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Zee Melt 2016: Understanding agencies of the future with CVL Srinivas

The CEO, Group M, South Asia, touched upon points that are important for an agency to stay abreast in times of tough competition

Akansha Mihir Mota | Delhi | August 29, 2016

CVL-Srinivas CVL Srinivas

The celebration of marketing and communication event Zee Melt 2016 started off with an insightful session of CVL Srinivas, CEO, Group M, South Asia, on the topic ‘Agency of the future’. Srinivas talked at length about how agencies should make themselves future-ready in the times of cutting-edge competition.

Srinivas commenced the presentation with a video where a man talked about what can happen to an agency if it doesn’t adapt to change. He said that the last 10-15 years can be divided into three phases. First is the era of debundling, where there was only one single agency. Then the ’80s-’90s witnessed the era where the creative and media agencies separated. Over the next 10 years, specialist agencies were set up. They start getting into digital, mobile and outdoor, etc. In the last couple of years, we have entered the era of disruption, where a massive change is happening at a very massive pace.

To get into the main problem, Srinivas first took up the case of the clients and said, “It is important to know what is disrupting clients? What is keeping them up in the night? Everything is undergoing massive change and disruption. Disruption leads to the following: One is that the cost pressure, procurement, planning cycles are getting a lot shorter and the ecosystem has become so fragmented that the disruption is coming in and affecting the clients.”

Coming to the agencies, Srinivas said, “The agencies have to bear the brunt as the clients are getting disrupted. The agency sits between the brand owner and the consumer. The entire value changes, whether it is delivering insights, measurement and so much more happening.”

Further moving on with his presentation, he started showing ‘the agency survival kit’.

He said that first it is important to contemporise the existing model by being updated with the latest technology. Secondly, the agency should become more adaptable. Thirdly, the agency should be ready for the future. Lastly, he would discuss further how to run an efficient organisation because there is always a cost pressure.

Explaining it further, Srinivas said, “Clients and the agencies still operate with the models of the past. With whatever data, technology and efficiency, everything boils down to one excel spreadsheet and at what rates can we buy media for the ads. The more chaos in the industry, the more relevant the agencies will become and more value they can provide. The whole point is that the existing models won’t work. Last but not the least, all of this is only possible if we change the mindset.”

He moved forward by presenting 10 steps to building an agency of the future:

  1. Agencies traditionally are not tech savvy, whether it is having people in the company who understand technology, or having the technology for the forces to run efficiently. This is really the starting point.
  2. Media agencies were traditionally trading-centric and talked about leveraging scale to get the best value for clients. Those days are gone and don’t really matter now. Now it is the time to build the data intelligence and helping the clients with that.
  3. Agencies of the past are put between the clients and the brands. A lot of things that we were doing in the past can be done by technology. If you have invested in technology and data, you can start moving up in the value of change.
  4. Agencies need to be more adaptive to the changes. Earlier as a media planner, people had to wait for eight weeks to see if the campaign has actually worked or not.
  5. One also needs to work with the open-source mindset. An agency cannot work on its own and has to work with partners.
  6. It is important to look at agency structures and processes. Today, the agencies structures have become more flexible. There are lots of models emerging today.
  7. To look at the kind of people you have is also important. Agencies need to balance the diversity. You need to have people of different kinds of skill sets. It is definitely a challenge, but one needs to address this if he wants to build an agency.
  8. Breaking hierarchy is another point. We also need to take care of the junior level people to contribute a lot more as they are perhaps a lot more knowledgeable than the people like us. These are the people from the digital era, who have lived their lives on social media.
  9. How you join all the dots is a very important question. There is data, technology and creative, how an agency creates a chain with these and moves on the value ladder and adds value to the clients.
  10. At the end, an agency is the part of an idea and a creative that helps build a brand. Therefore, it’s important to ‘keep calm and stay creative’.

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