There has never been a more urgent need for building brands and reinforcing their importance in the lives of consumers
By Vinod Nair
The world has changed dramatically in the past few months. Newer challenges are emerging every single day. As the economy tries its best to restart, many might look at the situation as a bleak one. But I feel there are several silver linings to these dark clouds. And these hold even more relevance, when it comes to the world of marketing, branding and advertising.
In fact, the problems the advertising industry was facing were apparent even before the lockdown. Agencies were losing business. The value being provided by the traditional ad agency setup was under scrutiny. In an important sense, agencies were beginning to lose the respect, which they had taken for granted.
This period has also seen the disappearance of geographic barriers. As people get habituated to functioning, despite the lack of ‘real world physical interaction’; the doors have open both for clients and agencies to develop rewarding associations across the world. Technology and changing attitudes have now ensured anyone can service any business. In a nutshell, competition for business is likely to get even more intense.
The outbreak of the pandemic perhaps has pushed the fast forward button on all these trends.
There has been an expected reduction in advertising budgets. But there has never been a more urgent need for building brands and reinforcing their importance in the lives of consumers. And this is where the paradox lies. How does one create brand value even when there might be communication restrictions?
I strongly feel the days of empty talk are over. They have to be replaced by decisive strategic interventions and an honest willingness to engage at the ground level.
Clients have always wanted things in double quick time. But the changing situation coupled with the need to urgently generate business, has ensured a necessity of not waiting for the brief to arrive. For many in the trade, the clock only starts ticking after a formal request for action is received from the client. Those days are long gone.
Now agencies will have to help in the creation of the marketing and business strategy. This will entail a lot of top management involvement, even in areas which were traditionally considered outside the purview of agency expertise. This is going to take numerous man hours in the quest of understanding the client’s business at a far more seminal level. But I think that’s an investment absolutely worth the effort. Importantly, it is an investment that is going to be absolutely vital for the health of the relationship.
The truth is: clients have always desired more involvement in their business from their agency partners. Yet, it has been agencies that have drawn a line to indicate where their role ends. This has to change. Agencies have to make a conscious effort going forward to sit on the same side of the table.
This is truly a time for the industry to stand up and be counted. The obsession with awards needs to be replaced with the taking up of the ownership of growing the client’s business. The bureaucratic red tape indicating ‘our jobs end here’ need to be cut and replaced by forays into areas as diverse as corporate visioning, product development, sales orientation, customer care and internal employee engagements. There needs to be a complete reorientation in the industry perspective, in terms of looking for solutions much beyond those only addressed by quickly cobbled together pieces of communication.
With challenges like these on the horizon, why am I still seeing the silver linings? Why am I so hugely optimistic? That’s because this is an opportunity for agencies to embark on the next level of their evolutionary journeys. This is a time when agencies will need to discard all that is superfluous, and embrace an authentic inner truth that lies within. This is a moment when candor and transparency will elevate the client-agency relationship to newer, more fruitful levels. This is a time for agencies to renew their vows of being the true custodians of brand building.
This is also the time when agencies will need to refocus on their biggest internal assets-their people. They will need to hold them closer, develop stronger bonds and provide nurturing environs, to leverage the talent that lies within. In the ruckus building up externally, the inner voices should never be muted. We keep saying we are a business of people, but how much do we really do for our people? This is an opportunity to give that question conscious consideration.
The author is managing director, Network Advertising