Abid Hussain Barlaskar

Can consulting firms replace ad agencies? Cars24 seems to think so...

Cars24's latest advertising outing has no involvement of a creative agency. Is this a one-off or a new model more advertisers will follow?

Where do ads come from? A brand of course! And who makes them? Why, an ad agency, of course. Or so it would seem as status quo.

Apart from all the buzz about the shortage of talent, creative folks having diverse options etc. the ad business might be undergoing another shift, but discreetly. We could spot plenty of ad campaigns, over the last few weeks, which did not have an 'ad agency' setup involved. Brands did it all in-house or got it done by individual freelancers and then roped in a production house to put it on film.

Can consulting firms replace ad agencies? Cars24 seems to think so...

Cars24's latest commercial featuring Mandira Bedi

Among the latest examples is the full-fledged ad campaign - Car bechni ho, toh Cars24 - for brand Cars24, a platform that facilitates a market for used cars, initiate payments and has a hassle-free transaction-cum-transfer in one day system.

Can consulting firms replace ad agencies? Cars24 seems to think so...

Cars24's latest commercial featuring Nawazuddin Siddiqui

The ads do not look like they lack heart or were done by a shaky hand. We still had to ask the question though - 'which is the ad agency?' The truth is, the campaign lacks the involvement of a mainstream ad agency and has been rolled out in collaboration with Hypersonic Advisory, a growth-focused consulting company.

Can consulting firms replace ad agencies? Cars24 seems to think so...

Cars24's latest commercial featuring Mr Chibber

The brand has rolled out four ad films over multiple mediums with Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Mandira Bedi on board. Aimed at positioning the brand as the one-stop shop for the sale of used cars, the ads take on four different troublesome scenarios which a used car buyer/seller can get into. Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays the emotional owner who wants a fair deal before breaking the emotional bond. Mandira Bedi plays the hassled seller who posted about a car sale online and included her contact number. This is followed by Sharmaji who got into a mess due to a complex RC transfer and finally, there's Mr Chibber, who's tired of haggling with middlemen.

Can consulting firms replace ad agencies? Cars24 seems to think so...

Cars24's latest commercial featuring Sharma Ji

We spoke to Vani Gupta from Hypersonic Advisory, the brains behind the campaign, to find out more.

So why this campaign?

Can consulting firms replace ad agencies? Cars24 seems to think so...

Vani Gupta

"Cars24 approached Hypersonic with a growth problem. We started gathering insights for understanding the brand perception. We found that the original proposition of selling a car at its best price was not tenable for the long term as the idea of price is subjective. Our interactions revealed that consumers were happy not only because of the price but other things as well like ease of use, branch experiences etc. and these needed to be highlighted. Another part was that the brand was a leader in the used car market. We weaved both of these into a full campaign," Gupta says.

"We worked on what could be the alternate proposition. This was followed by workshops within the company. We crafted a proposition and tested it with consumers. We then prepared a creative brief and approached freelancers for an ad campaign," Gupta adds.

Why freelancers and not traditional ad agencies?

"I am a supporter of individual talent. Even in an agency, it's never the agency, per se, that delivers. It is an individual that one relies on. An agency is nothing more than a collection of quality talent. That talent may or may not always be in an agency. An agency, as an organisation, does bring in process and control, but creativity is fundamentally individual talent," Gupta replies.

However, this is the first time Hypersonic has done a campaign of this size. In Gupta's words, it includes everything, 'end to end'.

The people who were brought on board for the campaign are folks Gupta had worked with previously or were recommended by her own marketing community.

So, is the 'agency' setup getting broken down?

"Agencies need to reinvent themselves. Before the internet, there were limited options in mass media and one-way communication was in play. Old-world agencies made sense then. It would be only one agency team that would be the custodian of the brand. During my time in Leo Burnett, when it was the agency-on-record for Coca-Cola, we were truly the custodians of the brand, in every sense. But now, communication is two ways and divided across platforms. In this scenario, although mass media is still a big chunk, we are seeing the emergence of specialist agencies which are probably bringing in more value. Today, even an outdoor agency (previously more of a vendor) can be briefed by a brand team to bring in creative solutions," Gupta states.

Vikram Chopra, CEO, Cars24, says in a press release, "The entire campaign - from insights to execution - was led by Vani Gupta of Hypersonic. We worked with several service providers on the recommendations from Hypersonic - media experts, digital, creative, influencer marketing and others."

What the expert think:-

S Yesudas, co-founder and managing director, Y&A Transformation, considers the current scenario a wake-up call for agencies. He maintains that failing to transform in time will disrupt the business model.

Can consulting firms replace ad agencies? Cars24 seems to think so...

S Yesudas

"I have been quite vocal about the reducing relevance of traditional 'agencies'. While clients are struggling to align with the dynamism in customer mobility, the agencies, based on their legacy team/remuneration structures and mostly used to the campaign planning/thinking linked to the legendary 4Ps of marketing, have failed to make provisions for the digital necessities of speed and the willingness to test multiple ideas. Even recognising some may fail," Yesudas says.

"We will witness more of these in the future with the growth in the importance of content. But the story is not any different for the media agencies. Since most media-agency thinking gravitated from traditional to digital, the focus is still on millions of 'impressions', even if it means 80 per cent plus bounce rates. Out of the US $4 billion predicted in digital investments by 2020, I feel 25 per cent of this could be invested in channels like Google, FB etc. even directly by clients, based on real data. Another 30-40 per cent could be moving towards digital transformation, essentially cutting the layers between the brands and consumers into the hands of meaningful transformation partners. Transactional 'advertising' will then be left with around US $1 billion, which is the current benchmark, but with at least another 100 more 'digital specialist agency' competitors."

Can consulting firms replace ad agencies? Cars24 seems to think so...

Rahul Jauhari

Rahul Jauhari, joint president and chief creative officer, Rediffusion India and Everest Brand Solutions, maintains that the threat is real and agencies should venture out of the traditional line of work.

"Yes, agencies are facing threats, temporary at times, from clients directly commissioning work or giving it to a 'not so traditional agency'. Quite often, this can be a decision based on cost, not on deep strategic value. A smart client judges or values his or her agency basis the value the agency adds to the brand, not just basis a film or two. Agencies need to continue to focus on being closest to the brand and responsive to the marketing challenges the client may face. You can take a film away, but taking a brand away is not as simple a task. Over and above, agencies need to think smarter and be more experimental to counter the challenge of non-traditional competition," Jauhari says.

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