FPJ boost for small agencies

24 Sep,2012


By Johnson Napier


Seldom does the media think of moving beyond the influential set of players when it comes to playing up the achievements of a particular sector or an industry. While the top 10 or 20 is what the goalpost seems for most in terms of coverage, quite often it is the players who are bundled up in the lower end of the spectrum that contribute as much if not significantly more to the growth of any sector. But this divide was almost forgotten at Grand Hyatt, Mumbai on September 22 when a host of mid- and small-sized advertising agencies came together to pick up nuances and mantras from doyens of the upper strata of the advertising industry.


The initiative was part of the annual conclave hosted by Free Press Journal that seeks to empower SMEs in the advertising sector. The theme this year was ‘the change that cometh’. The panellists comprised Sam Balsara, CMD of Madison World, Punitha Arumugam, Director – Agency Business at Google India and Bharat Kapadia, founder of ideas@bharatkapadia.com. The conclave was well attended by the who’s who from the ‘not-so-big’ advertising agencies.


The day began with Madison’s Sam Balsara taking the lead and enlightening the audience on the road ahead for the industry. Speaking on the topic “How to make the leap to the next level”, Balsara began by assuring all gathered in the audience that they were indeed in the right place at the right time. “Advertising is a booming business and the long-term perspective is indeed bright for all players in the industry. But while our economy continues to grow at a healthy 7-8 per cent, advertising’s contribution to the overall economic growth is not as satisfactory. Advertising as a percentage of India’s GNP is just 0.35 per cent compared to the global average of 0.8 per cent. In fact in the US, the number is around 1 per cent.” He cautioned the audience that there was no reason to be weighed down by the slowdown as there were better days ahead for the industry.


Belting out some of the mantras that enabled Madison Media reach where it is today, Balsara highlighted that the small and medium agencies can indeed give a run to the big agencies by ‘thinking small, beating big’. “Most agencies would advocate one to thing big but we did the reverse and that’s how we managed to work our way to the top,” he averred. Balsara even went on to tag his agency as being a David amongst the Goliaths that existed in the industry, but he cautioned that it didn’t mean that one has to get bogged down by the size of the bigger agencies.


Advocating to the audience his recipe for success, Balsara said that it was essential for the agencies to do what is right for the client only then will success come one’s way. According to Balsara, the key aspect was the need for agencies to develop core competency. Sharing with the gathering his favourite definition of advertising that steered him to deliver his best, Balsara said that advertising is the art of arresting human intelligence long enough to be able to make a person reach out and open his wallet. This will ultimately benefit the client leading to the growth of the advertising agency as well.


Presenting the mantras that led Madison to emerge where it is today, Balsara shared the 10 immutable laws that he believed could do wonders to the fortunes of other agencies as well. These include: the law of disadvantage, law of service, law of innovation, law of research/technology, law of specialisation, law of focus, law of organisational building, law of conservation, law of patience and law of perception. Balsara further went on to burst a few myths about advertising which he believed was highly prevalent in the marketplace. These include advertising is too expensive; advertising is only for big companies; advertising is only for FMCG companies; good marketers do not believe in advertising and finally, consumers do not believe in advertising.


Post Balsara’s unmissable takeaways, it was the turn of Bharat Kapadia to hand out his secrets as he spoke on ‘Getting ready for the future.”. Rather than term them as not-so-big, Kapadia took the liberty of altering the name to aspiring to-be-big agencies. Kapadia began by straight away highlighting the influential role that technology played today. “With technology eliminating most middlemen out of business, there is a fear whether advertising agencies may survive in the future? But according to me ad agencies won’t just survive they will continue to throw up spectacular growth as well.” Presenting his ideas on the secrets to chart out good growth and profitability for the company, Kapadia enlisted a few pointers that included: knowing well what the client’s opportunities were; understanding the role and importance of research/data in business; need to lay more emphasis on new media that is not only cheap but cost-effective as well; need for experiential marketing; and most importantly, the need for agencies to be more innovative. Kapadia shared with the gathering an innovation that he had effectively carried out in a newspaper in the recent past that was reasonably successful – Bru Coffee.


Highlighting the strengths that small or medium agencies possessed compared to the big giants, Kapadia asserted that one didn’t need a sword to cut vegetables. A small knife itself could do the job more effectively. The possible strengths that the aspiring to-be-big agencies possessed include ability to garner more trust and ensure personalised service to clients, be able to deliver a local touch and the ability to offer specialisation services.


Assigned the task of acclimatising the gathering to the role of new media in running any business, Punitha Arumugam of Google began by saying that the thing about new media is that if you do not know where you are going any road will take you there. Taking inspiration from her mentor Sam Balsara, Arumugam too went on to present the ten commandments of new media, which would help any agency to emerge successful in the future. The first was the need to think business: it was essential to have a big idea; being small or big by size is secondary. She went on to cite examples of Myntra.com and dollarshaveclub.com that went on to become successful case-studies in the recent past due to the power of thinking big. Next was the need to think fluidity: this was essential if one wanted to become successful and get good ROI. The third was think mind-casting: it was important for agencies to narrowcast and address a certain section of the audience as the underlying motive should be about targeting change leaders. The fourth was think re-imagine: with television and print both co-existing as effective mediums it was essential that agencies come up with ads that could work wonders across multiple mediums. The next mantra was think continuity: this had to do more about getting metrics that are used offline to be used successfully in the online world as well. The next was think solutions: this would be made possible with the help of technology that would make any solution come alive. Next commandment was think co-exist: the obvious need to see that all mediums co-exist seamlessly with a role being prioritised for each. Next was think adaption: need to pollinate offline ideas to online and do so effortlessly. The next was think structure: it was important that agencies learn to collaborate whether with generalists or with specialists if the job so demands. And the last but not the least, think covet: at the end, it is all about money. So it is okay if one desired a better share of the client’s attention and hence the business if he had to stay ahead of the race.


The conclave concluded with a Q&A session where the panellists cleared a few doubts from the audience. This was followed by a vote of thanks by Jagdish Rattanani, business editor of FPJ.


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One response to “FPJ boost for small agencies”

  1. rnsharda says:

    Very good initiative by FPJ, my complements to them.