Prathap Suthan
Guest Article

An indie adman’s address to the industry in times of Coronavirus

"Too many jobs are at stake. Too many lives are on the line. And, too many brands and clients can turn cold and heartless...," he says.

I have never had to write something like this. These are trying days. And, they call for more than a personal resolve.

In all probability, the immediate post Corona future is going to be tough. If not difficult for all of us. We will see a lot of changes. A lot of restructuring. Many new ways of working together. Hopefully, even new business and brand opportunities.

But optimism apart, and while I don’t want to add to the sense of despondency, or the prevailing fear, the coming days will need all of us to help each other out. We don’t have a choice.

Companies and big brands will be kinder, first towards their own employees. Then, perhaps, to their customers. Agencies will, sadly, be right at the bottom of that list. Life might be better for those at larger agencies. But then again, money is a cruel boss. And, none of us are its children.

Everyone will get affected, including agencies and clients. We need to make collective progress from where life leaves us. Because there would be all sorts of losses. You are all in the business, and you can hazard a couple of guesses. This, despite some clients, who will either plead to keep the oxygen flowing, or (will) be forced to play executioner.

This is a time we ought to face together. Be prepared to let everyone take time to reorganise. All of us are in the doghouse. Not one is leading this race. It’s a ready-made time for Shylocks. Most agencies have no built-in insurance policies, especially independent and smaller agencies. We have no Godfathers. No free-flowing funds. No benevolent bank support. Except for the courage that we all have.

In many ways than one, it's just the right time for some of us to stand up and commit to a brighter path.

As someone who leads an indie agency, I am equally battered by all the questions about the future. Bleak as it may be, and the fact that it’s going to be the same for everyone, tomorrow is cut out for a collective resolve.

Considering that we will all be weak and stretched. We will be bruised. And we’d have all heard the pings of impending decisions. From my side, and if I make it through this, I promise that I will not take on any new client, or any brand, that wants to move because the incumbent agency is, and was, unable to deliver regular work during these Corona days.

The current agency may have not been able to equip its people – we aren’t like big MNC agencies that can set things up in a hurry. Maybe someone in the agency got quarantined, or got the virus. Maybe most of its people went away to their homes away from the city. Or, maybe the whole agency (regardless of its size) got infected and zero work happened.

Sorry. But, I will not let their misfortune add to my fortunes.

I will not willingly take on a business that dumps its agency in these times. I will not want to find opportunity in a client who couldn’t bring themselves to discover empathy and humanity. And, I will not allow known and unknown industry colleagues to get sacrificed for no fault of theirs.

Not if I can help it.

Too many jobs are at stake. Too many lives are on the line. And, too many brands and clients can turn cold and heartless to callously sack their agencies and take businesses away on account of this alien invasion.

This is the least I can do to stand by all of us. I truly don’t want to feed on injustice. I am no vulture. And, I hope other agency heads will also bare their hearts and spines.

Ours is a beautiful business. We know pain. We know hurt. And, we all know the sense of defeat we feel when a client leaves for selfish reasons. We all know how vulnerable we are.

This time around, let’s do this for each other. Let’s show the world how united we can be. Let’s park the greed, hunger, cut-throatism, and competition till we get Corona away. Let’s take care of each other. Let’s protect each other. Let’s keep the fires burning.

It sure can’t beat us if we stand together. This may be the only chance we get.

(The author is managing partner and chief creative officer (CCO) of Delhi-based ad agency Bang In The Middle.)