Devina Joshi

Flashback 2010: End of long relationships; a few big catches for small agencies in creative business

Every year, agencies live in the hope of netting the catch that got away the last time around and hoping to wrest plum accounts from competition. Last year, too, was no exception. We present the list of accounts that moved agency, as a part of a series of special reports.

In flashback mode, one recalls that the year gone past - 2010 - started slowly for creative agencies, with reference to account movements. But this picked up momentum - in a rather remarkable way - in the months that followed. Here's a look at the quarter-wise action.

A shaky start

After the rather daunting slowdown in 2009, last year began with some action from the smaller agencies and Indian independent firms. Skoda made headlines by shifting its Rs 30-crore creative duties from its long-standing agency Law & Kenneth (L&K) to the Pushpinder Singh-founded Saints & Warriors. L&K made up for the loss by grabbing the Rs 40 crore Kelvinator account and the Sansui accounts from Saatchi & Saatchi.

Flashback 2010: End of long relationships; a few big catches for small agencies in creative business
The Income Tax (IT) Department of India created a ripple of sorts by empanelling a mix of 11 traditional and non-traditional agencies - Span Communications, Lowe Lintas India, Ashok Creatives, Perfect 10, Pamm, Mode, Invicta, Garuda, Falcon, Disha, Centum and OOH agency Arun Sign - for its Rs 50 crore account.

There were one-off wins such as Publicis Ambience and JK Helene Curtis and VIP Luggage; TBWA/India and IDBI Mutual Funds; BBH and Lakme Salon; McCann Erickson and Greenply; Budweiser and W+K India; Micromax moving from Draftfcb UIka to Lowe Lintas India and the adidas 2010 campaign moving from TBWA/India to Ogilvy India.

The era of cars and financial accounts

Draftfcb Ulka started the second quarter with a hotshot win: the Rs 50-crore Hero Honda Motors Commonwealth Games 2010 sponsorship project and following it upwith Abbott Nutrition. It rained handsets when AMO Communications won Mobell Mobiles and Bates 141 landed up with Zen Mobile. Lowe Lintas won Maruti 800, Nirula's India, Somany Tiles and Sanitaryware and Canara Robeco Mutual Fund.

Losing Maruti 800 was just the beginning for Hakuhodo.It also lost WagonR to Dentsu India. Equus Red Cell bagged Studymate (Hindustan Times), Maxima Watches (which it won from Saatchi & Saatchi) Travel Masters India Corporation and Glaxperts.

Grey Bengaluru hit the jackpot with Bharti AXA General Insurance, which moved from Contract Advertising, while Leo Burnett scored with McCain Foods India and Kohler India. Mudra won the hefty Rs 50-crore Philips-Electrolux account, along with Lavasa Corporation and Kalpataru Real Estate.

Ogilvy India won four businesses in this period including IndusInd Bank, Ramco Systems, Spice Group and the Rs 250-crore International Cricket Council (ICC). After an elaborate pitch process, Percept/H won itself the creative duties for UIDAI's Aadhaar pilot phase project. Newspaper brand DNA moved from old friend Contract to Rediffusion - Y&R. W+K won HCL Technologies.

Telecom makes headlines

Grey Worldwide made a major gain with the Rs 200-crore Reliance Communications' GSM & CDMA business that moved from Cartwheel Creatives in the third quarter of the calendar year. Grey also won Killer Jeans and Intex Technologies.

But the bumper account movement arrived on August 11, 2010, when the Rs 350-400-crore Airtel moved from Rediffusion - Y&R to JWT. Rediff had been handling the brand since its inception in the '90s. This spelt a great loss for the agency, and all sorts of rumours regarding the supposed 'inefficiency' of its top management started floating around. This was on the back of the Colgate business moving out of Rediffusion as well, in the month of July. Clearly, the third quarter spelt really bad news for Rediff.

The writing seemed to be on wall when, in the previous year, the pitch for Airtel DTH went to JWT and not - as many expected -to Rediffusion. Says Sunil Gupta, managing partner, Results International Group, South Asia and regional director, Aprais, South West Asia, "Why do clients change agencies? Why didn't Rediffusion win the DTH business? Why do clients bring on board 'another agency' or multiple agencies? Obviously it is to keep their current agency on its toes."

That need not be a bad thing as it leads to healthy competition. But the true catalyst for the Airtel account bidding farewell to Rediff, according to Gupta, is the change in its branding and, hence, the need for fresher thinking, with more severe competition entering the market. "It is sad that when competition becomes severe accounts start moving. One ought to have more faith in their current agency to be able to tackle the pressures," Gupta muses. "After all, a new agency is like a bride-to-be - you never know how it will perform!"

Among other developments, Bates 141 won Monte Carlo (which moved from JWT), Centre For Sight and Amrit Group (Poultry Group). Times Television's Mango channel roped in BBH India whereas another new launch, United Stock Exchange, selected Cartwheel Creatives for its Rs 15 crore creative duties.

Contract lost Tata Indicom and Tata Walky to Draftfcb Ulka, but managed to retain the Tata Photon account and also won the Rs 30-crore Lava Mobile account. Creativeland Asia managed to soar with Audi, a Rs 20 crore account. Paras Pharma brands Livon and Ricova moved to Cut the Crap from Mudra.

Euro RSCG won Maxx Mobile during this period and hopped to the bank with the Rs 10-crore account. Law & Kenneth won the Rs 50-crore worth Renault India business. Lowe Lintas won several businesses including Himachal Pradesh Tourism (along with other agencies like Adman, Mode, Partner, AMO Communications, Quantum Media and Square), DSP BlackRock Mutual Fund (which it shared with TapRoot India), HomeShop18, and Karvy Group.

McCann Erickson won Dabur's vitamins and mineral supplements account, and the Big-CBS creative duties. General Insurance Corporation of India empanelled Mudra, Triton and Concept for its creative duties. Mudra also won Huawei, a big-ticket launch that spelt Rs 200 crore in terms of ad budget.

RBI's media awareness campaign went to Publicis Ambience, while Rediffusion won Amante and Balaji Telefilms' motion picture projects. Barely having done its launch in India, iconic brand Harley Davidson moved its Rs 15-crore account from The Republic to Saatchi & Saatchi. The Republic tried to make up for that by winning Welspun Retail. The Raghu Bhat-Manish Bhatt founded agency Scarecrow won Religare Arts Initiative, while TBWA won businesses worth Rs 40 crore comprising BagZone, Star Health & Allied Insurance, Hygrevar Home and Hearth and

Pepsi ruffles feathers

Bates 141 won MTV, while DDB India won Olive Telecom (Rs 50 crore) and Bajaj Allianz (Rs 60 crore), which it shared with incumbent M&C Saatchi. Greenlam moved to McCann, while Dainik Bhaskar left long-standing agency Euro RSCG for Meridian. 'Toing' brand Amul Macho shifted agencies from Saints & Warriors to Ogilvy India.

TapRoot India (set up by Agnello Dias and Santosh Padhi) surprised everyone by winning the Pepsi World Cup campaign project worth Rs 25 crore. "It is interesting that startups are winning big ticket clients, even if it is for projects," says Gupta of Aprais. Clients seem to have realised that network relationships have to work across markets, and bringing another agency on board is an 'add-on', a case of this AND that, not this or that. "If you ask me, Pepsi's advertising has been fairly pedestrian over the last few years, and the magic touch is gone. The brand was probably looking out for some experimentation with another agency," Gupta says.

The development raised several questions about JWT. This was the first time that brand Pepsi had given even a portion of its creative task to an agency other than JWT. The losing agency tried to play things down by insisting that TapRoot was just one of the many specialists roped in for specific tasks by brand Pepsi. TapRoot retaliated strongly by stating that this was not a partnership with JWT that TapRoot was forging, but a win independent of external factors.

Next up, DLF appointed Ogilvy and Pickle Lintas for its creative duties, moving away from Percept/H, while an unconventional advertiser - Blackberry - that has rarely advertised itself in India hired Orchard Advertising. MTS shifted its Rs 200-crore business from Saatchi & Saatchi to Rediffusion. Saatchi fought back with Bharat Petroleum Corp (Retail), which it shared with Scarecrow Communications. Scarecrow, in turn, went on to win Religare verticals - Religare Securities and Religare Health Insurance, this time around.

(Account movements' data courtesy: Spatial Access Solutions)

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