It’s time to listen:speakers @ Conclave

05 Apr,2013

LtoR Nitin Paranjpe, Arunabh Das Sharma, Sunil Alagh, Suresh Bandi, RS Sodhi, Arundhati, Bhattacharya, Harit Nagpal

By A Correspondent


The word Conclave suggests a serious discussion on matters of importance. While the Goafest 2013 Conclave has every intention of achieving this aim, and eventually does achieve it, one cannot put a number of intelligent, good-humoured people into the same room, ask them to speak, and then not expect at least a few chuckles.


To be fair, Conclave President Srinivasan Swamy struck a serious note when he outlined the topics the Conclave has tackled over the years, from recession, growth, change and dearth of ideas. This year, with the feeling again being that it is time to grow, the Conclave’s theme is ‘Time to Listen’, as it expects to have seniors tell the advertising fraternity what is wrong in the profession and how best to address it, he said.


Advertising Agencies Association of India President Arvind Sharma introduced keynote speaker Nitin Paranjpe, MD and CEO of Hindustan Unilever, who, he said, is a strong proponent of the idea that businesses can survive only if they seriously serve society. Most of his leadership of HUL, Mr Sharma said, has been in tough times, and he is a client who truly believes in advertising and marketing.


After Mr Paranjpe’s thought-provoking address, Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation managing director R S Sodhi introduced a dose of levity with his presentation revolving around the engaging Amul moppet. Having worked with Amul creator Verghese Kurien, he said, had been immensely valuable as Dr Kurien understood the importance of advertising in an era when no Indian company was being advertised.


Highlighting the learnings he had gleaned from Dr Kurien, Mr Sodhi said that stability in the core team was very important, both in client and agency. Da Cunha Associates had been the custodian of the brand (Amul) from the start, and stability had paid the brand rich dividends.  The core brand identity had remained the same since 1956, and there had been consistency in execution as well, which was a consequence of the complete trust there was between client and agency. In fact, Mr Sodhi said, the client sees the Amul creative only when the public sees it – that is the degree of the trust between them.


Mr Sodhi added that advertising should sell the product, not the creator of the product. “Why is creative created? It is to sell the product,” he said.


Summarising other learnings from Amul over the years, he said the agency needs to not only listen to the client, but also understand them. Raising a hearty laugh from the audience while concluding, Mr Sodhi recommended that advertising awards should be done away with. “The advertising fraternity are creating the awards and also giving them. It is the clients and the consumers who should be giving these awards,” he quipped.


Arundhati Bhattacharya, MD, SBI Capital Markets, spoke about the agency-client partnership which, she said, has to be equal. In public sector units this partnership tends to be amorphous specially since people tend to be transferred and the agency may end up dealing with a few different individuals on one account. In such cases, she said, maintaining consistency becomes difficult and the agency should make it a point to partner the organization, not the person they deal with.


For PSUs, Ms Bhattacharya said, it was often observed that agencies do not recommend new media and instead focus on traditional print. Agencies need to tailor media to the client’s needs, she said, and should understand the corporate personality and ethos. Often, she added, agency people tend to get overawed by the client to such an extent that they allow the client to dictate the ad content. Moreover, agencies need to do primary research, without which they will not have the big idea and the differentiation.


Concluding, Ms Bhattacharya emphasized the importance of keeping things simple, giving the example of the classic Jenson and Nicholson paints advertisement, which used varying visuals and the slogan, “Whenever you see colour, think of us.”


Asking the key question, “What do clients want?”, Suresh Bandi, Deputy Managing Director, Panasonic India, said the answer is Value. Value can be subjective, he said, but in general value came in the form of results, process quality, access costs and fees. Clients do not want creativity for the sake of creativity, he said. They appreciate creativity but there is a commercial objective. On process quality, he said agencies can be disorganised but there should be a method in the madness. Moreover, agency personnel must be accessible to the client – the greater the effort the client has to make to reach the agency, the lesser the value for the client. Also, he said, higher fees mean less value for clients, as they need to reduce expenses. When clients get value, it ensures their loyalty, commitment and satisfaction, he added.


Later, Arunabh Das Sharma, President, Revenue, Bennett Coleman and Co, said five trends that bother him are: Seeing the world through a 30-second TVC, separation of creative, media and account planning, the demise of planning, decline in the quality of client-facing talent, and overused excuses which leave clients frustrated.


Limiting advertising to the lens of a 30-second commercial meant both, the death of imagination and a lack of quality work, Mr Das Sharma said. He added that the decline in planning had led to lack of marketing insights, lack of imagination and consumer insights, and to media planning being subservient to media buyers.


Harit Nagpal, MD and CEO, Tata Sky, made a short and entertaining presentation on what he feels are issues that need to be addressed. Role clarity in agency-client expectations is needed, he said; Digital video recording is changing how people are watching TV, and brands must be conscious of inputs from this section; Digital is changing consumer behaviour and feedback paradigms; complexity in medium and technology means that things are no longer as they were, and both agency and client have to move with the changes; Clients have to be selective and hire professionals and specialists; and agencies have to take a stand, confront and contradict the client if required, and for that they need to hire strong people to meet with clients. Sunil Alagh, founder and CEO, SKA Advisors led the final panel with a Q&A of the speakers of the day.


Photograph: Shailesh Mule/Fotocorp


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