Will Media Agencies ‘Kill’ the Creative…?

15 Feb,2018


By Prabhakar Mundkur


I remember that back in 1996 when I was with JWT South Africa, Burt Manning the then global CEO of JWT made a trip to meet us.  In his informal speech at the office pub, he said that he would like to see a day when the traditional ad agency presentation started with a media presentation rather than a creative presentation.  If that is not already happening I am sure it will happen soon.  So, Mr. Manning might have just predicted the future very early on.


Ever since media and creative separated, it’s the media agency that has made large strides forward.  I was lucky to be working at JWT Shanghai where the second Mindshare in the world was formed in 1998, thanks to Kelly Clark, the now Global CEO of GroupM who entirely supervised the transition. The media agency has embraced digital, activation, events, sponsorships, content distribution, sports and entertainment, and the rest of the integrated marketing puzzle. Making it far more attractive and qualified compared to the creative agency. Whereas the creative agency has remained what it always was… largely the producer of TV commercials and print ads.


The acquisition of a digital agency called Glitch by GroupM may be a signal of where the future lies. After all there is nothing to stop the media agency from also acquiring a creative agency save the obvious conflict at a group level.  In fact, acquisition of a creative agency might well bring us full circle to the integrated agency of the future.  Today’s media agency has the Big Data, has the client relationships, has the research, is making large investments, unlike the creative agency that is just bumbling along trying hard to survive. I know creative freelancers who already work with GroupM.  I am sure it saves GroupM the bother of having to ask their WPP creative agencies for help.  And the informality of relationships with these creative shops prevents any obvious conflict of interest at a corporate level.


But the press release did make GroupM look a like a bunch of bean counters.  Because the Glitch CEO said they were bringing right-brained thinking to the left-brained GroupM.  That is certainly not how GroupM should see itself in the future.


McCann vilified on Social Media

When McCann put a self-congratulatory ad in The Times of India last week, suddenly the professional side of the advertising business woke up almost like Rasputin awakening from his slumber.  As the saying goes, professionals typically don’t advertise themselves and professionals generally means chartered accountant, lawyers etc. An old code of conduct says that professionals shouldn’t advertise, but I guess that is long forgotten.  After all we see plenty of ads for doctors and clinics these days.  When it suits the ad industry folks,they like to think of themselves as professionals.  So, the industry took to social media to denigrate McCann. The taunts included the creativity of the ad.


But I am sure it is Prasoon Joshi, the CEO of McCann, who is having the last laugh.  In the just released Gunn Report 2017, McCann was named the No 1 agency in India.  Leaving behind the likes of Taproot Dentsu, BBDO, Ogilvy, Leo Burnett, L & Saatchi & Saatchi and Weiden+Kennedy.



Advertising catches up with the Indian parent’s obsession for children’s studies

While there may be no formal research to validate this, the Indian’s parent’s obsession with children’s studies is well-known.  We are the only country that indulges our children in the extra classes, the private tuitions, and other academic additions to regular school.  This either poorly reflects on our education systems, our children or our parents, I am not sure which.  But the insight triggered a few commercials both from Mirinda and Horlicks.



What is questionable of course, in spite of trying very hard, is the rather loose connection between the product and exam time which has little to do with each other. The Horlicks claim of ‘emotional nutrition’ remained largely emotional with no real ‘reason why’. But with children’s nutrition categories being threatened by serious pharma companies like Abbott with products like Pediasure, its exam time for Horlicks as well which has seen its market share take a beating in recent years.



But in balance, advertisers might have hit upon a good thing. After all Prime Minister Narendra Modi is addressing 10 crore students on February 16, on how to deal with the stress of exam time. Besides our PM has also written a book on the subject, which was released on February 3.


It’s time to add Exam Time as another special day along with Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  I am sure the theme will attract more advertisers in 2019.



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