Nisha Qureshi

L&K Saatchi & Saatchi heads on why agencies are losing the fight against consultancies

The duo delves into pressing concerns of the advertising industry, reflects on the agency's 2023 successes, and its ambitious goals for 2024.

In 2023, L&K Saatchi & Saatchi celebrated a successful year marked by securing significant accounts such as Dunkin', and executing impactful campaigns like Vicks’ anthem for the ICC Cricket World Cup and Zepto’s Delivered at Bumrah Speed campaign.

Looking ahead to 2024, the agency aims to sustain its positive momentum and carve a lasting legacy in India through its campaigns.

“We want to be an agency that is remembered”, say Kartik Smetacek and Rohit Malkani joint National Creative Directors of the agency.

“We have started an impactful journey, and we will continue to create an impact through our work. CEO Paritosh Srivastava, Chief Strategy Officer Snehasis Bose, and us (Rohit Malkani and Kartik Smetacek), along with other leadership team members came together because we had a common agenda, a common goal, and that is to work together to create a legacy agency,” says Smetacek. 

“Our three pillars are respect, revenue, and results, with respect being our primary focus that we need to further build in 2024,” he adds.

On client and employee loyalty

The duo feels that despite the latest ‘project-based’ work trend in the industry, they have managed to establish some great relationships in the past five years.

“Nobody is in for the skin of it or to build a brand consistently and this situation to me is a little scary. Obviously, we also do project work but our focus is on business transformation,” says Malkani.

“Sometimes you may get a better film for it and you will get a little more bang for your luck in that festive season or that idea, but over time you'll find your brand could dilute. It may not stand for anything consistent. You may have five great campaigns, but at the end of five years you will not have one thought that sticks to the brand,” says Smetacek about brands relying solely on project-based campaigns.

The duo agrees that while they have managed to forge deep and meaningful relationships with clients, talent retention is a challenge across the advertising industry.

Talent is the biggest expense for us, and the value of talent is always the biggest expense for us
Rohit Malkani, National Creative Director, L&K Saatchi & Saatchi India

“When Kartik and I joined the industry, it was advertising that you had competition from. The amount of competition the kids have today is insane. It’s not only the other agency and peers but also brands and technology. Talent is the biggest expense for us, and the value of talent is always the biggest expense for us,” says Malkani.

'I'm not sure whether we've been able to add value to our ideas."
Kartik Smetacek, national creative director, L&K Saatchi & Saatchi India

On the other hand, Smetacek feels that the core of the problem is that the industry has not been able to establish values for its ideas.

“I think as an industry, I'm not sure whether we've been able to add value to our ideas and we continue to struggle as an industry because of that. Today a KPMG can charge the kind of value they do because of what they offer. We've not been able to attract and build that value around our ideas,” he says. 

The duo feels that despite the number of agencies that have emerged in the past five years, it is L&K Saatchi & Saatchi’s agility that stands them apart. Malkani says that the philosophy ‘Client’s business is our business philosophy’ is ingrained in the agency.

“We as an agency have set ourselves up for creating work that genuinely creates a ripple in the market. If you see, our most successful and awarded campaigns of the year- Zepto, Reliance Digital and JioMart, have also been the campaigns that have done the most for our clients,” adds Smetacek.

On harnessing AI

The duo feels that it’s going to take the industry at least two years before it really leverages AI for its true potential.

“To be brutally honest, right now, it's at a position where everything is about crunching time, that's the use of AI. It's becoming exciting. It's cutting down time, for sure but I'm not sure if us or anyone else is using it to a level where it's cutting edge,” adds Malkani.

In 2024, apart from focusing on exciting campaigns and building a legacy, the NCDs want to steer some clients towards more tech-powered, new-age and non-traditional solutions and to harness some of the capabilities they have in the whole business as a Groupe.

We are constantly pitching ideas to clients, trying to get them on board. It involves investment. It involves a step beyond the known into the unknown. That's another big agenda for us,” they add.

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