17 November 2014

Experiential. Digital. Activate! If you throw peanuts, you get monkeys.

I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years and like many in our industry, I am sick and tired of having to justify the value activation and events deliver! It’s true that many clients not only get it, but also get it enough to reap the benefits of the results. But many other clients don't.

By many a yardstick, our business is the toughest business in the marketing communication gamut… yeah, yeah, everyone thinks they have a tough life but seriously, from a business perspective, running an activation/events business is pretty damn tough. If you were to analyze our business with Michael Porter’s 5-forces model, you’d pretty much decide to shut down the agency and open a kirana store. Everyone who can put pressure on the agency, and many can, to get their pound of flesh does.

Agencies and the industry are unable to invest heavily in key elements like quality of people (creative, strategy, planning, technology), creative resources, technology, SAFETY, vendor development, quality of materials, training of temporary manpower…. the list is endless.

Unfortunately, what is playing out is a sad game of short termism that is leading to deep long term damage to the industry. With the almighty squeeze that the 5 forces are playing out on agencies in the business, its becoming harder and harder for agencies to invest in what’s good for the business and for clients’ brands.

In such a scenario, the stakeholder who should support and bolster the agency is the client; because it's the client whose brand and asset is at stake and who stands to gain the most from the agency thriving and delivering better results. Many clients, unfortunately, are looking at quick gains to get the most out of their money NOW, rather than looking at investing in the agency and its resources to be able to get value for their brand in the medium term.

How can clients help activation/event agencies?

First, develop ‘non-short-term’ relationships with agencies, and make some level of financial commitment to such relationships. Such commitments allow the agency to have a medium term view and invest in resources that would then contribute positively to clients’ brand building.

Second, Instead of calling for multi-agency pitches, which is counter productive because agencies are investing in pitching rather than the process of building clients’ brands. Trust in your agency’s ability, give them more information and ‘gyaan’ about the brand, and make them a strategic partner. It will pay back in dollops!

Third, respect intellectual property of the agency. Just because an idea has no physical form does not mean it belongs to nobody. If your agency does not have the ability to execute the idea you have presented, “buy” the idea and get another agency to execute it (if you like). Investing in intellectual property develops stronger relationships and develops the industry at large.

Fourth, pay fairly for the value you are getting. Negotiation and driving value is all very well, but no agency or business is going to take on projects that make a loss. If the client is going to beat the price down, the difference will show in quality, for sure. You may get a great value deal 1 time out 10 but you will end up paying for it the other 9 times.

HELP us help you, I say to all clients, help us to deliver better, deliver more, deliver faster for your brands.

Atul S. Nath is the Founder; Managing Director of Candid Marketing, founded in 1995. You can follow atul’s musings on twitter @atuln

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