Sumanto Chattopadhyay (Right) & V.S. Srikanth
In today's fragmented media landscape, most brands struggle with the problem of hiring too many custodians - each specialised firm has to be briefed separately. One trend that counters this is called 'in-housing' by marketers - wherein advertisers equip their internal teams with specialised skills - not the most time, and labour, effective solution.
To counter this, many agencies are trying out an outsourcing based model - the brand briefs just one agency, after which that agency commissions bits of the work to specialised shops out there, takes responsibility for all the inputs and delivers the final solution to the client.
WPP's newly launched 82.5 Communications, an Ogilvy group agency, is based on a similar model; the team calls it an 'open source model', wherein they partner with many different firms depending on the needs of a given client, put all the solutions through a "brand filter" and serve a composite end result to the advertiser.
KV Sridhar's HyperCollective is one of the most recent examples of such a set up. In the past we've seen firms like Utopeia Communicationz and Sideways do the same. There have been others too.
We spoke to the leadership of the newly launched 82.5 - Sumanto Chattopadhyay, chairman and chief creative officer, and VS Srikanth, CEO, about this model.
Sumanto has been in the Ogilvy family since 1993 and held the same title at Soho Square until now. Soho will cease to exist as an entity and the agency's clients will be handled by 82.5 (Bisleri, Franklin Templeton, Tata Motors, Havells, Lux and National Payments Corporation of India [NPCI] to name a few.)
Srikanth's most recently held title was director and CEO of Bates CHI & Partners India, the WPP agency that acquired Temple Advertising in 2014. Temple was founded by Srikanth (along with Manmohan Anchan and Vidur Vohra) in 2004.
What led to the genesis of 82.5 Communications?
Sumanto: Today, the entire communication landscape in India and around the globe, has changed and we said that while Soho Square existed as a second agency of the Ogilvy group; it has to have a distinct positioning and a distinct vision for itself; otherwise it shouldn't exist. Everybody has a conflict management agency as a second agency and Soho Square started off like that. Going into the future, if there's going to be a second agency, it has to have its own positioning and vision and so we looked at the kind of clients that we had at Soho Square last year and realised that 90 per cent are Indian entrepreneurs. We had a few multinational clients too - what they looked to us for were Indian solutions; to Indian-ise their brands. We realised that that's a very potent space for us to be in and that's where the idea of coming up with 82.5 happened. 82.5 is the longitude of Indian Standard Time and so, we said that for an agency that's going to be all about indigenous Indian ideas, that's an apt name.
A lot of people were asking if it's just Soho Square with a different name. One simple thing - Soho Square exists in other markets outside of India as well. The name 82.5 is very India specific.
What makes 82.5 different from a conventional advertising agency?
Sumanto: Ours is an open source model where we are in the process of creating partnerships with various other companies which will bring other skillsets and areas of expertise to the table; ones we don't have in-house. We've been a traditional agency in the past and we have had all those skillsets in-house.
Typically, when a client comes to a creative agency, they want a television commercial, outdoor, print or maybe a digital video. But most of the time, the requirement stops there. We can do all that in our sleep with the current team; but while we're exploring digital, we're also exploring social and we're exploring content in many other forms too.
Our existing clients may require other non-mainstream advertising solutions which we don't do in-house currently, but we will be able to do through our strategic partnerships and always remain the 'brand custodian.' They (the firms that 82.5 outsource work to) are not brand experts after all.
When you talk to clients, they'll say that they have multiple agencies - they may have a conflict agency or a digital agency... what they feel is that those guys don't get the brand right. The traditional network agencies get the brand right, but they don't have the strongest skill set. That's why we felt this would be a great model - tying up with partners gives us a way to be agile without getting into cumbersome structures.
We're not creating all these divisions within our agency, we're saying that these are all going to be partners; people and companies who we feel are good and culturally on the same page. In a partnership with the people we're tying up with, we will be able to provide those solutions and services that clients need, but it will be funnelled through us, through our brand filter. We genuinely feel that this is the way of the future.
So, this way the advertisers needn't have multiple brand custodians - you will do the out-sourcing of specialised services for them...
Srikanth: Every agency has strategic and cross-structures because every time something became fashionable, they'd invest in it. There was a point where DM was very fashionable so they invested in it. It's just become really convenient for them to manage all this. They have to drive integrated communication, 360° communication. I believe that today, we truly are an open source agency, a small network of around 130 odd people and we intend to stay that way.
Typically, traditional agencies have 150 people doing digital and another 50 doing events, but we're finding ways of integrating all that. We'll be doing client communication first. Whatever solutions they require, we'll find the answers; whether it's available in-house or with our partners, it doesn't matter. We will find execution partners and skillsets.
What kind of Indian brands are you looking to work with?
Sumanto: In a way, you can look at us as a challenger brand from within the Ogilvy network. We'd like to work with Indian entrepreneurs who also run challenger brands. They could be medium or large, but if they have a challenger mindset, then we see a fit. They could be from dot-coms or any other category.
Srikanth: I would go after all the e-commerce start-ups... that's a vast segment right there. There's also a significant segment of strong Indian FMCG brands, Indian durables... These are the people who are seeking meaningful engagement with their creative agencies. In that way, even the definition of creative agencies has undergone many changes - they're not working as a partner for communication solutions alone; brands also want the agency to tell them about the consumer segment, consumer insights they can tap into, how to grow the brand... it's far deeper than what most creative agencies typically provide today.
We got 2-3 different types of clients. Some are Indian homegrown, a small client or a client with a 20,000 crore turnover. We also have Tata, Vasmol, ITC Goldflake (the largest FMCG brand in the country), Himalaya (a 2000 crore company) etc. We've also worked with Piaggio for Vespa, a foreign brand trying to connect with an Indian audience to Indian-ise their brand. Vespa had a great connect with the audiences of yesteryear (60's and 70's) and sort of lost that connection in the last three years or so. So, it's not just Indian companies it's also the made-for-India offerings of foreign companies.
Sumanto: What I find with some of the new-age mediums and solutions like mobile, is that we're using the technology, but somehow, creativity got left behind. I think today, we're at that nascent stage where just being on a mobile is going to get you a lot of eyeballs; it's going to help you grow your business. However, tomorrow, when that becomes the vanilla approach for every brand, then it will come down to how creatively you use that technology and medium.
Srikanth: That's very true; today, data is a differentiator, the medium you use is a differentiator, but everyone will be using the same thing two years down the line. We'll be coming back to who's saying it better; content will be king once again.