This agency wants to give free ads to five startups...

By Suraj Ramnath , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | November 21, 2017
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Utopeia turns five. On the occasion, the team flips the pitch process around and invites briefs from five cash-strapped startups. The carrot? Free ads!

When was the last time a creative agency called a client for a pitch and decided to give them a free ad? Utopeia Communicationz was launched on November 20, 2012 and completed five years yesterday. The managing partners of the agency include Sudarshan Banerjee, Mitali Srivastava Hough, Sean Colaco, Krishna Padhye, and Krishnaraj Bhat.

To mark the occasion of their fifth anniversary, the agency has launched a new campaign. The entire ad copy is a call out to startups with a heading that boldly states - "Which agency offers a free campaign in the name of love? Utopeia does". The ad continues with - "In the winter of 2012, Utopeia was just another budding startup ad agency. Five years later, after working across diverse categories and brands, we have decided to give back to the place where we came from. We know the pangs of starting a new venture and the obstacles one faces along the way. We've been there. We've done that. That's why we are giving a leg-up to the five most deserving startups in the country with five free ads from our side. As an agency that aims to Bring Back The Love, this is a token of love from us to all budding entrepreneurial ventures." The final call to action was for companies to send in a brief.

From (L-R): Krishna Padhye, Sudarshan Banerjee, Mitali Srivastava Hough, Sean Colaco and Krishnaraj Bhat From (L-R): Krishna Padhye, Sudarshan Banerjee, Mitali Srivastava Hough, Sean Colaco and Krishnaraj Bhat

We asked Banerjee how the agency would select the five most deserving startups. He says, "We don't know how many people are going to apply. If there are only five, then each of them gets an ad. If we get more than five, then we want to look at people who are deserving of an ad. If a startup has funding, I would assume that they would have some money to allocate towards advertising and marketing. The client would have done their homework for the agencies they want to work with and all of that. But if you don't have funding and are at a stage where you have to popularise your startup to get funding, then you would be a preferred choice."

He adds, "If you are a large-scale startup, then I guess you have your finances planned out and advertising or marketing spends are not a pain for you, so that's the idea. The thought is not if a Shopclues, Flipkart or Myntra apply saying they wish to take part that they are not going to be preferred over somebody who is less known."

The banner ad is going to be promoted through social media platforms from today. "We will get our friends to share it as well", adds Banerjee.

Banerjee tells afaqs! that it's not necessary that the agency would make only print ads for the selected startups. He says, "Someone would want to get their logo made, someone would want to get their stationary done, someone would want a direct mailer, and someone who wants a film would have to talk separately, otherwise all other advertising materials will be made. Even if it is a TVC or a digital video film, I am ready to give them a script for free and they can get it produced from whomsoever they want to or if they need help with production, then we can help too."

The agency has asked the startups to send in their briefs rather than a client sending a brief and asking the agency to present. When we asked Banerjee about it, he says with a smile, "It is not like that; we never thought of it like that. We could have done five free ads for any other brands that we like and presented to them. But what we are saying is that after five years, we know the pangs of being a startup and the problems that you face because you don't have enough money for everything and you have to choose one over another."

He adds, "If you go to Powai and such other areas, you will see doors on which there is a new dotcom website's name written; one which you have never heard of. But you never heard of it because they never had the money to advertise; but the ones you have heard of, have advertised."

Since the agency isn't sure about how many entries are going to come in, we asked Banerjee if they have a soft corner for a specific category/ genre while selecting these startups or would it be a neutral decision. He says, "We are going to keep it completely neutral. Initially, we thought of doing it for five NGOs, then again, we thought it would sound like a cliché and it is something that has been done before. But if you have time, you should anyway do a CSR activity for the NGOs. This is about our fifth year anniversary and giving something back to the startup ecosystem"

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