Promising tales of tiny, tall agencies

21 Sep,2012


By Johnson Napier


The last few weeks were rife with news of independent — or shall we say not-so-big — advertising agencies that were going all out to make their presence felt in the M&E space in India. Whether for the awards they had bagged across festivals or the largescale client wins that they had managed to pocket in their kitty, these agencies were in the news for some reason or the other. But while it may be the ‘popularity’ tag or the affiliation to a large parent company that may have done the trick for these agencies, there are others that fall shy of this honour.


For instance, one may have faint acquaintance with an agency that goes by the name Apex Advertising or for that matter Flagship Advertising but if one were given a glimpse of the kind of clientele they have to boast – be it RBI, Taj Group of Hotels, BSNL, Pantaloon Retail, Pidilite Industries, MTV Networks etc – or even the kind of billings that they manage to pile up that ranges anywhere from Rs 5 to 50 crore, it would make for an interesting cover. And that’s precisely where the industry seems to be holding back or rather not giving these small yet powerful ad independents their due.


This lacuna is currently being addressed by veteran print player Free Press Journal, that has come up with an interesting coffee table book titled ‘Tiny Tall Tales’. As the tagline suggests, this book plays up the initiatives of small agencies that are making it big. Said to be a slice of the coverage from The Free Press Journal’s column ‘Small Size Big Ideas’, the book will be launched at FPJ’s second roundtable conclave on 22nd September by Lynn De Souza, Chairman and CEO, Lintas Media Group.


Abhishek Karnani

Throwing light on the thought-process and the merit behind warranting such an effort that has been the benchmark of FPJ for some time now, Abhishek Karnani, Director, Free Press Journal said: “There are around 180 accredited ad agencies in Mumbai but we always hear and talk about the Top 15 agencies. There is life beyond them and these not so big agencies are doing great work away from the limelight. These agencies also represent a substantial business and have close affinity with the clients. We are proud of this initiative of the Free Press Journal, where we have taken time to look not at the obvious leaders but at those who are important and often overlooked by the media. This outlook builds on our worldview that there is deep value in the big and the small and it is important to study the not-so-big to learn about ground realities and to spot trends and understand markets that much better.”


Sharing his experience, Author & producer of the book Sandeep Singh said, “Traditionally if you see, everybody just loves to talk about the top 10-15 agencies but there is a whole volume of business that comes from smaller agencies. Some of them are intentionally small because they want to be creative or whatever way you want to look at it, but great works do come across from them. This book is an attempt to cover these agencies.” Elaborating on the participation factor on behalf of the agencies, Singh said, “Though a few agencies refrained from participating citing some reason or the other, the book profiles most of them. Also, it is worth noting that the minimum billing of the agencies in this book is around Rs 5 crore while the maximum is pegged at Rs 50 crore.”


Elaborating on the scope and scale of the initiative, Jagdish Rattanani, Business Editor, Free Press Journal who along with his team has helped in putting together the book said, “We hear a lot about the top 10 or 15 small ad agencies in India who are spoken about and praised a lot by the media but if you go beyond there are these ‘not-so-big’ advertising agencies that are still big in terms of what they manage to bring to the table. They are big in being strong and powerful enterprises and are dealing with a lot of interesting ideas. We sensed that there was a lot of energy and growth potential amongst these small agencies. Also we found that nobody ever tries to cover them and understand their perspective or see what they might need in this era of change to make the next big leap. That’s what encouraged us in taking this initiative further.”


As for the point on finding the cause to be an apt fit with the model with which Free Press Journal itself moves forward with, Rattanani asserted by saying, “Though Free Press Journal is not among the biggest of the big, it is but the oldest Indian-owned English newspaper in Mumbai. Basis this, we said that we have a special interest and focus on trying to look at the others who are as good but are not so big and thus started the journey of deliberately trying to exclude the very big and focussing on the not-so-big,” affirmed Rattanani. Adding further he said, “For this exercise, we ended up going and visiting these agencies and even ran features over a period of two years and tried to play up their point of view and perspectives. All said and done, the larger story is of the ideas that lie just beneath the surface.”


On whether the initiative was carried out to bring about intangible benefits for the newspaper group in terms of revenue from advertisers, Karnani thwarted the thinking by suggesting, “We are rendering this as a Corporate Social Responsibility. Our only concern is to help this segment to take a leap to the next level. We want to empower the not so big ad agencies to not only survive but also thrive and outgrow the market in these times.”


In fact the group is looking at other avenues to take forward similar causes on behalf of the industry. Asserted Karnani: “We have already kickstarted our Knowledge Series wherein we invite experts to come and share their views with this group. We are also in talks with international ad associations wherein we plan to use their platform to host events for the not-so-big agencies. Also, we are also hosting our second exclusive conclave “The Change That Cometh” that is focused on the not-so-big advertising agencies. So there is a lot to look forward to.”


While it is too early to predict the outcome of the book from peers from the ad industry, Singh is hopeful that the book will receive a positive approval from all concerned. He avers: “I hope the bigger agencies are happy and take note of the initiative in a positive light.”


As for its plans of coming out with a sequel to the book, Singh said, “We would like to explore an opportunity of coming out with a sequel to this edition but it is still early days to be talking about that.” Agreeing with Singh, Rattanani said, “I can only say that the idea is rich and we can build on this idea but how the idea will further shape up only time will tell.”


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