A new chapter is being written in the client agency playbook
A brand blackout is not necessarily a bad thing. What’s changed? almost everything. The financial distress caused by COVID-19 has seen unprecedented strife: from contract suspension, client budget reductions to the cancellation of business. As advertising revenues have fallen away, the major publishers and media groups have focused on core activities and abandoned anything peripheral. The blackout has accelerated the move away from print to digital media; and wasting no time, publishers have arrived at new operating equilibriums to pacify an anxious Boardroom, and pressing shareholders. No one has remained unscathed.
The new ‘Tango’
For clients and agencies, there’s a new level of scrutiny, testing the true value of the partnership. Both parties have had to square up and re-boot; re-define relevancy and purpose; and quickly develop new strategies, campaign scripts and brand messages. So the blackout has been an opportunity to press the reset button and go again, and go fast.
“Disruption often leads to innovation, reinvention, and even transformation, not a bad thing,” says Vineet Handa, CEO, Kaizzen. “This storm has driven us into hyper-interaction mode with clients on all fronts from planning, execution to reporting. Our clients have demanded immediacy and we’ve adjusted accordingly, for example, weekly reviews being ditched in favour of a daily client exchange. On strategy, we’ve had to develop new campaign thinking and respond with ideas that may be good for one week but not for the quarter! Transactions are faster and more clinical, as agency and media meetings have naturally shifted online, with events and press conferences going digital.
Girish Balachandran, Managing Partner, On Purpose, added: “We moved fast to adapt and rethink our client engagement model with nothing being sacrosanct, including price. We’ve seen a surge in demand for more strategic brand and positioning requirements, more aggressive media visibility and agility on digital media like never before.”
With clients demanding the best talent and ideas from agency partners, now more than ever, the brand blackout has encouraged agencies to look at team selection with new horizons. Girish Balachandran continues, “Our clients want the best talent, so we’ve shifted to rethink how we staff assignments. Remote working has led to a realisation and a greater confidence to search and attract talent from anywhere across India or even globally. The false notion that all talent needs to physically attend the office has completely disappeared. There are no boundaries to talent anymore.”
Teams, collaboration and workflows have been transformed. A new work ethic, focus and discipline has emerged with streamlined reporting formats that focus on client results and goals. Decision-making and discussion is happening faster courtesy of ‘the Zooms’, accelerating the cross-pollination of ideas and problem solving. The interplay across remote teams has meant less silo thinking and resulted in faster, informal collaboration.
Vineet Handa, remarked, “The spotlight is surely be on all things digital. Digital transformation is rife within agency organisations as technology and automation seeps in, streamlining decision-making and creating time for other more critical campaign activities, such as planning. The unexpected benefits, massive gains in productivity; a reduction in traveling translates into more creative time. Online meetings are shorter and more focused, no idle chat.”
Girish Balachandran concluded: “As businesses shift more of their operations online, we will see tech platforms, data and analytics becoming the norm. What hasn’t changed is the need for good storytelling. If anything, we’re challenged to tell these stories utilising better data to develop clever content and messaging appropriate for the right audiences.”
It’s all change from top to bottom at the agency. The accidental lessons learned have forced agency modernisation for the good. For the agency, more results based activity whilst being able to test and deploy new management strategies that reap operational efficiencies and boost business performance. It’s good for the brand, as resources are being allocated to the things that really matter – strategy and counsel. The blackout has forced both clients and agencies to repurpose themselves and set a new modus operandi.
About the author: Sandeep Kalsi, CEO, Janga Media – SAAS Marketing Platforms.