This year hasn't been particularly good for advertising agencies - or so it seems from the assorted reports of salary freezes, benched executives and pink slip handouts. Many agencies have been hit hard by clients launching austerity drives in various measures, cutting down on their media spends as the first step. Some agency branches - like MAA Bozell, Chennai - have suffered major setbacks giving rise to all sorts of conjectures - starting from how long it will take for it to come back on track or whether it was shutters down for this particular branch. agencyfaqs! decided to speak to the branch head for his part of the story.
MAA Bozell executives were only too eager to put things into perspective. For one, Ajay Lamba, vice-president, MAA Bozell, was emphatic that the agency had only axed seven 'redundant' staff. He said these seven people included two peons, a driver and some people in the administration department. "No one in our client servicing team has been touched," he said.
But what caused consternation in the advertising circles in Chennai is the fact that the agency has moved out of its plush office - which it had occupied for over a decade now - at MAA House, in the upmarket CP Ramaswamy Road in Chennai. "We need a smaller office. The retrenchment and move to a smaller office near our old office is a bid to cut down on extraneous expenditure. I can not see what is so strange in that. Most organisations today are tightening their belts and trying to put a lid on their expenditure," explained Lamba.
However, the fact remains that MAA Bozell in Chennai has been languishing with "insipid accounts", as an industry source puts it, for some time now. The Chennai branch had a billing of Rs 5 crore in March 2000, which grew to Rs 7 crore by March 2001. Most of its big accounts are industrial products like Carborundum 'Cumi' Universal, Spic-Caltex, Rane, Raheja Constructions and Dupont. Neither do these products fall in the high-involvement category such as FMCG goods, nor are they very active spenders on media.
"But we do expect a lot of new business to come to us here," retorted Lamba who had been busy shuttling between the Bangalore and Chennai offices, after senior executive Thomas Prakash quit the agency to join TVS Electronics in July this year. Thereafter, the agency has been losing people steadily, pointed out the branch head of another agency in Chennai. "When MAA guys come looking for employment opportunities, their biggest concern is that the branch may close down." Indeed, the branch is just left with five people.
All said, the palliative for its lacklustre show here could be the gain of the Rs 1-crore Hilton Golden Palms & Spa account in Bangalore earlier this week. "Hilton joins a string of prestigious accounts that we handle out of Bangalore," Lamba said. Besides this, the Bangalore branch handles tyre brand Volvo, Featherlite furniture, Insomnia (a new nightclub), Coorg Coffee Works (communications for its outlets only), Societe Generale (IT company), Raheja Constructions, HP-Iso and TTK Textiles (the Tantex brand) among others. It has lost the Coorg Coffee corporate account to Saatchi & Saatchi around three months ago and the TTK Prestige account to Mudra recently.
For the records, MAA Bozell's total billings for March 2000 stood at Rs 175 crore and it was unwilling to disclose the billing for March 2001 because, as Lamba pointed out, "the results are still to be audited".
© agencyfaqs! 2001