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Look again at the descriptor, ‘Ads’

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by Ajay Kakkar

I believe that ‘great’ brands are created when true magic is created, in which both the parties (agency-client) work as one. It is an illusion to believe that one partner offers more than the other. Also, people often make the mistake of viewing this partnership as a relay race, where one (the agency) passes the baton to the other (their client), and the agency’s role ends there. That’s why there is no ‘after the campaign’ conversation. The agency’s output is viewed as a creative or campaign and not as it should be – its effect or impact on the client’s business. Advertising should be recognized as a ‘business of effective ideas and creativity’.

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I had the opportunity to work across the spectrum of what an agency has to offer; in advertising, direct Marketing and public relations.

Whether you’re a creative person, a planner, or into servicing, this wasn’t a tug-of-war. You felt as if you were truly the master of the customer relationship. and co-owners of the KRAs of the customer.

While ‘advertising’ was always seen (and treated) as the ‘big brother’, my experience was that the creative team’s ears were the brand manager’s ears. and (only) on a good day, that Marketing Head. What PR brought to the table, however, was the ear of the CEO and the board room. Especially at the moment of dire need to protect a brand, a crisis, for example. Therefore, I believe it is in the best interest of the brand (and the agency) if all components of the ‘advertising’ world work as one, taking a 360 perspective. And not in the form of individual super-specialists who carry the brand and brief with them on their person.

Thus, not surprisingly, agency partners at one time earned the “brand custodian” and “brand steward” tags. It was a reflection of the fact that they would be thinking about the customer, and he would be awake all the time. this was probably in recognition of the role agencies Actually playing as the Guardian and the Navigator.

As David Ogilvy used to say, the true test of an agency person is that you should know more about your client’s business than your client.

The number of contributors to a brand has increased manifold over the years. And each of them has given rise to an independent industry or agency. So, in today’s world, who holds the badge, responsibility or recognition as a brand custodian or brand steward?

Furthermore, I think it is time to re-think the descriptors we use for this industry; ‘advertising’. The term does a dis-service to the industry and probably describes ‘mass media’ more than the many other valuable components that have emerged since then, but still fall under this banner. If individually and collectively we help build a ‘brand’ for an industry that builds brands for others, is there a branding opportunity here?

I think there’s a trick or two missing in the agency world. It should be seen as an opportunity to reclaim the days of its glory, recognition and respect.

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I think the last few years have made some things very clear. And also muddied the waters on many aspects.

Over the past few years, I’ve been realizing that we as marketers have been questioning ourselves. The industry is questioning us. And business is inquiring from us. Are we to blame? Or is the environment to blame? The jury is still out on that one.

Most stakeholders, including some marketers, view “advertising” simply as a marketer’s role. “They’re the ads, posters and banners people, aren’t they?”

That is far from the truth. The marketer must lead the way in building a brand that supports the ambition of the business. He should create a reputation for the brand, he should make the brand ‘famous’, thereby creating a ‘pull’ or demand for the product or service. In this direction, advertising plays the role of an important weapon in the marketer’s armoury. But of course it is not the only weapon.

The author is a Brand and Marketing Strategist. The views expressed are personal.

  • Published on March 21, 2023 at 08:00 AM IST

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