Babita Baruah
Apr 06, 2011

Babita’s Blog: Mind The Gap

Babita Baruah, vice president and client services director, JWT Delhi, says Indian advertising should take the London Underground announcement seriously

Babita’s Blog: Mind The Gap


Mind The Gap.

Yes, this has been inspired by the now famous announcement in the London Underground to avoid hapless commuters from losing a leg.

But I use this phrase in a completely different sense- where at times, it is important to have that gap.

The gap I talk about is between the two strongest partners , yet adversaries , in the industry- the client and the agency.

Let’s face it. Gone are the days when the agency stalwarts were treated as demi gods by most clients. When their word was the law, their ideas the ultimate baton the client used to build brands.

The reason why this happened was not because the client simply loved the agency faces and the parties. It was because the agency really knew the business of building brands and creating communication that struck a chord with the consumers and kept the charts booming.

Today, the client seems to know much more. I write “seems to” because that is the perception. But I fear that this is increasingly becoming a reality.

Whether it is about the market, the competition, the brand health, research parameters and metrics, creative appreciation, even writing inspiring presentations  on Macbooks. We seem to have been left behind in the race.  And therefore, we have clients almost writing scripts, recommending layout changes and definitely writing good briefs. All of which was what we were experts at, not so long ago.

We no longer have the “gap” that gave us the edge and the lead. And gave us the right to have the final word when it came to creative.

Here’s some of my own hypothesis.

  • Agencies no longer invest in the brightest and the best marketing brains. Or, may be, the best and the brightest brains no longer want to join an agency which pays far below what parallel industries pay. After all, money talks.
  • Agencies no longer train good people on the latest tools of marketing, research and new media.
  • While clients talk about creative “ideas”, most of us still live and breathe “campaigns”. Result- we lose out to digital, to activation, to event agencies and then crib that the client just doesn’t buy good creative.
  • The job description in agencies have transformed into “executional efficiencies”, rather than being skewed towards “strategic and therefore creative prowess”. And clients are equally to blame for this, by pushing deadlines more than good work. But then again, to be ruthlessly honest, maybe they don’t see enough value in agencies anymore?
  • Planners do partner clients on consumers and strategy, but then again, as an industry, is the planning strength the best we can have?
  • Most of the brain drain from agencies has been to clients. The other side appears rosier and more robust. These are our own people across the desk who now “know more”. Maybe it is simply empowerment?
  • We do not like meeting consumers anymore. Most of us love armchair work. After all, we have Youtube for the best references.
  • Where do we recruit from? Do we look only at agencies or do we look out at other industries, where people with fresh experience and perspectives can change the picture?

All of this puts us in the defensive most of the time.

We do not know enough of what it takes to create communication that is beyond the 30 second TVC, in today’s age of new media. For most of us, social media is Facebook and Twitter. College kids know more than us about the plethora of emerging social media sites and can give us a good lecture on what makes campaigns tick in such media.

Coming to media and its separation from agencies.  Most of the youngsters do not know the difference between SOV and SOE. Whose fault is it? Ours. We recruit people and put them to the grindstone from Day One. Because most often, we recruit to get jobs done. Not to build brands.  And have started putting knowledge on the back seat.

There are definitely agencies who have managed to keep this “knowledge and experience” gap intact and still have the clients treating them as specialists in communications.

The rest have donned the mantle of churning out work with best production efficiencies and bright minds who draw up network plans and deliver.

It’s time we upped our Knowledge Quotient.

It’s time we changed the game. And our perspective.

For when the gap disappears, we lose more than just a “leg”. We lose out on what makes the agencies tick.

The views expressed are the author's independent views as an ad professional and do not reflect the organisation's viewpoint.


Campaign India

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