Brand Activation Summit 2010: Brand activation is measurable, provided agencies get a one-point agenda from clients

By Sangeeta Tanwar , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | March 22, 2010
In the second panel discussion, industry experts debated whether agencies and clients are game for innovation, when it comes to brand activation

At the second panel discussion at the Brand Activation Summit 2010, organised by afaqs! events in association with Jagran Solutions, panellists spiritedly debated about the right currency or parameter to measure the return on investment for a brand activation programme.

& #BANNER1 & #The panelists comprised Ajay Sharma, director and promotions, Momentum; Sumit Arora, associate director and head, Synovate Moto Research; and Sameer Kaul, marketing head, Dr Lal Path Labs. The discussion was moderated by Venke Sharma, senior vice-president and director, Arc Worldwide.

The moderator began the session by underscoring the fact that brand activation is a preeminent discipline, as it preceded other media. Even in the past, messages were spread by word of mouth -- that is the best example of brand activation. Elaborating on the definition of brand activation, he said, "How brands relate to human beings is not advertising, but acts (brand activation)."

Dwelling on client expectations from a brand activation campaign, Sharma said that it spanned amplification of the client's mass media campaign, achieving not only footfalls, but building a brand or touching all the stakeholders in the value chain, including consumers, salesmen and retailers.

In the absence of a single currency to measure the impact of brand activation, the moderator asked the panellists about ways to determine the ROI of a brand activation campaign.

Responding to the query, Momentum's Sharma observed that the question was not how to measure the returns of a campaign; the need was to first figure out what needs to be measured. In the absence of a single-point agenda from clients, it is confusing to arrive at expected deliverables from an activation programme, he said. According to Sharma, agencies need to tell clients that they are not the company's sales force; thus, it is important for clients to be crystal clear about the end result that they expect from an activation programme.

Representing the client side, Kaul of Dr Path Labs emphasised that all that matters to the marketer is the top line of the company; and any promotional initiative -- call it ATL (above-the-line) or BTL (below-the-line) -- is a means to this end. Isolating the impact of an activity is futile, because the growth of a brand is the combined effect of a host of factors, and not just a sustained advertising-marketing campaign.

He pointed out that each industry has its idiosyncrasies; thus, it becomes paramount to not lose sight of other contributing factors, such as demographics and aspirations of a brand's target group, in determining the success or failure of a campaign. It would be unwise to overlook the rub-off effect of other factors, while measuring the ROI of an activation campaign.

Comparing the ROI mechanism and its contribution to the success of media, Arora of Synovate pointed out that marketers put their money on TV, because of the measurability of that medium. GRPs (gross rating points) are an accepted parameter to measure return on one's investment.

By that standard, he reiterated that brand activation too is quantifiable. This could be done on both micro and macro levels. The first measure is to employ traditional tools of evaluating the activity, in terms of its contribution in building brand equity. On the macro level, the specific plan and its execution, and the resultant increase in sales, need to be evaluated.

Arora added, "Brand activation pushes people to purchase a brand; therefore, one needs to measure this to arrive at ROI for brand activation."

The moderator raised another question related to agencies' approach towards activations, in terms of the costs involved and quality of work in an industry, where there is no standardised rate-card to be followed. In an environment where the presence of multiple vendors results in fierce competition on pricing, the moderator expressed concern over agencies getting oversensitive towards pricing and ending up compromising the quality of work.

The panellists acknowledged that they do run the risk of falling for the lowest quotations, but in such a situation, both the client and the agency should be realistic in evaluating the outcome of the activity. Taking the debate forward, Kaul pointed out that the activation industry is showing signs of maturing, as both clients and agencies are showing interest in experimentation and innovation.

Bringing the discussion to an end, Kaul gave the agency heads some food for thought, when he said that clients see advantage in being the first off the block, in terms of taking initiative for a brand. At the same time, a majority of the companies are risk-averse; because marketing is still an expense for them, rather than an investment.

The Brand Activation Summit 2010 was presented by Jagran Solutions and Star News was Session Sponsor.

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