Radhika Joshi
Mar 25, 2010

Should advertising agencies don another hat?

The enquiry has its roots in the observation that sales and service in our country’s retail initiatives is fragile.To wit:1. Most Counter sales people in malls are ‘up sellers’. They do not ‘listen’ to your needs; or they blandly say ‘not available’.2. Reaching a 1-800 number with a problem is a problem.

Should advertising agencies don another hat?
The enquiry has its roots in the observation that sales and service in our country’s retail initiatives is fragile.

To wit:

1. Most Counter sales people in malls are ‘up sellers’. They do not ‘listen’ to your needs; or they blandly say ‘not available’.

2. Reaching a 1-800 number with a problem is a problem.

3. Sending a complaint to any service organization (Bank?) is like playing ball in space. The MD’s office never responds and the help lines are full of electronic voices and press options.

4. Most loyalty programs consist of point accumulation and odd DMs.

5. Mutual Fund Customers are akin to the great unwashed. Some sporadic & bland statutory general mail. Individuals buying MFs are simply lost souls wandering aimlessly in their funds’ vast estates.

The litany is long and therein lies the thought:

Advertising agencies ‘own’ the customer. They do a lot of research; they regularly conduct in-depth motivational studies; they draw up customer profiles viz. Geeta of Gorakhpur and Omana of Ottopalam etc. They discourse on consumer buying habits. And above all they all tell their clients about the intuitive silver chord linking them inextricably to buyers.

They know the product or the service which their client is marketing. They have spent hours, nay days in tinkering with it; learning it ground up. Like David O wrote – they have spent hours at the feet of the Gurus of product development. They have tested products, stamped and stomped on them; made suggestions of improvements. And sometimes invited by clients to join them!

So why shouldn’t they train frontline, midline and backline staff of their clients? This is not the usual 360 degree stuff served up by all Agencies. This is serious.

Today’s client is microscopically examining Agency remuneration; they look askance at any extras; at the drop of a hat they look for a competitive pitch and generally meet Sam Balsara and Shashi Sinha more often than their own Agency Head!

Donning the Training mantle will give Agencies an opportunity to link with their clients on the knowledge platform. It will make their connect much stronger; apart from the MD and the Marketing Director they can touch base with the HR and Training Head (deepen relationship!). They will be involved more closely with the guts and entrails of the organization; and since they have knowledge of ‘customers’ and ‘product’ they are ideally placed to instruct customer facing people in the organization. Agencies will be better placed than conventional trainers because trainers are interested in training and not in the client/customer/salesperson interface issues. Sales training is sales training; it is good and necessary but not sufficient. Sales training must include all sorts of customer insights which Agency people are trained for.

Ad Agency people are well versed in the art of presentations; they are skilled in making pitches, they are tireless workers; they are well spoken, and have diverse talents ranging from mimicry to music. They are highly capable of improvising on the fly. They never take no for an answer and come back with alternatives. They are persuasive and patient.

These are attributes which they can build on and pass over to the constituents of their clients. They can motivate and solve problems. In turn they will learn more about customers than ever before….

Training will give back to the Agencies the knowledge mantle – which they have been losing to the Consulting world. If they successfully get it back, or at least get a share back, they can slowly increase their ‘importance’ share with their clients. The truth is that Agencies have become less important to their clients lives with each passing season; here then is a reason to become a limpet again.

Moreover, there are fixed fees here. Clients seldom harangue their Training Consultants about fees. And Maxus is not circling the training room looking for the extra percentage. Training bills are paid mainly in advance. And the market is so big that Agencies can feed off their own clients for a long time before they start eyeballing others. There’s gold in them thar lectures!

As a bonus, Agency juniors can sit at the back of the lecture rooms and take in the atmosphere and learn, free of cost.Is there anybody out there with a head big enough to wear another hat?

 

Source:
Campaign India

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