afaqs!

Points of View: Is the concept of a second agency gradually becoming redundant?

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | February 16, 2011
afaqs! spoke to industry folk and asked them whether the concept of second agencies is heading towards obsolescence.

In the recent past, several second agencies have either shut down operations or been reduced to a notional presence. Is the idea itself becoming obsolete?

Nadia Chauhan, Joint Managing Director, Parle Agro

The notion of a second agency is already obsolete. The concept is clearly an administrative move on the part of the parent agency, when approached by conflicting brands. Thus, most second agencies have very few businesses as they're, more often than not, brought in just for that one conflicting brand. Hence, second agencies end up with very limited portfolios.

Often, the second agency in question ends up getting pegged as the 'cheaper' alternative for the brand. In my opinion, second agencies can't do justice to big brands that have a strong plan and vision for the future. We have never believed in working with a second agency, and will never do so in the future, as well.

MG Parameswaran, ED & ECO, Mumbai, Draftfcb Ulka

As a concept, second agencies are alive and well. The 'holding company' has become the mother or the first agency, while second agencies (set up with a clear purpose) have also managed to grow and thrive.

What is in question is the 'quick fix' model of a second agency set-up to handle conflicting businesses. Unless the 'second' agency has a 'first' agency mindset, it has no place in today's market place.

The second agency has to have its DNA in place, somewhat similar to that of the first agency. It has to have the managerial depth, the talent pool, the processes and tools, and should be able to benefit from the first agency's investments in financial controls, IT, HR systems and the like. So, if the second agency can think like a first agency, but in a much more agile fashion, then the market for it will always exist.

Ravi Deshpande, Chairman & CCO, Contract Advertising

If we were to focus on advertising as an art form, which it most definitely is, then I would tend to disagree with the belief that second agencies are conflict-parking set-ups. A second agency is an 'agency' first, and a 'second agency' later.

If the agency must have any success at all, it's important to establish its soul and identity. It's important to give a meaning to its existence at a deeper level than just monetary gains from strategic business alignments. No agency with a talented bunch of people should have to get relegated to a little corner, and have to constantly look up to the bigger agency because they are bigger.

No venture can be truly successful if people just keep their sights on the end; it's important to concentrate on the means.

Abhijit Avasthi, NCD, Ogilvy India

I don't believe that the concept of a second agency is becoming redundant. Any agency - be it the first, second, or third - will perish or thrive based solely on merit. If the agency can satisfy its clients' strategic and creative needs, there is absolutely no reason for it not to grow.

There are many examples of second agencies flourishing over the years. With the Indian economy rocketing, over the next few years, many more players are going to come into each category and more categories will be created. The need to handle conflict will be a reality, which will further necessitate the creation of a second agency.

As long as there is clarity of purpose, great leadership at the helm, passionate people in the corridors and enough empowerment given to them, I see no reason for second agencies to not grow.

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