Goafest 2013: Agencies and clients share responsibility for ads

By Rashmi Menon , afaqs!, Goa | In Advertising | April 05, 2013
In a session at the Goafest Conclave, marketers spoke about advertising ethics and trends that raise concern.

The evening sessions of the Goafest Advertising Conclave 2013, which took place at Zuri White Sands, Goa, again saw marketers sharing concerns about the agencies, the dynamics of client-agency relationships and their experiences and expectations of advertising agencies.

Arunabh Das Sharma

Harit Nagpal

Sunil Alagh

R S Sodhi

Arundhati Bhattacharya

Nitin Paranjpe

Arunabh Das Sharma, president, revenue, Bennett, Coleman & Co listed out the five trends, admittedly micro-trends, which were nevertheless bothering. The first trend was agencies seeing the world through 30-second television commercials, which indicated lack of focus on the bigger picture. He pointed out how, at Cannes, most of the Indian works won awards in the Film and Film Craft categories rather than creative work. "So, don't focus on one aspect of the creative pool," he suggested.

The second trend concerned separation of creative, media and account planning. Sharma felt there is a demise of planning due to genuine lack of market insight. "Many keep obsessing about trying to create consumer insight. That is the reason why most ads seem or sound similar," he said.

Another trend, he noted, was that of media planning being subservient to buyers. As a result, one does not see high quality media planning, he said. The fourth trend, he said, dealt with decline in the quality of "client-facing" talent, which he explained was due to lack of creativity and forethought, high attrition rate of talent and struggles to match compensation compared to other sectors.

The last trend, according to Das Sharma, was more universal in nature and centred around overused excuses given by agencies.

Harit Nagpal, managing director and CEO, Tata Sky, illuminated on the tumultuous client-agency relationship. For the marketers, he cautioned that agencies only helped achieve clients' business goals, and did not actually build marketing strategy, help in sales growth or even achieve business objectives.

Nagpal said that marketers should get specialists to manage the discipline they wanted to opt for promotions and advertising, instead of going to an agency that simply translated a thought/idea for different media, irrespective of whether it suited a medium.

He gave four basic mantras to clients and agencies - take a stand, stay a specialist, clarify the roles, and adapt to the complexity of the present situation.

All the speakers of the day then came together for a panel discussion moderated by Sunil Alagh, founder and CEO, SKA Advisors. Alagh kick-started the discussion with the issue of ethical advertising, where the speakers agreed that while ads over-claimed and then entered into a grey area, agencies alone could not be held responsible.

"Both agencies and clients are responsible for such ads," stated R S Sodhi, managing director, GCMMF (Amul).

Arundhati Bhattacharya, managing director, SBI Capital Markets, observed that in the service sector, maintaining standards was a very difficult task, especially when the ads over-claimed or misrepresented facts. "When an ad claims something and if there is no internal communication on the claimed services, it can get dangerous," she explained, noting that even if a client asked for over-claiming or ads with wrong claims, agencies have to step in and warn the clients against them.

Answering a question about specialist agencies, Nitin Paranjpe, managing director and CEO, HUL, remarked that many traditional agencies may not have skills in digital media, due to which the clients have to opt for specialised digital agencies. However, in times to come, digital will become mainstream and then marketers would look for integrated agencies, he predicted.

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