Emerging communications firms are facing a quarter life crisis. These firms aren’t start-ups, and in most cases, have completed the 1000-day challenge any start up goes through. Making it through the initial tough and testing times of any start up firm, they have demonstrable work to show, an aspiration to change the way the industry functions, and may have even gotten their first taste of success and recognition. These firms have made it through the initial education the start up journey has to offer, and as they grow further, they have an urge to find their own identity and be accepted in the established industry and its culture.
Excerpt from March 2012
Last year, we visited one of the largest advertising festivals, at a place known more for its parties than for business. Last week, we were at a communication and PR event. I don’t really think we fit in either! Things are changing for the better, but I wonder when we can attend a meet where we feel completely at home and a perfect fit. Maybe, we are in the wrong industry? I don’t know; still haven’t been able to solve this.
Emerging firms, having gone through the initial acceptance by a handful of clients, hope to continuously push the envelope and do things differently. They don’t see a difference between advertising and communication and strive to make every campaign they take on as disruptive as possible. The agility and flexibility of a small, yet growing team and a set of clients open to letting this young firm take risks sets them apart from the rest. But like every person, they try and find a community where they fit it. On some level, they fit with the established communications industry, but at many levels, they are misfit. This not only bring confusion to how they can position themselves, but also, their ability to hire talent, acquire risk-taking client partners, and meet the criteria, at times made for the established industry players, at recognition platforms. They flirt from one discipline to another from communications to content to advertising to digital, and while they fit a little bit in each discipline, just like any teenager, they struggle in finding a perfect fit.
Excerpt from December 2015
We don’t want to be focused on quantitative output, but qualitative. The clients and the industry echoes the same thought, but at times, I guess these same clients don’t want the talk. Today, after presenting a breakthrough idea which is surely to create great proactive consumer engagement, our client said, “great idea, but do you think we can get at least 20-25 more media impressions before the end of the month?” Hmm, breathe. Just be patient…
The expectations of clients have changed, and while they have given more importance to engagement levels and appreciated radical ideas, the client-side is also at an inflection point trying to accept qualitative delivery, while balancing with the traditional need for quantitative output. Its not only period of confusion for emerging agencies, but also for clients, who want the new perspective of delivery as long as they still get the traditional perspective of delivery as well. As the industry evolves, the client side is also changing, but we, as an industry, are at a stage of transition. There will be chaos, confusion, and struggle, before things streamline and get clearer, better and full of hope.
Excerpt from September 2017
Last week, we attended the largest communication gathering in the country. And finally, we found a couple of other firms just like us! They talk like us, think like us and even want to achieve similar things. Even clients are becoming more open to working with companies like us and take risks on us. As we witness large agencies win the biggest agency of the year awards, we look to them starry-eyed. Hope we can achieve the same in the future, but in our way! Not by the old rules of communication, but by the unconventional, non-conforming and radical way of working. Now that, would be cool!
The industry has started changing as more and more firms are coming with a new age attitude towards communication as they mature, while larger established firms take efforts to get younger in their approach and stay relevant as they get older. As more emerging firms make their way towards this quarter life crisis, they find solace amongst themselves. These firms need to work together to learn, grow and combine to change the perception of communications in the industry. Markets recommend consolidation at times of maturation of any industry, but maybe during a time of radical change, consolidation, at least like-mined collaboration, may be the solution much earlier. Very counter intuitive than how industries have performed earlier, but I guess even the markets know we are in a time of radical solutions as we welcome, with open arms, a new era of communications and its role in any brand.
(The author is co-founder and director, Ideosphere Consulting.)
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Rao is currently CEO of dentsuMB Group India