The Pitch Bazaar with 22 ad agencies

17 May,2018

 

By Prabhakar Mundkur

 

When Rediffusion won the State Bank of India mandate, the more staggering news was that Redifffusion had bagged the account of the largest public sector bank in the countryin a pitch with 22 agencies. After all, nowhere in the world would a client ask 22 agencies to pitch for their business.  Nor would any company ask 22 vendors for an RFP.  Calling 22 agencies means that either the client has done no homework, whatsoever in creating a short list through some preliminary desk research. Or it means that there is pressure that percolates from the top to call so many agencies, which might be typical of public sector accounts. After all every senior person in a public sector has a favourite that needs to be included.And this system has dogged the ad agencies for many years. It defeats all the sensibilities of vendor management. Good management practice would dictate not to ask more than five or at the most six vendors to participate. After all, if you called such a large number to participate, common management sense would dictate that the best would stay away.  But not in India and not for a public sector brand perhaps. The tradition has been that everybody throws their hat in hoping that they will hit a lottery.  But for some strange reason, public sector companies seem to follow the ‘more the merrier’ approach when it comes to appointing vendors.

 

But this then has been the history of the public sector in India. They have treated their ad agency pitches like a circus.  I have been in public sector pitches where their time management is so atrocious that you are sitting with another three-four agencies, in a common waiting room because as usual either someone has taken more time than what was allowed and not been disqualified or because the entire process started late.  Public sector brands are known not to follow common courtesies and niceties like in the private sector.

 

Also, public sector pitches are highly political.  The moment a winner is announced, there is a chorus from the losers that the match has been fixed almost like boxing matches of yore when a winner was announced.The losers are typically smaller agencies which supposedly have a reputation for financial advertising or have public sector experience, whatever that means. Which might have prompted Dinesh Menon, Chief Marketing Officer of SBI to tell the press a few days ago that “There is no such rule that a PSU bank has to work with several agencies.”Of course, there is isn’t.  And no doubt his detractors might be quoting history.  A 2009 press announcementfrom SBI proudly announced 10 agencies would share the then Rs 200 crore advertising account.  And if we found ourselves overawed by the sheer number of 22 agencies participating in a pitch, then 10 agencies sharing an advertising account, takes us from the ridiculous to the sublime. Even the world’s largest advertisers like P & G don’t have 10 ad agencies on their roster.  So, well done SBI for having the guts to challenge the age-old public-sector practice which has been the woe of several ad agencies for the last many decades.  Please now break the next rule and call only 5 agencies for your next pitch whenever it is, in the future. And then do us one last favour. Tell the other public sector companies to follow your good example.

 

Are Indian ad men bad losers?

 

I was surprised to see an interview with Pratap Bose in afaqs.com this week.  It seemed like he has been required to justify the stellar performance of his agency The Social Street at the recently concluded Abbys. After all the Abbys are supposed to be awards ‘of the people, by the people and for the people.” I was surprised by the tone of the very first question posed to him:

“Let’s talk about the issues around your Goafest performance. You have been accused of doing pro bono work to win awards. Comment.”Such an accusation from whoever it is, seems to be in very bad taste.  After all, if pro bono creative seems to win awards at the Abbys, that could be a flaw with the award show and not a flaw with the winner. No other agency was prevented from entering pro bono work I am sure.

You can only come to one conclusion. That in addition to everything else that plagues the ad industry, they seem to be very bad losers as well.

 

Is TV finally dying?

 

It certainly isn’t in India where everyone’s eyes are glued to the IPL frenzy.  But we have heard for sometime now that digital slowly seems to be taking over consumer’s preferences.  Hard to believe, but true.  And with the recent accusations against digital media of a lack of transparency from the chief slayer of the current ad agency model, Marc Prichard of P&G, one would have thought that the fascination for digital might have waned.  But maybe not so.

 

Adidas chief executive Kasper Rorsted told the press that they have turned their back on TV advertising.Rorsted is known to have said: “It’s clear that the younger consumer engages with us predominantly over the mobile device. Digital engagement is key for us – you don’t see any TV advertising anymore.”

 

MrRorsted seems to have bitten the bullet instead of just paying lip service by praising the effects of digital like some other global advertisers.  In fact, one particular global FMCG company hasn’t even updated its brand’s Facebook pages of some its brands for months now. And yet they keep evangelising on the power of digital.

 

 

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