In times of inflation, do you think Chimp&z Inc and sister companies have what it takes to overcome the current situation?
Lavinn: Going by the industry trends and the massive layoffs that we’re seeing across the world, I’d say we’ll be able to feel the tremors of it soon enough. That said, we at Chimp&z Inc and Merge Infinity Group are definitely heading in a positive direction.
Angad: He’s right. I’d like to believe that we’re taking the right steps too. Over the last nine-odd years, we have been through many dips and upheavals and I’m confident that we’ll wade through this as well. I think it was Will Rogers who joked about how one must invest in inflation, because that is the only thing going up.
How do you think digital content creation has been affected? Do you see a dip in production briefs for your film company Griffin Pictures Worldwide?
Angad: When the briefs and the budgets get tougher, the solutions have to get smarter. Griffin has had to adapt to smarter tools of production. Big camera setups have been replaced by iPhone cameras with miniscule difference to production output. We’re able to make lighter films on lighter budgets and still deliver great quality. We’re also able to adapt to format changes faster. Today it’s stills, tomorrow it’s square videos, the next day it’s vertical reels. The leaner the team, the faster we move.
Lavinn: Our work speaks for us too. Look at our award-winning campaign for TATA Play’s World TV Day or the zero-dollar campaigns we pulled off for Cartoon Network (#LetItSlide) and TATA Play Binge’s #BingeChristmasSpirit. We did well, if I may say so myself.
The industry trend is that advertising and marketing is axed first when recession hits. Any comments on that?
Angad: That is only partially true. When the times are tough, all departments get hit equally. Companies scale down manufacturing. Hiring is frozen. Marketing budgets are tighter, hence advertising slows down too. Traditional marketing definitely takes a hit but digital advertising will go on. When you can track every penny spent along with the ROI, you are able to take more calculated risks. We’re not too worried about this.
Let’s talk about layoffs. In the current market, we’ve seen layoffs upwards of 10% of their payroll. How do you think the advertising industry will get affected?
Lavinn: Our industry has a problem. Advertising leaders have this habit of boasting about their head count. “We have over 2000 employees,” they say. When did our industry become about the headcount more than the number of clients we have? Surely the metric for success can’t be that ‘we pay X lakhs in salary!’ For us at Merge Infinity Group, it has always been quality over quantity. We work with selective clients who believe in us. We keep our teams lean. The leaner the team, the healthier it is and a healthy team is a wealthy team.
Angad: You might think of these as platitudes but these are tried and tested methods. We have lasted close to ten years in a competitive industry and these very things have worked out for us. Warren Buffet said, ‘It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who’s been swimming naked.’ He meant it in the context of the stock market but it can be applied here as well. The fittest business will survive the inflation.
Do you have any suggestions for other agencies?
Lavinn: Choose who you work with because that’s going to matter a lot in the next two years. If the signs are right, this financial meltdown might last more than a year or two. So choose to work with partners that believe in you and your work.
How do you keep your workforce motivated?
Angad: See, the only way to get through a tough period is together. In times of recession, every organisation needs to be more empathetic. Listen to your employees, communicate, and provide support where necessary.
Do you see undercutting becoming a problem in these times?
Lavinn: Well, there will always be somebody willing to do it for less money. There has been and there will be. However, the long game is sustenance. Agencies that charge too low for services will not last the recession. Those who manage to find a balance are more likely to survive.
Do you have any advice for freshers entering the industry now?
Angad: Do not go after the money. Look out for quality work, build an enviable portfolio of work. Keep up with technology, play and tinker with newer platforms. Focus on doing good work and making your career, money will follow. In a market that is going down, do the right thing and things will look up for you.
Let’s come down to the brass tacks. Give us five suggestions to ride through the recession.
Angad and Lavinn:
Invest in yourself. Make good use of your weekends. Take time out to rest, energise and focus on what is important.
Curb your expenses - Spend your money and your weekends wisely. Only spend on necessities.
Use more stable investments - don’t take big risks.
Communicate your problems to friends and family - A lot of entrepreneurs tend to keep their problems to themselves. That can’t be healthy. Sharing with people around will help manage stress and come up with solutions. From what we have learnt, recessions don’t last a lifetime. It is possible to see it through, with support.
Don’t overthink it. The recession is like an earthquake. You cannot control what happens but you can be prepared for it.
Angad: Digital technology has been a huge blessing. We have the tools required to adapt our storytelling, we have managed to work on our pricing and improve on our already agile advertising strategy to wade through tough times…not just for us but also for our clients.
Lavinn: If this is not onwards and upwards…I don’t know what is.