AdStand: The Cry for Freedom on Independence Day

How did the business of advertising start? There is very little that is known about it.

True the merchants worked hard to attract potential customers to their wares. There was no branding, the merchant was the brand and the merchant didn’t operate from a fixed location. The initial business was about those who created flyers on behalf of large shops. These people were more of printers (publishers in today’s parlance) and not really creators.

Then sometimes in 60’s one visionary Copywriter teamed up with an Art Director and new foundation of today’s advertising business as we know was laid. This partnership became very successful and a soon a business manager got attached to them. Then a media person got attached to this team. Eventually a media planner and business manager got together and a function called planner was born. This system of advertising has been in vogue since and advertising agencies have run for a long time on this basis.

The business of advertising became fat, complex and unwieldy.

The holding companies in their greed to make the most of growing industry bundled many agencies to play on size. As the size became a deterrent they tried to unbundle and broke them into smaller sizes.

Agencies are at war today; they are in a war of survival. The old creative duo combination, which was the foundation of agencies, is under attack from generalists. The Digital technologist, the CRM specialist, the event marketers, the media agencies are all running after the same pie and are all wanting to be full service. Add the consulting companies to the mix and you get a scenario where the entire business is under severe pressure.

Is there a way out?

May be this Independence Day, we can look at the way out. There are independent agencies across the globe that have started to redefine the way brands engage with clients.

Freedom from Silos

There are too many silos in advertising business today. There are the traditional copy-art duo, add to this mix the technologist, the media blokes, the event marketers, the PR professionals and many more.

Agencies are not about creative; the fundamental foundation of agencies is ideation. The entire creative process needs to be re-crafted. The traditional copy art duo needs to become better integrated with new age creators like publishers, the bloggers, and the technology solution providers. Increasingly the new breed of independent agencies are breaking the walls and opening the process of creation to become idea centric.


Freedom from Mass Media thinking

For way too long the communication business has been about ‘creating’ TV commercials. This model worked because the brands were about driving awareness and penetration. Broadcast was the easiest way to create traction for the brand. The new media explosion has meant that brands need to add a new layer to broadcast. This layer is to ensure that the communication becomes sharper, more contextualized and more engaging. The new communication is all about relooking the engagement between consumers and brands. Despite the entire conversation about brands wanting to be on two-way communication with consumers, I don’t believe it is necessarily true. Brands still need to be intrusive, just that intrusion is nor driven by a big mass media broadcast solution alone.


Freedom from cheaper and faster

The single biggest disservice the holding companies did to the business was to make everything either cheaper or faster. Because they could not create the differentiation through ‘creative product’ they created the new evaluation metric of cost and time. This has been the biggest failure of advertising industry. Simply put, this has meant that clients drove a hard bargain by pitting multiple agencies of same holding company in a mad reverse bidding war where the lowest cost won. Then they went out to specialized shops to hire top talent and pay top dollar. The advertising industry in mad scramble to win business chopped the very branch it sat on.

Advertising is supposed to build brands; the advertising agencies never built their own legend.


Freedom from complexity

Creation and ideation are always risky. New ideas are created when old idioms are challenged, when old rules are broken. The ideation process has been made complex with too many people having a stake in it. Societies collapse when they become complex. Complexities make them inflexible. Being inflexible makes it difficult for them to respond to change. The agencies stopped taking risk to break the idioms. If the business has to flourish, the agencies have to reduce complexities, become simpler to respond to the new challenges.

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This Independence Day, the spirit of independence can recharge the communication business.





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