Never ending Fight between Brands & Digital Agencies

by - 00:23

Experienced both sides of the coin – Agency & Client, and therefore this blog is for all the Account Managers, Account Directors, Creative Team, Head of Agencies, Marketing Teams and last but not the least Chief Marketing Officer. Some of the key findings are from Adtech 2013, New Delhi!
Questions (Agency) – Why does the client always reject my idea? Why they never like our creative? Why do they prefer offline agency over digital agency? Why so many changes in the creative?
Questions (Client) – Why don’t they understand? Why can’t they get a viral idea? Why they always bring ideas which are expensive? Why can’t they think 360 degrees?

A small background dipstick to understand the agency – An agency hires an account executive or Manager who caters to an average of 3-4 clients. They work from 10 am to 7:30 pm at-least and sometimes on Saturdays. They do brainstorm but that is limited to that account and the brief received. 

Now let us understand the Brands – All the Marketing Heads are offline guys who very well execute ATL and BTL activities, they understand the potential of Digital and thus hire either a Digital Marketing Manager or a team for building Digital Strategies. But offline is priority to them.

One thing and the most important thing which I believe the difference is, that the agency people are 24/7 engaged in doing routine tasks. The priority for Agency Head is BD (Business Development) and not learning & evolving the employees. There is no brainstorming and absolutely no reference to case studies of what is happening beyond the existing clients and outside India. They are extremely irritated of the daily routine & BD and therefore there is no freshness in ideas that they bring to the clients.

One point which I would like to make to the agency people is “Invest in yourself”. One day in at-least two weeks you all should see the case studies and discuss within the team of what can be pitched to the client. Also, agency heads should take their employees for such seminars or bring new ideas to them so that the same ‘Tab’/ ‘Contest’ is not pitched to all the brands.

On the other hand, even the brands are also at fault. If considered that the agency works only on the brief and does not give external references or broad ideas then it is the brand also to be blamed. How?? Let me explain – I recently visited Ad-tech New Delhi 2013 where there was a wonderful session called “Marketing Master”. It was back to back case studies based on what they have done on Digital platform. Learning was many but a point which has stayed in my mind was from Manisha Lath of Axis Bank. She said for the recent brief for Viral Videos of, we called our creative and Digital teams together. This insisted that whatever idea that comes out is executable on both offline & online. It also meant that the entire brief was equally shared between the agencies and they together brainstormed over the idea.

Most of the brands follow the other route – They brief the creative, they wait for the idea and after the idea is perceived, they call the digital guys and tell them the brief. There is no going back for the client even if it is not possible to execute it on Digital medium. And then who is blamed – Digital guy obviously!

Marketing teams should also analyse that there is a huge potential in Digital Marketing. And fresh ideas gonna be expensive. If Domino’s Pizza does 10% of delivery sales through mobile app(data from adtech presentation), then it was possible only because they acted timely on building the app and off-course the invested in the app.  However, sometimes agency should also consider the budgets of the companies and accordingly mould the current ideas. Rather than scrapping the idea which client cannot afford, present with a twist which he can afford.

Again sharing an example from Adtech, Citi Bank did a campaign Dil V/s Bill. It was sky-vertising integrated with a Twitter Campaign. Check Google for details of the campaign but it was one the most thoughtful campaign for the TG. And unlike brands which prefer FB over Twitter, this was a different ball game all together.

Ending it with a piece of advice – “Blaming each other will continue and will not benefit either. It is the time for co-creation of content. Integrated campaigns performs best only if all the agencies along with the Brand’s Marketing Team sit together, ideate, debate and conclude together”.

You May Also Like


  1. Hey Neha, well written.

    Refreshing to hear such progressive thoughts from a brand manager.

    Cheers :)

  2. its well written and captures key points well. But i would also like to add a few points to it (ofcourse client side of story:-p)

    i feel the regular account servicing routine hampering power of idea is more of surfecial excuse as if one is really bored of monotony then ideally its all the more reason to break the monotony and devise something fresh, never done before types.
    i feel the reason of mainline agency scoring above digital agency/any other support agency could also be attributed to following points.

    1. support agencies are too concerned and restricted in their approach mostly hence they often pitch for "good execution idea" however the brand has many facets and it has to sing one song in seamless music. Hence the ideas proposed by such agencies should be extendable and should be in line to brand promise and persona of the brand. There are precedence when ideas proposed by mainline agency were junked and that os support agencies were picked and extended across mediums. But the key is delivery and power of the idea.

    2. "The me too" approach is another hurdle in the path of support agencies. Ultimate aim of any brand manager is to increase unaided recall of the brand (in TG)at minimum cost and also to marry positioning of the brand with identity of the brand in effective and efficient way. In such challenging environment, me too approach doesnt necessarily do good. Ideally what will perhaps be better appreciated is a customized idea for the brand which does the job what an activity is supposed to do for a specific brand.

    3. at times its also a person driven process, at times we get so personal with our idea that we get stuck and limit our thinking to see beyond. When such ideas are rejected may be subconciously it does affect the servicing team and therby perception like "jo bhi dedo reject hi hoga", "idea toh mainline agency ka hi select hota hai" are formed. And instead of imrpovising upon ideation often team actually stops putting their normal efforts therby shrinking the chances of their idea sailing through even less.

    i would laso like to highlight two incidences in my career so far where in ideas proposed by support agency were adopted and given more seriousness and investment than towards mainline agency. And i am sure such cases will keep happening. But ultimately it boils down to first understanding the brand, identifying challenges and preempt situations and then devising customized solutions rather than umbrella solutions which are not fresh and end of the day are only execution ideas.

    I dont know how others will take it, but i would love to hear a counter argument:-).