Sohini Sen

Goafest 2015: What is the perfect agency-client relationship like?

Diageo's Anand Kripalu, Nestle's R Chandrasekar and Standard Chartered's Sanjeeb Chaudhuri attempted to find this out at the Industry Conclave.

What changes in the marketing scenario have brands noticed? Are the same challenges worrying marketing managers, as the ones which did say a decade ago? It is with an attempt to answer these questions that this year's Goafest called in the crowds.

Goafest 2015 started with much fanfare at Goa's Grand Hyatt on April 9, 2015. Day one of the three-day event saw marketing honchos sharing their knowledge and tips at the Discovery Channel Industry Conclave.

Anand Kripalu, MD & CEO, member Diageo Global Executive Committee, United Spirits, shared his knowledge on how brands and agencies can create value together. According to him, brands will continue to be built on what consumers believe.

Goafest 2015: What is the perfect agency-client relationship like?
"Volatility, uncertainty - the pace of change we are seeing is unbelievable. The environment is changing fast, and in multiple ways," said Kripalu.

He was quick to point out that the response time in the market has changed. On the other hand, marketing departments have become leaner. However, the difficulty of driving implementation is more complex. Another challenge he pointed out was that the amount of data available for a marketer is enormous. Not to leave the agencies away, Kripalu said that agencies are also facing pressures as services are getting commoditised, leading to mushrooming of specialised services.

As a solution, he suggested that agencies create media neutral ideas and campaigns. The flirting between different agencies and brands has led to brittle relationships. A trusted two-way branded conversation and content should be there to arrest this problem. He concluded that better client-agency relationships deliver better and sustainable results.

Nestle's Chandrasekar Radhakrishnan, head of communication and e-commerce, stated that the first and foremost step for marketers should be to adapt and not abandon. At Nestle, he claimed brands are built through a joint understanding of human insights, brand proposition, consumer engagement, capability building, a big idea and digital innovation. Chandrasekar discussed five fundamentals which give perspective on every marketing challenge and deliver desirable results.

Goafest 2015: What is the perfect agency-client relationship like?
Accordingly, he said, it is important to bring alive the corporate content by showing what exactly the brand stands for. If Nestle is about Good Food - the campaigns also extend the idea. Secondly, it is important to remember that, at the end of the day, it is about the people. For example, Nestle's journey to understand the youth, their challenges and the role coffee plays in it, gave them the clutter-breaking Nescafe's 'stuttering comedian' campaign. Chandrasekar was of the opinion that the content quality matters more than the platform.

Safe, he cautioned, is not safe anymore. "If one side of a campaign is creativity and another side is effectiveness - we cannot have just an effective campaign without any creativity. A safe creative is dull and uninspiring. It does not cut clutter," explained Chandrasekar.

Sanjeeb Chaudhuri, global chief marketing officer and regional head, South Asia, Standard Chartered Bank, shared the same concerns as Kripalu. He said that short-term relationships between brands and clients do not bring about fruitful results. But, as budgets get migrated to different parts of the business, marketing teams become leaner.

Goafest 2015: What is the perfect agency-client relationship like?
"The blurring of advertising, public relations, digital marketing, social marketing etc makes it tempting to work with a myriad of partners. Again, a leaner marketing team can be an opportunity in disguise. Your communication team can be embraced in such a situation to become part of a larger marketing team," Chaudhuri added.

He also spoke about the return of marketing investments. He explained that while media and marketing spends become larger, the accountability of those spends is becoming much more relevant and important.

He gave a few pointers to solve the challenges in this changing ecosystem. Firstly, he said, it is important to instil a spirit of partnership in the agency as well, because it is this partnership that can create magic. Secondly, the client also has to be clear with this briefing. It should be well-articulated, perhaps even written, with a simple approval process. Thirdly, differing from Chadrasekar, he said that though content quality is important, more important should be content distribution.

Concluding the session, Chaudhuri said, "An unequal partnership is a failed partnership. If one partner gets the credit or the advantages of a marketing campaign and the other doesn't, then it will not be a partnership which has worked. And, thus, agencies need to be remunerated accordingly."

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