What Agencies Should Keep In Mind While Conceptualising Creative For A Brand

As long as agencies continue to display Ownership, Objectivity and Openness, there is no way that they will lose their respect and profits in the wonderful business of building brands

The ‘new normal’ situation that the world finds itself in these days is fast becoming a cliche. It is often said that the times that we are living in are unprecedented. Coupling that word with ‘uncertainty’ definitely makes it seem like gloom and doom for the world at large and specifically for brand custodians.

We have always lived in times of uncertainty. John Wanamaker (1838-1922), considered as a pioneer in marketing is credited with the oft-repeated quote: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.” It is therefore clear that uncertainty about the results of brand-building decisions is not a new thing. In fact, it is over a century old.

So why is the conversation about uncertainty in this aspect heating up today? There are a couple of factors that have come into play over the last two decades that have probably led to an exponential increase in the variables that determine an outcome to a marketing decision. Chief among them is the rise of the digital environment. Thanks to the internet, consumers are no longer passive. Also, they now have a platform to broadcast opinions on a global scale within seconds and without leaving their armchair. The repercussions of this for brands have been mind- boggling.

So yet again, uncertainty is not something that has suddenly crept up on us in 2020 with the COVID- 19 pandemic. It has been around in the business of brand building for over a century and has sharply risen over the last decade. In this scenario, it might be a good idea to revisit the fundamentals of building successful brands. These haven’t changed and are not likely to in the foreseeable future because these have been honed over time and through a lot of expensive mistakes.

The business of advertising agencies has also seen a huge change in the last few decades. In the glory days of Mad Men, the agency was a knowledge partner to clients. This happened mainly because the agencies had the courage to take on full custodianship of the business of brand building on behalf of the clients. Today, by and large, agencies are seen as vendors - comparable by price and replaceable by output (a deliberate exaggeration to make a point). This is made worse by the disintegration of the industry with several vertical specialisations sprouting up to take a share of the client’s business. Inevitably pressures on the bottom-line have risen and the talent-pool compromised, leading to a vicious-cycle of mediocrity and helplessness.

To navigate the uncertainties of building brands - be it in the current time or any time for that matter - there is a need to bring back the sensitivity and passion that agencies used to have in the earlier days where ‘ownership’ of the brand was the driving force for the agencies. And that means, going back to the fundamentals. 

Displaying true ownership of the brand is keeping the brand’s interests above all else - especially short-term profit motivations. Agencies have to bring back a level of ‘objectivity’ to their decision making. This objectivity has been lost in recent times because of narrow business interests born out of disintegration. This has led to a situation where a specialist agency (or a specialist division in an integrated agency) has to peddle solutions that it can provide, rather than arrive at solutions that the brand needs. Stepping back and objectively considering the best alternatives for the brand is the most important requirement for arriving at the perfect solution for the brand’s problem. To be able to do so, brand managers need to embrace ‘openness’. The openness to collaborate with internal and external partners to arrive at the perfect solution for the health of the brand that they are taking care of. Today, there is a huge opportunity to bring on board specialist talent and collaborate for brand success.

COVID will pass sooner or later, but consumers will remain the same. As long as agencies continue to display Ownership, Objectivity and Openness, there is no way that they will lose their respect and profits in the wonderful business of building brands.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.