Can Ad Agen­cies be Re­placed?

Cars24’s lat­est ad has no in­volve­ment of a creative agency. Is this a one-off or a new model more ad­ver­tis­ers will fol­low?

The Brand Reporter - - FRONT PAGE - By Abid Hus­sain Bar­laskar­

Where do ads come from? A brand of course! And who makes them? Why, an ad agency, of course. Or so it would seem is the sta­tus quo.

Apart from all the buzz about the short­age of tal­ent and creative folks hav­ing di­verse op­tions, the ad busi­ness might be un­der­go­ing an­other shift, but dis­creetly. We could spot plenty of ad cam­paigns, over the last few weeks, which did not have an ‘ad agency’ setup in­volved. Brands did it all in-house or got it done by in­di­vid­ual free­lancers and then roped in a pro­duc­tion house to put it on film.

Among the lat­est ex­am­ples is the full-fledged ad cam­paign - Car bechni ho, toh Cars24 - for brand Cars24, a plat­form that fa­cil­i­tates a mar­ket for used cars, ini­ti­ate pay­ments and has a has­sle-free trans­ac­tion-cum-trans­fer in one day sys­tem.

The ads do not look like they lack heart or were done by a shaky hand. We still had to ask the ques­tion though ‘which is the ad agency?’ The truth is, the cam­paign lacks the in­volve­ment of a main­stream ad agency and has been rolled out in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Hy­per­sonic Ad­vi­sory, a growth­fo­cused con­sult­ing com­pany.

The brand has rolled out four ad films over mul­ti­ple medi­ums with Nawazud­din Sid­diqui and Mandira Bedi on board. Aimed at po­si­tion­ing the brand as the one-stop shop for the sale of used cars, the ads take on four dif­fer­ent trou­ble­some sce­nar­ios which a used car buyer/seller can get into. Sid­diqui plays the emo­tional owner who wants a fair deal be­fore break­ing the emo­tional bond. Bedi plays the has­sled seller who posted about a car sale on­line and in­cluded her con­tact num­ber. This is fol­lowed by Shar­maji (a char­ac­ter in the third film) who got into a mess due to a com­plex RC trans­fer and fi­nally, there’s Mr Chib­ber (a char­ac­ter in an­other film), who’s tired of hag­gling with mid­dle­men.

afaqs! Re­porter spoke to Vani Gupta from Hy­per­sonic Ad­vi­sory, the brain be­hind the cam­paign, to find out more.

So why this cam­paign?

“Cars24 ap­proached Hy­per­sonic with a growth prob­lem. We started gather­ing in­sights for un­der­stand­ing the brand per­cep­tion. We found that the orig­i­nal propo­si­tion of sell­ing a car at its best price was not ten­able for the long term as the idea of price is sub­jec­tive. Our in­ter­ac­tions re­vealed that con­sumers were happy not only be­cause of the price but other things as well like ease of use, branch ex­pe­ri­ences, and these needed to be high­lighted. An­other part was that the brand was a leader in the used car mar­ket. We weaved both of these into a full cam­paign,” Gupta says.

“We worked on what could be the al­ter­nate propo­si­tion. This was fol­lowed by work­shops within the com­pany. We crafted a propo­si­tion and tested it with con­sumers. We then pre­pared a creative brief and ap­proached free­lancers for an ad cam­paign,” she adds.

Why free­lancers and not tra­di­tional ad agen­cies?

“I am a sup­porter of in­di­vid­ual tal­ent. Even in an agency, it’s never the agency, per se, that de­liv­ers. It is an in­di­vid­ual that one re­lies on. An agency is noth­ing more than a col­lec­tion of qual­ity tal­ent. That tal­ent may or may not al­ways be in an agency. An agency, as an or­gan­i­sa­tion, does bring in process and con­trol, but cre­ativ­ity is fun­da­men­tally in­di­vid­ual tal­ent,” Gupta replies.

How­ever, this is the first time Hy­per­sonic has done a cam­paign of this size. In Gupta’s words, it in­cludes ev­ery­thing, ‘end to end’.

The peo­ple who were brought on board for the cam­paign are folks Gupta had worked with pre­vi­ously or were rec­om­mended by her own mar­ket­ing com­mu­nity.

OVER TO EX­PERTS So, is the ‘agency’ setup get­ting bro­ken down?

“Agen­cies need to rein­vent them­selves. Be­fore the in­ter­net, there were lim­ited op­tions in mass me­dia and one-way com­mu­ni­ca­tion was in play. Old-world agen­cies made sense then. It would be only one agency team that would be the cus­to­dian of the brand. Dur­ing my time in Leo Bur­nett, when it was the agency-on­record for Coca-Cola, we were truly the cus­to­di­ans of the brand, in ev­ery sense. But now, com­mu­ni­ca­tion is two ways and di­vided across plat­forms. In this sce­nario, although mass me­dia is still a big chunk, we are see­ing the emer­gence of spe­cial­ist agen­cies which are prob­a­bly bring­ing in more value. To­day, even an out­door agency (pre­vi­ously more of a ven­dor) can be briefed by a brand team to bring in creative so­lu­tions,” Gupta states.

Vikram Cho­pra, CEO, Cars24, says in a press re­lease, “The en­tire cam­paign - from in­sights to ex­e­cu­tion - was led by Vani Gupta of Hy­per­sonic. We worked with sev­eral ser­vice providers on the rec­om­men­da­tions from Hy­per­sonic - me­dia ex­perts, dig­i­tal, creative, in­flu­encer mar­ket­ing and oth­ers.”

“I am a sup­porter of in­di­vid­ual tal­ent. Even in an agency, it’s never the agency, per se, that de­liv­ers. It’s an in­di­vid­ual that one re­lies on. An agency is noth­ing more than a col­lec­tion of qual­ity tal­ent.” VANI GUPTA

S Ye­su­das, co-founder and manag­ing di­rec­tor, Y&A Trans­for­ma­tion, con­sid­ers the cur­rent sce­nario a wakeup call for agen­cies. He main­tains that fail­ing to trans­form in time will dis­rupt the busi­ness model.

“I have been quite vo­cal about the re­duc­ing rel­e­vance of tra­di­tional ‘agen­cies’. While clients are strug­gling to align with the dy­namism in cus­tomer mo­bil­ity, the agen­cies, based on their legacy team/re­mu­ner­a­tion struc­tures and mostly used to the cam­paign plan­ning/think­ing linked to the leg­endary 4Ps of mar­ket­ing, have failed to make pro­vi­sions for the dig­i­tal ne­ces­si­ties of speed and the will­ing­ness to test mul­ti­ple ideas. Even recog­nis­ing some may fail,” Ye­su­das says.

Rahul Jauhari, joint pres­i­dent and chief creative of­fi­cer, Red­if­fu­sion In­dia and Ever­est Brand So­lu­tions, main­tains that the threat is real and agen­cies should ven­ture out of the tra­di­tional line of work. “A smart client judges or val­ues his or her agency ba­sis the value the agency adds to the brand, not just ba­sis a film or two. Agen­cies need to con­tinue to fo­cus on be­ing clos­est to the brand and re­spon­sive to the mar­ket­ing chal­lenges the client may face,” Jauhari says. ■

The brand has rolled out four ad films with Nawazud­din Sid­diqui and Mandira Bedi on board.

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