As the afternoon progressed at the Goafest Advertising Conclave held at the Zuri White Sands, Goa, the third session on April 7 saw Colvyn Harris, chief executive officer, JWT India talking about how advertising agencies must approach work. Joining Harris was Rohini Abraham, senior vice-president, PQR, a specialist unit of IMRB International, who presented the findings of in-depth interviews conducted with senior industry leaders.
Harris began by saying that he is a believer in the power of brands.
Harris said that while there shall always be problems, things will change only if agencies collectively decide to take action.
He remarked that agencies must put the client, brand and the business at the centre of everything and offer honest advice and solutions to the advertiser, instead of what is profitable.
In particular, Harris spoke of the social media, which has seen unprecedented growth and pointed out that it is the users in the social media space that need to be focussed on. "Maybe, we fear that there would not be enough revenue to earn out of it, but see it from the client's perspective," he said.
Saying that people will always chase brands, he further stressed on brand power. "Brands will always play a crucial role - and as long as brands do that, agencies will continue to play a crucial role," Harris said.
Abraham presented the IMRB findings. To arrive at a consensus on the challenges ahead, both advertisers and agencies were spoken to. "When we spoke to clients and agencies, we found that the issues were not different, but the perspectives were," she said.
The biggest issue turned out to be talent. While agencies said that it has become increasingly hard to attract and retain talent, advertisers, while acknowledging the problem, were of the view that agencies do not have the processes to address the issue.
Going forward, while agencies pointed out that the current remuneration is pressing the bottom line, impacting talent acquisition and retention, advertisers said that they are always ready to re-negotiate, provided they are assured adequate value.
During the course of the interviews, agencies also suggested that they could be a part of the advertisers' profits by putting a value to ideas. Advertisers welcomed the thought, asking how agencies planned to do the same.
Regarding consumer understanding, advertisers were of the view that neither agencies nor companies understand consumers. Agencies, however, said that consumer understanding is restricted by time and resource.
At this point, Harris said, "We do not really know the consumer. We know Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, but not the consumer. Why should the client pay if the agency does not know any more than what even a housewife probably knows?"
The perspectives of the agency and the advertiser on new media were also discussed. While both agreed that it is an emerging platform, agencies were of the view that television still remains the main medium and the advertiser was concerned about what the agency is doing to put the brand in the centre.
Other issues discussed included the business of deconstructing offerings and increasing specialisation. Agencies obviously said that specialisation is good for the industry, facilitating greater focus and market growth. Clients, however, revealed that while specialisation works well, it is a source of confusion.
Closing the session, Harris said that talent, consumer-centricity, creativity, digital and technology, and integrated communication are the factors that will drive the future for agencies.
He reiterated the need to pay maximum attention to the brand, business and the advertiser, and focus on the long-term, rather than having short-term perspectives.
"Everyone read the newspaper today. How many of you can really remember an ad though? That is the sadness of this industry," remarked Harris. "If you do not have the excitement of this profession, do not be in it. What advertising today needs is 'one tight slap'. Get out of the slumber and do something new," Harris said at the end of the session.