Goafest 2010: Agency is redundant, call it communication consultant

By Antara Ghosal , afaqs!, Goa | In Advertising | April 09, 2010
The session revolved around how agencies can raise the bar in terms of their capabilities

Advertisers can reap the benefits of higher returns on advertising investment only if agencies invest in resources and systems, substantially raising the bar on their capabilities through innovation and investment.

So, are agencies doing enough in this regard? What stops them from doing more? Are agencies getting distracted from their core function of creativity by going into different verticals that make more money than basic creativity? Is this because clients are not paying adequately for creativity? All these questions and much more were under discussion at the second last session of the first day of Goafest 2010.

"It is time to grow the capabilities of the agencies," agreed the panel of speakers, which comprised Srinivasan Swamy, chairman and managing director, RK Swamy/BBDO; LK Gupta, chief marketing officer, LG; and Shailesh Rao, managing director, Google India. The discussion was moderated by Colvyn Harris, chief executive officer, JWT India.

Harris started the discussion by stating that functioning in verticals is no distraction for an agency. To drive home his point, he put forward the example of his own agency, which began as a full service agency, then became a creative one and has now started functioning again in verticals, providing end to end solutions to its clients.

Swamy of RK Swamy/BBDO seconded him and took the session forward by discussing the impediments that lie before the growth of the agencies. "One of the biggest impediments is that for the last 50-60 years, the agencies are having the same structure. It is time to change the agency structure," he said.

He added, "We need to stop calling ourselves 'agencies' because we no longer do agency service. We should call ourselves consultants. Once we are called communication consultants, things will be easier for us."

While sharing the recipe for growth, he urged agencies to focus on engaging clients rather than simply transacting with them. The agency, he said, should also focus on getting the right kind of people on board. "It is the people who make the agency. We need to get people who are jack of all trades and master of some and not one," he explained.

Gupta of LG took the discussion forward, adding the advertisers' viewpoint to it. He stated that the core function of an ad agency is to build a brand through communication and not just to get obsessed with creativity. "To me, it appears that the agency people get unnecessarily obsessed with creativity, rather than brand management. As an advertiser, I would appreciate it if my agency takes interest in understanding our business, makes an effort to decipher how the different touch points act, how the consumers behave and also help us with insights which are unknown to us."

He further added, "I would like to see the agencies making concerted efforts in getting beyond the same old 100 cc full page print ad or 30 second TV commercials. A whole new world is unfolding with new opportunities, newer media and new form of advertising - the agencies just need to expand their horizons."

Following this, Rao of Google India added a 'Google' perspective to the whole session. "Web advertising is changing drastically. It is no more four lines of text and has got way beyond it. We at Google understand that we need to work together with agencies as partners to deliver such progressive campaigns. Accordingly, we conduct training programmes such as Agency Academy and Google Ad Professional Certification Programme to bridge the gap between us."