How differently does one need to think to be on par with established players? What does it take to stand out successfully, leaving behind tried and tested ideas? At The Independent Agency Showcase 2010, Karen Corrigan and Greg Titeca from Happiness Brussels; Alexandre Pasini from Sid Lee; and Agnello Dias from Taproot India presented their disruptive philosophies about running an independent agency. The session was moderated by Julian Boulding, president, thenetworkone.
Titeca spoke of creative management, and said that the right idea needs to have a proper balance of creativity and strategy. Corrigan presented Happiness' concept of Undefined Perpetually Mutating Specimen (UPMS), as she said that the agency does not subscribe to the idea of being specifically defined.
She said that Happiness follows the principle of "Bye Bye Supertankers and Hello Speedboat". It's not about the size of the agency and the number of people; and Happiness would continue with its Speedboat model even as it grows, she explained.
The duo also explained the significance of being "digital virgins" rather than "digital specialists", when it came to working better on the medium. "Technology should not lead ideas; but ideas should lead technology," said Corrigan.
She said that it is very important to keep challenging the status quo and push boundaries. "Clients choose independent agencies for what you are. Have principles and stick to them. Do not fake yourself," she noted.
Ending their presentation, they said that one of the most important ideas and Happiness' motto is to eventually be happy. It must be remembered that everything one does is to make people happy; and it is great work that makes everyone happy, they noted.
Pasini, director of strategic planning and partner, Sid Lee followed the Happiness duo with his mantra of 'collectiveness'. The independent agency, with offices in Amsterdam and Paris, believes strongly in this mantra, attacking the traditional model of working in structures. So much so, that the word 'collective' can be seen above the company logo on the front door of the agency's offices.
"How we approach our business is by putting together one of the most multi-disciplinary teams from various backgrounds," Pasini said. According to him, the benefit of such an arrangement is to be able to integrate many different ideas on a single project, and also the ability to handle projects of varied nature. The agency also follows a flat structure and does not have the usual designations.
"We do not just do stuff, or propose stuff. We do what we propose," Pasini said.
The final speaker of the session, Dias, co-founder, Taproot India spoke about why he chose to leave behind the comforts of JWT India and start the agency with Santosh Padhi. Dias decided to move on, because he could not have been content being just one part of a machinery.
"I realised that JWT is a part of a big mechanism. We (Dias and Padhi) were doing a lot of things, we did not know why, at our respective agencies. It was all clockwork; but then I thought clockwork was best left to clocks," he said.
Cheekily, he remarked that he soon realised why Taproot India was touted as the hottest agency around, when, within a couple of months of the agency's launch, a freak fire burnt down its office.
"The challenges of running an agency are different. Taproot was born the day it burnt down," said Dias.
Putting forward the odds that were stacked against the agency and how it overcame them, Dias first presented the case of the campaign Taproot did for Transasia's Conquerer Papers.
Without technological help, papers were rolled up on board colourfully, capturing the various facets of India. The campaign has been shortlisted for the Press Lions this year.
Dias also showcased the agency's work for the The Times of India's 'Aman Ki Asha' initiative.
"Never have I been scared of briefs; but this one scared me," he said of the campaign.
The campaign presentation received an overwhelming response from the audience, as Dias pointed out that Aman Ki Asha put forward the power of advertising; since a brave initiative was carried out in the wake of escalated tensions between India and Pakistan.
Wrapping up the session and reacting to Dias' presentation, Boulding remarked that the talk, which began with trying to understand why one entered a particular business; had eventually moved to understanding why one entered the advertising industry.