, as well as in brand management.
Chandrashekhar, who will work closely with the London office of BBH, completed his post-graduation from MICA in 2004 and started his career with TAM, where he worked with the broadcast strategy and consulting wing, S-Group. He headed key accounts such as Viacom, Sony Networks, NDTV, Sahara, ETV and Disney, for around three years. During this tenure, two of his media research papers got presented at the ESOMAR and Worldwide Audience Measurement (WAM) Conference at Dublin in 2007.
His last assignment was with Walt Disney Television, where he spent over two years and was responsible for on-air and off-air marketing for two network channels -- Hungama TV and Jetix, and digital marketing for the network. He also had a short stint with ITC Foods in the media planning and buying division.