Babita's Blog

Babita's Blog: Whose Idea Is It Anyway?
By Babita Baruah on 01-Jun-11, 14:08 in Advertising |

Once upon a time, we all sat together, lunched together, drank together, poured over excel sheets and were joint at the hip. We went to client meetings in the same car, squeezed out that extra sponsorship money and celebrated our billing figures .

For those who are wondering what this is about, this is before the great divide between media and advertising.

Which, for obvious reason, was a good outcome of the natural process of change and evolvement.

However, today, the separation is just not different floors and buildings and identities. It  is also on idea ownership. And right at the centre of this sits the brand and the client.

So the way it works for most businesses is like this.

Brief to ad agency.
Brief to media agency.
But another day another time.

Ad agency presents idea to client. But has no clue about what media is being planned, though the brief has the mandatory 30 second TVC, pos and radio.
The creative agency usually presents a wishlist of fantastic media and ambient ideas.

Media agency presents media plan to client, usually before the ad agency has presented the creative idea. That sponsorship property can’t be missed. Or that show with the highest GRPs has to have brand spots. Which is reality and part of the deliverables.

Client loves the creative idea. Sees the potential for disruption.
Client also loves the media plan. Sees the potential for impact.

Idea executed, rolled out.
And most times, a successful roll out too.

Without the two agencies at times having met at most twice and that too at the client’s office.

Award time.
Who puts in that innovation entry?
Media? Ad agency? Digital? All?
Sometimes the net is wide enough.
Most times it is not.

So from being friends like yesteryears, we tend to become  professional foes.
No direct conflicts.
But no happy coffee meetings and late evening chats either.

In today’s new media age,  there will come a time when working together will be the mantra and not an option.
When the 30 second will not lead the campaign, but a youtube viral will.
When the award goes to one idea and not its avatars and manifestations.

Hopefully we will go back to meeting and ideating together more often.
If not under the same roof, at least over a coffee.

The views expressed are the author’s independent views as an ad professional and do not reflect the organisation’s viewpoint.

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Babita’s Blog: Lead Kindly Light
By Babita Baruah on 04-May-11, 13:05 in Uncategorized |

Being a student of Economics, I often tend to draw learnings from some of the theories. And why not? After all, we are in the business of brand management which is all about creating demand amongst a set of consumers who are a part of society at large.

Chanced upon a conversation last evening about Social Costs and Social Benefits and connected the dots to the creative product we work on day and night to create brands that make a difference to people.

For the uninitiated, very briefly, Social Cost is when there is a cost to the society which is not borne by the manufacturer and therefore has a negative impact. Eg. Environment pollution, harmful products. Social Benefit is when the benefit to the society at large is far greater than the actual transaction. eg Educational services.

Enough of Economics for now- let’s jump back to what we do best- creative ideas.

Creative ideas that create a crusade or almost a movement seem to have a huge carpet bombing impact on consumers at large, going beyond the actual bull’s eye. Ideas that are inclusive, create conversation, create communities also resonate far more and outlive their designated campaign period.

That is because these ideas hit a nerve , a sensitivity that is close to the consumer’s heart.
They emanate from a strong consumer life insight that also connects the brand seamlessly.
eg Lead India, Jaago Re, Idea Cellular, Youngistaan and I am sure many more noteworthy campaigns of recent times.

The argument against this could be that such ideas cannot be the norm, but are often a fallout.
The argument could also be that clutter breaking creative needs to be whacky, different, evolved.
Life Insights mean emotions which can be a constraint.
Real life makes it boring.
Advertising is not about social good, it is about creativity.
And many more.

There is truth in these arguments as well- we are not into social crusades, we are about creating brands that resonate.

However, if we look at pop culture, from leaders to iconic music, films, books, sports, even religious leaders…. the big successes are those that have impacted society at large – either through a provoke or a challenge, or through a different point of view , or through resolving a larger conflict, or even by answering the pure aspirational needs of millions, who look up at a poster in their small rooms every morning and weave their dreams.

Somewhere, I strongly feel, we have been empowered as an industry to create that difference that few others can make.
We have the power of expression.
We give voice to brands.
We rule channels and every touch point of the consumer’s lives.
We bombard senses with messages every second.
We have little children jigging to our jingles and mouthing our slogans.

Can we inject some social benefit into our work?
Sometimes at least.
What if our briefs had a social benefit line ?
Or a life insight as a mandate?

Will it take away from creativity?
I don’t think so. Creativity is the means to an end and not and end by itself.
Will it take away from the brand?
It will infact, enhance the relevance.
Will it mean more budgets, more activation?
Yes it does. But then, we are anyways in the world of Integrated Communications and Life beyond the 30 second tvc.
Does every piece of work need this?
No. We all know the realities of brief objectives, timelines, expectations.

But if , overall, we had some work every year on big brands which truly lead the masses to rethink, recalibrate, reconsider lives and beliefs, we would have gone beyond the brief and created that social benefit that only we are empowered to do.

And, yes, have very successful award winning effective creative ideas as well.

The views expressed are the author’s independent views as an ad professional and do not reflect the organisation’s viewpoint.

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Babita's Blog: The Lost Art
By Babita Baruah on 09-Mar-11, 13:49 in Advertising |

My last blog on “Where have all the Young Men (and Women) gone” questioned whether we are doing enough for retaining and motivating the suits.

This one is a reverse take on the same issue. After all, there are two sides to every story.

Are  most of the Young Men (and Women) today even aware of what being a good Account Management person means?

Have we in a way not written our own obituary by settling into the comfortable “middle”?

Some of the oft heard comments in the servicing silo.

The  brief?? It’s the planner’s job to write it.

Point of view on the creative…. (there is none)

Point of view on the brand… ( nothing here either)

Status report??? In today’s day and age? SULK.

Minutes of the meeting??? SULKKKKKK.

Brand shares this month… the brand manager  hasn’t yet shared

The latest competitive ad… have no idea…. is it on YouTube?

The price… Ummmm…..

Why should we write the activation ppt?

How do we switch on the proxima?

He was supposed to get the printouts… she was supposed to make that list….. etc etc etc etc etc and more etcs.

(Mumbles and rumbles… these old school bosses are really so uncool.)

We slouch.

We dress more casually than a Friday night out.

We do not talk. We do not make a point.

We have, in fact, no point of view, most of the time.

We look at the planner whenever a strategic question is asked, and stare at the creative when we need to recommend a creative route.

We lack relationship skills – internal as well as external.

Most of us have mastered the art of delegation.

There was a time when accounts moved with the account person.

Today we are lucky if we are even missed.

Do we have enough fire? Enough passion?

Aren’t the creative hotshops lead by the creative personalities more aggressive when it comes to believing and selling work?

Do we give our clients the reassurance and the confidence that we are their partners, we are equal stakeholders and we are there to build the brand and the business?

Maybe not.

Maybe we have grown comfortable in our roles.

Actually, is there a role? Or have we happily relegated it to the other disciplines?

While the reality is that the Account Management role and recognition calls for a redefinition, reality also is that we have somewhere, just let go. It’s a chicken and egg story.

No change in policies and rewards can make that critical change unless we change ourselves and are clear on what we want out of our roles.

It’s not easy to  win back lost ground. And, at the risk of quoting an oft repeated quote – The change begins with us.

The views expressed are the author’s independent views as an ad professional and do not reflect the organisation’s viewpoint.

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Babita’s Blog: Where have all the Young Men (and Women) Gone?
By Babita Baruah on 02-Feb-11, 14:07 in Advertising |

I met a bright young lady at an agency do the other day.
Immediately came up to me and said she was looking for an opportunity to join us.
Always on the lookout for young sparks, I was about to fish out my visiting card when she said, ” Who can I meet in Planning?”
“Planning?? I thought you were in Account Management?”
“That’s why I want a change. Either planning or marketing.”

Putting back my unused visiting card, I realised the reality facing us today.The exodus is real. Whether to planning or to marketing, there is a new void in account management.

Not necessarily of numbers. But maybe of quality. Of stars.

So, where are the good guys and girls going?

Some are doing the rounds in agencies, flitting from one to another, trying to find that elusive nest of position and recognition.
Most are moving out of the industry. To the other side. Wearing the mantle of marketing.

Fifteen years ago…

I would look starry eyed at my bosses , who practically ruled the roost.
At the client’s office, they were partners.
In the agency, they were the centre of gravity.

Briefings, ideations, presenting creative with equal passion… it was a co-creation. They were great presenters, managed business wins and portfolios, went to stage with creative and clients to  hold up the awards of great work. Everyone owned ideas and work with equal pride and a sense of creation.

And then the divide happened.

The umbilical cord with media was dissected. Planners emerged as a new breed. Creative people proved to be equally good managers and presenters.
Leaving the good account managers somewhat confused and lost.

Some common coffee and corridor cribbings:

  • We are part of the team. But do we own a winning creative or idea? Not really. The only Account Management, if they fall into this category now, present in the global awards scene are the Heads of Offices.
  • Do we have an equivalent of Young Turks, or Young Guns or any such award for young minds in Account Management?
  • Do we have an equivalent of Effies which have become the spotlight arena for planners?
  • Do we really co-create – briefs, creative, ideas- or is the role now truncated to setting up meetings, managing crisis and fire fighting?
  • What or where is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?
  • There is no point in a coronation without a crown.

It is time for some spring cleaning of perceptions.

Specially at the junior and mid-management ranks. This is where most of the disillusionment lies. The going gets good again at the top. With management responsibilties.

  • Whether it means role redefinitions
  • Or, recognition on the awards stage
  • Or, armouring the young minds with new ideating tools,  presentation skills, new media innovations, digitalization.
  • Or, having Fast Tracks for the bright sparks
  • Or, remuneration at par with the other disciplines ( it is so in most agencies but the perception is that it is not)
  • Or, Training. New media, rural marketing, mobile marketing, new media mixes, channel mixes, Integrated Marketing Tools. The canvas is changing and we need to gear up the account management team so that these learnings can be internalised. Only then can good ideas germinate.
  • Or,  Fun at Work like Role Change- where creative, account management and planning changes hats for a week. After all, we do this at workshops and it works very well.
  • Or, maybe just start with simple things like sit together at work and not in walled silos that almost scream of invisible signs like “Stay Out!!”.

Basically, let’s make account management equally  responsible for the creative product and not just the relationship and deliveries. With responsibility comes empowerment which is passionate and not enforced.

These are some simple  back of the envelope ideas.

Most leading agencies  who do all and much more than what I have written , have a good pool of talent, who are inspired by their roles and truly contribute.
The rest become a big churn pot.

While the overall organisation plays a big role in structures  and responsibilities, the critical role is also in changing perceptions.
This rests in our hands.
As Account Management seniors, the change begins with us. Me included.

It’s time we make the young men ( and women) stay.

The views expressed are the author’s independent views as an ad professional and does not reflect the organisation’s viewpoint.

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