So, what do we marketers really expect from our advertising agencies? I can think of a few commandments, if you like.
This may sound basic, but the importance of this crucial starting point for beginning any sort of marketing communication development could not be stressed enough. An ad agency partner needs to know as much as possible about the target group of the product or the service which he/she is going to work on. If one really knows the consumer they are serving, a lot of ideas which initially look alluring and are assumed to be right for the brand, get filtered early on, in case they are not relevant for the end consumer.
So, how does the agency go about knowing more about the consumer? I shall split it into two actionables:
Ask questions. Seek details on the latest brand track measures, the latest household movements, who the brand is gaining more from or losing more to, which competition brand is making inroads in our category’s purchase basket in the past few months - and so on.
b. Keep doing your own research to scoop out consumer insights yourself. Nothing gives you more conviction about a creative insight than a first hand validation from the end consumer.
These two fundamental disciplines sharpen creative thinking greatly for the entire marketer+agency combo, and helps the entire team become more efficient.
Efficiency, which brings me to the next point.
2. Think deployment. And efficiently so. Picture this. You are semi-excited after listening to a certain idea from your agency partner. It ‘feels right’, and then you ask - have you thought about the deployment? The answer is either sketchy or a confident ‘we shall come back on that bit’. This is one of the biggest downers in the current marketing ecosystem.
3. In today’s world of marketing, every marketer is either thinking or is being urged to get more with less (budget). Hence every time an agency comes to the client with an idea, it’s expected that they are coming after thinking the idea through completely from a deployment POV.
Think through how to scale the idea up, how much shall each leg of the idea of a multi leg execution cost, how best to optimize production, how to think of efficient edit deployment. You get the drift.
Keeping in mind the increasing attention deficiency of the current consumer, the challenge for any brand today is to work on smart, short edits of creatives, which land the point crisply with impact, while being distinctive. One of the best observations I have read recently is about how TikTok videos from the hoi polloi seem to cram so much of creativity in those few seconds, but when agencies pitch a new TVC script, they struggle to tell the story in a 15 or a 20 seconder (a bit of generalisation, but the struggle is real). A YouTube masterclass at Cannes comes to mind - where the same story was told in 30,15 and six-second formats. Yes, it’s possible, one needs to think.
Often the briefs change midway during a development process. Yes, we know you hate it. But it does happen. Businesses are dynamic today more than ever before, which implies that brands need to be that much more prompt in communicating to their consumers in the cut throat competitive environment. And thus, requirements at times change in a matter of weeks, if not days. Hence, there is a need to be a little nimble at times while accepting briefs, and timelines. While in parallel, the ubiquitous ‘ASAP’ will continue to be heard.
It’s not worth anything unless it is measurable. Effectiveness of creative ideas are of paramount importance today. Did it help sell more or drive the equity in the right direction? Period.
It’s the same reason why at Cannes Lions, the entire ecosystem is stressing on the measurable impact of creativity more and more, with every passing year.
The consumer today consumes media on multiple mediums, and the context of each medium in her/his life is drastically different. This has changed a lot in the past 12-36 months.
For example, a housewife who could be targeted mostly through prime time advertising on TV, now offers a new time segment altogether and on a different medium- as she prefers catching the latest episode of her favorite programme on the OTT platform on her phone, when she is on the way to pick up her kid from school in the afternoon/ late evening. This fundamental shift requires thinking about creatives and edits, keeping this new occasion of media consumption in mind. Thinking for these kind of new mediums is thus another relevant expectation today.
None of the above expectations are going to be fulfilled sans this. The performances of the marketer and her/his agency are directly proportional to the trust that they enjoy in their relationship.
I remember a line which one of my Account Directors mentioned in one of the meetings about creative ideas: “If it works, it’s everybody’s baby. If it doesn’t, it’s nobody’s baby.”
Listening to this as a young management trainee, I felt sad because it felt like an environment in which trust wasn’t quite there.
Almost a decade of marketing experience later, I can say confidently that the marketer+agency team which trusts each other the most has the maximum chances of churning out great work again and again to grow the brand consistently.
Here’s to marketing-cum-agency teams working together to continuously produce inspirational creative work to take brands to ever greater heights.
(The author is brand manager at ITC).