There's an endless debate on 'external agency vs open source agency vs in-house agency', but what about other types of agencies? Why does no one ever talk about them?
This type of agency is figuratively a stone’s throw away from the client, and that’s typically the way servicing will be summoned for a meeting. The client treats the agency like they’re working out of his outhouse - they’ll work round the clock even as he drives them round the bend. They’re always there when he wants them. And they always do what he wants them to.
In more unfortunate cases, the agency is literally a stone’s throw from the client’s office, which poses a different set of problems. For starters, servicing can never use the ‘Stuck in traffic jam. Be there in 10’ trick on the client. He’ll probably respond with ‘Looking out of my window right now. Where’s the traffic?’ Now, servicing is truly stuck in a jam.
It’s easy to identify an outhouse agency. It’s where art guys have a poster of a public hanging in progress on their softboards, with a caption hand-lettered in blood – ‘One More Execution’.
Imagine a situation where you’ve just presented a 3600 campaign (Press, TV, digital, ATL, BTL, DTH, PTO, WTF and the rest of it) to a client. The regular follow-up ops would have involved a ‘spit and polish’ routine – the client spits all over your creative and you polish it and take it back. But today, it’s all been bombed.
If you’re a greenhouse agency, you wouldn’t lose sleep over this because your business is driven by the following two golden rules:
All communication is eco-friendly
All campaigns are recyclable
So all you need to do is change the logo. And Find-Replace Milkmaid with Minute Maid, GoDaddy to GoIbibo, and Big Bazaar with Big Basket, and the campaign is still on. (Statutory warning: To avoid category mismatch, keep lines vague.)
This type of agency is run by a boss who is pretty weight-conscious. So, when the client demands to see creatives, he has one question for them – ‘How many kilos?’ The boss is also known to steer away from all things ostentatious – he prefers getting to the presentation in a truck than in a flashy car. That way, he has enough space to carry the layouts. And he’s old-fashioned enough to carry print-outs in a digital era. (“Akash, get all the creatives mounted.” “Just met the writers and art guys, Boss. They all look like they have been.”)
Options is the name of the game in a warehouse agency - and tons of them. Back in the days when Trikaya Grey had a second agency named Options, creative teams had their little jollies in life with a stale ‘options’ joke to get back at their servicing counterparts. (“The client wants options.” “Ok, ask him to contact Trikaya.”) As time went by, let’s just say the industry greyed and ran out of Options before that joke ran out of steam.
There are agencies where creative teams password-protect their files and carefully lock up their print-outs and half-done scribbles before leaving for home. Rumour has it that at the stroke of midnight, a dishevelled account executive with a deranged look in his eyes and saliva dribbling from the corners of his mouth scavenges through dustbins and drawers, looking for discarded body copy and bombed lines, both of which would eventually find themselves into a mutilated scribble – and by the stroke of dawn, a new ad would have been created.
Butchering ads is a way of life in such agencies, because they conform to a dearly held motto – ‘make a killing with your billing’. Success has a hundred fathers; so does a mangled ad. Everyone from the client to the chaiwala has contributed to it, the latter by spilling tea all over the layout seconds before it goes into the conference room, thereby adding a pastel shade to the expansive white background, and leaving the art director to present it as mellow ochre, a new entrant to the pantone family.
Some agencies form perfect stopovers for advertising professionals who feel burnt out or are looking for a dream job in their dream agency, but feel that they aren’t sleeping enough for the dream to come true. After a short stint at said agency, they take wing, either because they have sprouted fresh feathers or their eagle eye has spotted an early bird offer from someplace. Of course, some of them move on because they’re unhappy with the chickenfeed they’re being paid.
But the repercussions of this mass rapid transit is felt at the client’s place. You know that they’ve been seeing way too many new faces from the agency when the brand managers huddle together after lunch and play Bingo with all the visiting cards. “You need to have three Diyas or four Rahuls for a Bingo. Subbu, please update the Excel sheet so we know how much we owe each other.”
Let’s give this agency some credit. They were normal to begin with. Then the clients came. And all hell broke loose. It is every client’s birthright to believe that just because he/ she knows a thing or two about sales and marketing, he/ she also knows enough about media and communication. A lot of them learn while on the job. However, it has serious implications on the mental health of the agency.
Stage 1: ‘I know you do layouts, but do you also do artworks?’
Stage 2: ‘I asked for a colour ad, but you’ve released a black & white ad where only the logo is in colour. Who’s going to pay for it?’
Stage 3: ‘The brochure was meant to be a four-colour job. I just counted – there are 16 colours in it.’
Chances of an agency recovering post Stage 3 are remote to nil.
The author of this guest article is a creative consultant.