The Bang in the Middle theory: Interview with Prathap Suthan & Naresh Gupta

05 May,2014


Two years back, Prathap Suthan and Naresh Gupta and a few other professionals announced the formation of an agency with a difference: Bang in the Middle. Like its name, the proposition was meant to be ‘hat ke’, a lot of which came with the way the philosophy of its founders. MxMIndia has been tracking the agency right from the day it was launched, chronicling its every high, and every new client acquisition.


As it completed two years last week, we posed a few questions to Messrs Suthan and Gupta including one on something that many have been talking for a while: that it’s a good target for an acquisition.


The interview:


01. The first two years can be good fun, but the trials and tribulations could also be many. Ask us. We had many, many highs. And many, many lows too. How has been your journey? Banged more or got banged more?

Banged, we more than survived the first two years, and we survived to the plan we had written. We won many business, did some exciting work, won some industry accolades. To do a design project from Rolex was more than prestige, we learnt how exacting the Swiss can be, the Swiss learnt how detailed Indians can be. We won Dulux in a hard fought pitch with biggies just when we started,  Veen Waters gave us a global mandate, we won Zee News in a competitive pitch and as the second year came to an end we won Jabong in a dead heat against the largest of agencies.  Today we have a robust set of clients and some very exciting conversations with a set of large clients


02. Do you find that the world around you has also changed in these two years and hence people are more inclined towards your kind of creative work?

The world is changing at a pace faster than at least we can fathom. The largest of marketers are investing more in digital, the traditional agencies are not investing in that skill at all. We have experienced this in our conversations with many of the clients that they are willing to work across spectrum with one agency, it’s the agencies that are not ready to step up and play the role they could. Ideas have always been the currency of communication companies, and ideas have to go beyond TVC That does make brands more tuned to the kind of work we do


03. For those who don’t know too much about BITM, how would you like to be described? Are you more creative-led, planning or strategy-led or just about everything and re-orient as per client needs?

We are Mutant. We merge the traditional medium with new media. We are pure play digital agency for some of our clients, we are a conventional agency for some other of our clients. For a fees of our clients we are the only agency they use. We have more startup clients today than most agencies, and for each one of the startups: Diva’ni, Oxolloxo, Gyanshree School we are the only agency they have on board. From website to mobile app to mainstream advertising, we do it all for them


04. How much of your work is traditional advertising and how much of it is digital and for BTL etc?

We have stopped even looking at that divide, specially when the clients today are discussing the key words to target on web in the same vein as creating a campaign on TV. For a client we merged the social media with TV advertising, the brand trended on Twitter, saw a huge jump in traffic post the TV campaign and followed up the TV campaign with a social campaign. I don’t know where to slot a client like this. Most of the briefs we are working on today are mutant briefs


05. Does it help being an Independent? Would you consider being acquired by a global network?

It is absolutely fun being independent. Coming after many years of working for networks and waiting for decisions to be taken at some place in cyberworld, being independent is a big asset. More than us, its our brands that we work with will vouch for it. We are fast, we take decisions faster and add speed to their business strategy.


On being acquired, we have been spoken with even before we turned one. Those conversations have only gained speed. There are more than one network speaking us, there are some non network brands speaking with us. Being a part of a network is not necessarily a bad thing, provided we can preserve the DNA of ours: of being feisty and of being quick on our feet


06. What according to you has been the best work so far?

I would like the clients to answer that. For us every piece of work we have put out from Veen to Rolex to Zee to Diva’ni to Vimal to Dulux to Freecultr to FabFurnish every piece of work we have done, we are proud of it. We strive hard to ensure that we put out a communication solution that will help the brand grow, beat competition, increase value or whatever else they may have briefed us. These two years have been the year of learning for us too. Today, we are doing things that we never did before, and there are challenges we faced without the support for a global network.


07. One or two happenings in these two years where you would’ve told yourself the agency has arrived?

First such moment was when Zee News consolidated more than one channel with us. Winning Jabong was second such moment when we realised we can stand up to the might of the large agencies. We actually feel that every new brand that brings us on board makes us believe that we are on our way. We have a client who has acknowledged that the best work on the brand ever done is from BITM, another said that they never realised that we were a startup, we never came across as one. Each one of such moments are moments that tell us that we are reaching the destination


08. And one or two WTF moments? When you said why the hell did we get into this?

More than one, almost every month. We lost a large brief only because the global system didn’t want to hire a home grown agency, we lost a brief because a Mumbai client didn’t want a Delhi agency. These are moments that tell us that we haven’t reached there, we are not established, we have to work hard and we have a long road ahead


09. Do you think you could’ve been acquiring bigger clients (and hence bigger business) in the last two years?

Yes and no. At one level its a good thing that we have a committed set of clients who work with us closely, some of them are large too, at another level we do feel we could have won larger brands. The latter is more a wish and in no way is to undermine the former. I think a few large clients are around the corner


10. Any advertising that you think BITM should’ve been doing? And could’ve done better?

The team has extensive experience across three categories with proven credentials: tourism, automobiles and cellphone handsets. Those are three categories where we would definitely like to have. In each of these categories we would have done better work than the work that is on air


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