It’s a well-known anecdote from the Mahabharata, the great Indian epic. When both Duryodhana and Arjuna approached Sri Krishna for his help, the Lord told them. “You can choose between my army and me.” Arjuna chose Krishna and Duryodhana picked the army. Everyone knows the result of that battle.
In advertising, a similar story is unravelling. Last week, one of the largest global agencies, Ogilvy, decided to merge all its global divisions to create a unified brand. The entire army of sub-brands would retire from the battlefield called advertising over the next one year, leaving way for the unified single mother brand.
The single-brand concept probably is a realisation, which spells out that whatever is good for consumers, should be good for clients as well. Look at the consumer front and one can see a deluge of brands that is leaving consumers confused for choice. Among agencies, the numbers may not be as large (till now). But the emergence of specialists has resulted the client becoming the charioteer holding the reins to multiple agencies that work on his brand. Unlike Krishna, this charioteer has to be a part of the combat as well. And if the role of an agency was to simplify the task of a marketer, then it has certainly not delivered on that count.
The other shortcoming of that approach has been that no single agency can claim to be the sole custodian of the brand. With multiple agency brands working on a client portfolio, the baby is back in the hands of the client, leaving agencies with a lesser and lesser say on the direction any brand could take.
Also, most clients are strengthening the power of the mother brand. When clients have been often advised to rationalise their brands, to avoid confusion among consumers and provide a unified experience, it’s time that people giving the advice also followed the same in their own backyard. Now, that would be a bit like Lord Krishna not following his own advice from the Bhagavad Gita.
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