When a client-agency relationship is treated like a vendor model, then the outcome is ordinary

Written by Anushree Bhattacharyya | Updated: Aug 19 2014, 10:21am hrs
E-commerce posterboy Flipkart became a household name in 2011 with its television campaign that depicted children dressed up as adults extolling the virtues of shopping online. The advertising agency that made Flipkart famous was a small organisation going by the name of Happy Creative Services started by two former Ogilvy creatives Kartik Iyer and Praveen Das. The duo had worked for various brands including denim brand Lee, Ciol.com, an IT based website, in addition to creating the character, Chamrajpet Charles, for Radio One in Bangalore, but it was their work for Flipkart that catapulted them to the forefront. Here, in a conversation with FE BrandWagons Anushree Bhattacharyya, Kartik Iyer, chief executive officer and Praveen Das, chief creative officer, Happy Creative Services talk about how they built the Flipkart campaign, the spin-off effect of the Flipkart success story and the changing agency-client relationship. Edited excerpts:

Why do you call yourself an idea shop and not a creative agency

Kartik Iyer: Brands and businesses need ideas to help achieve their business objectives. Many a time these ideas are not based on advertising. Some of these ideas may not even manifest in a creative output. Hence to communicate that we are a media agnostic content creation agency dealing in ideas, we call ourselves an idea shop.

Praveen Das: We are in the business of helping brands carve out a niche for themselves, so it is highly imperative that we too stand out from the crowd.

What was the brief given by Flipkart and how did you come up with the idea of making children behave like adults

Iyer: We were clear Flipkart had the task of creating the category, being a first mover. Through extensive research we realised India was not culturally ready to accept e-commerce easily. There were trust issues. So our task was to create a campaign that gave Indian consumers the right reasons to place their trust in the brand and the service. So Flipkart came up with three service benefits to challenge the fears of consumerscash on delivery, easy replacement policy and assured original warranties. We needed to communicate the same in the simplest way possible. We developed the scripts in the age-old format of believer versus non-believer. We decided to use children because they always catch attention. Getting them to act as adults just made people see themselves and their own issues being played out in the most charming manner.

How did you convince the client to take the risk

Iyer: We had created only one commercial earlier, which was to communicate that it had the largest collection of books. As the brand was extending itself to other categories, we knew we had to deal with the trust issue. The children campaign was a very measured effort to make sure everything was in place when we communicated to the consumer. We knew it would work. It was meant to be just one campaign using children but it became such a rage that the adult-like children became part of the brands identity. The client really didnt see it as a risk as the commercials themselves were sharply communicating everything that needed to be said.

What kind of transition is the brand going through now and how is it being reflected in the story-telling now

Iyer: Today, Flipkart is much larger than what it was when it began. Its value proposition has gone beyond just being an e-commerce portal or a shopping service. Today, Flipkart delivers products to parts of India where certain products have never been available. The brand has launched a mobile shopping app that has totally changed the paradigm of shopping in the country. Also, Flipkart today is not talking to a single bucket of consumers. Hence, the brand has to address the concerns of all these different sets of consumers in a way that is most relevant to them.

How different is it working for an e-commerce player such as Flipkart versus a brick-and-mortar firm

Iyer: Old world businesses are mature in their approach and believe it is best to stay with tried and tested methods. They possibly dont feel the need or have the appetite for risk. New world businesses on the other hand have a fresh canvas to work on and challenges that possibly never existed before.

Das: The need to do things differently today is far more imperative than what it was 15-20 years back. Hence the readiness to experiment is more.

What should agencies as well as clients do to create more success stories such as Flipkart

Iyer: We dont think there really is a formula. We put in the same amount of effort and passion on all the brands we work on. Its the coming together of all elements at the right place and at the right time that makes a success such as Flipkart. We say this without taking away a single atom of credit from Flipkart for being such a visionary in its approach. Weve learnt a lot from our relationship with Flipkart the biggest one is that anything is possible if you make the right kind of effort.

How has life changed for Happy Creative Services after the success of the Flipkart campaigns

Iyer: To be honest its been a boon and a bane for us. The boon of course is the visibility and adulation for our work done on the brand. It has given us recognition in every Indian household. Needless to say, many people have called us, nearly everyone in the internet space has spoken to us. Even old big brands have invited us to share a fresh perspective on their brands. The bane is that everybody wants us to do a Flipkart for them. People start the conversation by saying they want us to do for them what we did for Flipkart.

Das: As for clients queueing up at our door, we all know theres a lot more than just ability or track record when it comes to closing a business deal.