Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Advertising ...the art of Client Agency Relationships (Part 1)

"Observing The Baby One night a wife found her husband standing over their baby's crib.

Silently she watched him. As he stood looking down at the sleeping infant, she saw on his face a mixture of emotions: disbelief, doubt, delight, amazement, enchantment, scepticism. Touched by this unusual display and the deep emotions it aroused, with eyes glistening she slipped her arm around her husband.

"Love you darling for the care that you show ," she said.

"It's amazing!" he replied. "I just can't see how anybody can make a crib like that for only 500 rupees."


The client agency relationship (CAR) in advertising has always been a subject of debate and curiosity for academic researchers, industry observers and practitioners. The ups and downs of CAR, the social implications, the behavioral reasons, the financial after effects, all have been studied in depth by many academic researchers.

Here I am making a humble attempt to probe the issue, also in the Indian context, to estimate the factors that contribute to success and failure of CAR and to suggest a suitable model, for both parties to graduate CAR, as it exists today to what can be called as Client – Agency Synergy (CAS) for tomorrow.

‘The only worse thing than CAR as it exists today, can be marriages of Elizabeth Taylor’ – quipped some dissatisfied advertising manager or client servicing personnel, somewhere in the annals of advertising history. This bitter reality remains as the most ravaging problem in the wonderful arena of advertising. History of advertising is witness to many a client agency relationships plunging to disarray, touching the rock bottom of the graph ending up in deepened cleft and bitter separation. The climax is a lot of cacophony and the client calling for a new pitch and the agency desperate to woo some competitor of the just divorced partner.

Of course CAR rules are no ‘Codex Juris Canonici’ (The Law of Canon, of the Roman Catholic Church) but there are some of them, the non-observance of which leads to such bitter state of affairs that the once communications partners (supposedly) have to take it to the street and wash all the dirty linen in public. This shakes the confidence of the stakeholders (of both the clients, as well as the agencies), affecting market share and in the long term, even changing the product positioning and image that the partnership has carefully cultivated after heavy investments.

The agencies’ role
Let us not dispute the fact that almost every successful brand has a professional ad agency behind it. Marlboro wouldn’t have been the Macho Cowboy without a Leo Burnett. Can any one ignore the role of Carmichael Lynch in elevating the Harley Davidson as the cult that it is today?
In India too the Lowe signature is obvious in Surf and Saint Gobain and can we even think of Fevicol, and Cadbury’s with out bowing in reverence, the creative brains of O & M?

So what?
Three Major happenings in the past decade made the change in CAR from a love-hate scenario to a full strife-torn one and there will be no disagreement on these facts...

1.Global communication companies

A global communication company today owns almost every major advertising agency. Bates, O & M and JWT among others are part of the WPP network, Lowe and McCann is with the InterPublic, TBWA and BBDO are owned by Omnicom and so on. These global communication companies, it is alleged by observers, have changed the orientation of the business of advertising from creative to monetary. Particularly Martin Sorrel’s WPP is accused of pioneering the theory of building the financial muscle and display it to get it done, in many cases bullying the small agencies and outrunning them. Of course clients have their sales targets and advertising has to be helping it, but some clients are penny-pinching to believe that their agency should make money on other accounts they handle and not from theirs, or even worse, for an agency ‘creative satisfaction should be the profit’. But that doesn’t neutralize the fact that the global communication majors, who swallowed the advertising agencies, have commercialized the once creative business of advertising beyond recognition. A fact is a fact. It is the biggest burden on advertising and let us not deceive ourselves by calling it a backbone.

2.Consolidation of international advertising

Global brands started kicking out different agencies that they were doing business with, in different countries in an attempt to consolidate the communication made to the outside world. The trend perhaps started with IBM, the computer major deciding in favor of O & M, in 1994, in the process of throwing out almost 40 agencies in as many countries. Philips was one giant which decided against about 70 agencies through whom they advertised, in favor of DDB worldwide as part of their policy of “Convergence”. Some worked, some didn’t. Regional ad agency heads resented the idea of their New York or London head quarters telling them what to do and how. But owners of big ad group vouch for this as a policy that clients should follow.


Coca-Cola practices it beautifully well, what we call as glocalisation. Think globally and act locally. Coke and Colgate are the same everywhere in terms of the concept that the brand stands for, so is Master Card. But the execution caters to the palate of the local markets. But it wasn’t that easy for them. Coke for instance when it re- entered India, decided to bring in an American Indian to head Indian operation, who in a poor attempt of glocalisation even recreated the hill top campaign, that was a huge success there, only to find that for Indians it meant nothing .For those who went for consolidation sans glocalisation, their hands were burnt and generally their agencies lost business by way of client turnover.

T0 be continued>>>>>


Blogeswari said...


This is an awesome blog.. Love the stuff that you guys write

Keep em coming

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gururanganathan said...

After a long time i see an article...and asusual its awesome!!!!

Anthara sharma said...

Guru is right , sabu shud write more and more vividly.I guess he has decided to retire and 'woh nahim chalega' !!!

A reader said...

Hey guy. what ru up to? reform this ad world? no way dude..we will not change.. hahahhaha

Sabu Mangalasserril said...

thanks Blogeswari for the support and admiration.. Guru for being there forever and pulling me up..Anthara for the networking and the reader for the will change and it has to, this beloved industry of ours.. !!!!

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