What are the things needed for a great client-agency partnership? The first speaker that the Industry Conclave preceding Goafest 2016 on 7 April delved into the subject, suggesting four ingredients of great partnerships: Complementary strengths; Shared purpose and passion; Trust and friendship; and Ability to challenge each other.
With these, the speaker, Mondelez India MD Chandramouli Venkatesan, set the tone for his talk on what agencies can do to make the partnerships strong. Underlining that it was a two-way relationship, he said, “Are we putting in enough to create the partnership, or are we just letting it happen?”
Trust that enables cutting-edge work
Venkatesan outlined the advantages of trust in a client-agency relationship. He reasoned that it enables easy, open and honest communication, and said, “What takes three meetings to say, we say in 30 seconds.”
“Trust enables cutting-edge work. Trust is actually what enables brave decision making you so often want,” he added, citing some examples to make his point.
Cadbury Gorilla (UK)
Against the backdrop of a ‘massive quality incident’ in the UK, the creative route taken was not considered to be the best option, explained the Mondelez India executive, explaining that the marketing head for the UK put his job on the line to convince the global CEO to go ahead with this film.
Bournvita Tayyari Jeet Ki
The example from India was a break from the usual category advertising of product benefit.
“A lot of advertising was about factual evidence. We said we are going to be about smart parenting, not about the beverage. After three years, it looks simplistic. But at the time (of its launch), it was a very convoluted conversation,” explained Venkatesan.
Cadbury Dairy Milk Silk
“The first time I saw it, I thought it was the messiest way to eat chocolate. It looked like the ghastliest thing one can do. It was not the output we expected from the script we visualised. I’m so proud (of what the brand has achieved). I do believe Silk is the best premium FMCG launch ever,” said the speaker.
Agencies tend to make decisions based on three things, suggested the marketer-turned-MD. Some decisions were made keeping client interest in mind, some on the basis of what work an agency hand liked to do, and some for personal growth, he said.
He urged agencies to win trust by making decisions keeping client interest alone in mind, and mused, “Sometimes I struggle with the concept of agencies doing work that they enjoy doing. That’s of no relevance.”
Being commercially responsible was also key to earning client trust, said the speaker, stating that he failed to understand why a film cost much more to make than another. He underlined that agencies must address the issue, while ceding, “I am not sure if you can demystify that ‘black box’ a hundred per cent.”
Talent and Process
To win the talent battle, agencies need to disrupt the talent model, said Venkatesan. “One of the most important things is to build brand stewardship. It’s about quality and longevity of talent,” he noted.
Cautioning that failure of brand stewardship destroys brands, he claimed that all the Cadbury Dairy Milk work in 50 years would fall under either ’Good’ or ’Great’, adding, ’I don’t think there is a second brand that has done no ’Bad’ stuff in 50 years.”
The speaker left the audience on day one of Goafest 2016 with three processes to think about: Strategic alignment (whether even the creative in the agency is aligned with the planner’s work); Project management capabilities; and Team management.
He said, “There is a mistaken notion that process is a barrier to creativity. As agencies and clients, we have to break that notion. Process is an enabler to creativity.”