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#OpinionsThatCount: Why media agencies are playing a creative role

In a trend that is increasingly gaining strength, media agencies have moved from just buying and selling ad space to making digital, print or radio campaigns to creating branded content and getting collaborations for its clients

#OpinionsThatCount: Why media agencies are playing a creative role

In a trend that is increasingly gaining strength, media agencies have moved from just buying and selling ad space to making digital, print or radio campaigns to creating branded content and getting collaborations for its clients

Archit Ambekar | Mumbai | February 13, 2017

6-Pack-BandRemember the acclaimed ‘6-Pack Band’, India’s first transgender musical band, and how the campaign lifted the coveted Cannes Grand Prix Glass Lion award in July last year? Well, the idea was not just a philanthropic success, but also a phenomenally successful campaign for Brook Bond’s Red Label brand. The creative idea whose award list didn’t end with Cannes Lion was conceptualised and executed by GroupM’s media agency Mindshare. One could have easily mistaken it to be a campaign crafted by a creative agency.

Media agencies have, for quite a few years now, taken it upon themselves not to restrict themselves only to offering the media plan or a few targeted spots. The ecosystem has evolved in such a way that they present brand solutions to their clients too. The 6-Pack Band is not alone in the race. There are many more like Motivator’s #HateThePimple campaign for Himalaya Men during IPL 2016 and Initiative Media’s campaign ‘Banega Swachh India’ for Reckitt Benckiser.

The evolution has led the media agencies to go beyond the traditional planning and buying and encouraged them to make digital, print or radio campaigns, design branded content and getting collaborations for their clients. Best Media Info tries to find out the changing role of media agencies and why a lot of creative work is coming from them.

What are advertisers looking for?

Today, advertisers are not looking for creative or content but solutions to their brand problems. Creative solutions involve an analytical process which begins with; understanding the consumer insights (their tension points) backed by data; fusing the insights with brand proposition to create media agnostic scalable concepts; and getting the right partner to leverage the network and also ensuring content dissemination.

Devendra Deshpande Devendra Deshpande

Devendra Deshpande, Head, Content Plus, Mindshare India, said, “Content by today’s definition (audio/ video/ text/ pictorial) is a continuous process and it is no longer restricted to being one communication that will run for years. It is ever evolving, adapting to fixed and fluid moments in popular culture and tailored to the media it is intended for (mobile, YouTube/ FB, television, Instagram). It is focussed exactly at the audience it is targeting. Creative agencies were apt with creating the communication to drive awareness. Media agencies are poised to transcend the brand journey from awareness to relevance. Hence the process has now become more collaborative and complementary between the media and creative agencies. It’s more about ‘brand solutions’.”

Speaking about the agency’s ‘6-Pack Band’, Deshpande said that the objective of the campaign was to break the usual barriers. The team started working on it about two and a half years ago.

6-Pack Band campaign:




Mindshare had also partnered with HUL’s Dove and Culture Machine to create the ‘Is that You -- #ChangeTheRhyme’ campaign. About this concept, Deshpande said, “There are conversations that women are having and the comments are generally on their body appearance. Those are their tension points and we wanted to empower women. That’s when this thought came up and we worked on it.”



Changing role of media agencies

A lot of media planning and buying experts suggested that the change in the marketplace is the main reason for this shift in responsibilities of the agency structures.

Adding to the list of examples is Coke Studio, one of the finest examples of media partnership done by IPG’s Lodestar in India. Initiative Media’s campaign ‘Banega Swachh India’ for Reckitt Benckiser is another one.

Habeeb Nawazudin Habeeb Nizamudin
Habeeb Nizamudin, CMO, IPG Mediabrands, is of the opinion that they are not able to classify these forms of content today due to overemphasis on traditional ways. “Hence, it is called a campaign.”

He added, “The role of a media agency has expanded because a lot of things have changed – the market, the consumers – and there has been a cultural shift in terms of accountability, speed and implementation. Today, content has started playing a larger role. If one puts all these together, then only a media agency can offer the best possible mix.”

Nizamudin believes that the whole journey of going beyond buying and selling began with sponsorships and partnerships for the clients.

Banega Swachh India campaign:


It’s not always about what the media agency is doing; it is also about what the client is looking to achieve and what its objective is. A media agency is not restricting itself anymore; instead, the agency is taking a dive with the client to explore the possible options and solutions.

Pooja Verma Pooja Verma

Maxus, the other agency from the GroupM stable, too, has worked on plenty of campaigns and collaborations for its clients. Pooja Verma, Head, Content, Sports and Entertainment partnerships, said, “At Maxus, we recognise that brands are looking for a comprehensive, integrated and solution-driven approach to communication. We believe that it is the sum of parts that drive real value for brands in their quest to win consumer’s hearts and minds. The basis of whatever solutions we provide – be it strategy, media, content or partnerships – will always be a simple, collaborative and value-driven approach. And this is demonstrated in our body of work across functions. In fact the entire industry is moving in this direction and in the long run it will only improve the quality of interactions that consumers have with brands.”

Maxus has worked with The Viral Fever’s (TVFs) web series ‘Tripling’ wherein Tata Motors had partnered with the show as a branded content for their brand Tiago.

Tripling Teaser:


Encashing on data

Media agencies are a goldmine of data. Each of the media agency networks has its own data, like GroupM’s Xaxis has Turbine, GroupM had announced [m]Platform, Dentsu Aegis Network had bought the US audience data management company Accordant Media and all the other networks have their own audience data management systems. This data is crucial in understanding the customer profile and habits, which makes the media agency a stronger option for the clients.

Rabe Iyer Rabe Iyer

Rabe Iyer, MD, Motivator, believes in the power of data. He said, “Media agencies have a lot of data with them, which enables them to understand consumer behaviour and markets well. Not that they don’t work with creative agencies. They always have synergised energies whenever necessary.”

Citing an example of the #HateThePimple campaign done for Himalaya Men, Iyer tells us that they first launched a teaser during the IPL, with Pimple written at the back of a cap for the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) team. They later launched a follow-up campaign, where the brand was revealed.

Rajesh Krishnamurthy, Business Head, Himalaya, said, “We partnered with the team because we believed that the sports sponsorship would be an ideal platform to engage with men.” All this has proved the point that media agencies are giving brands business solutions.

 #HateThePimple teaser and campaign:



Creative opinion on media agencies doing creative work

Sukesh Kumar Nayak Sukesh Kumar Nayak

Sukesh Nayak, ECD, Ogilvy & Mather, Mumbai, sharing his opinion on media agencies doing a lot of creative work, said, “Since media agencies don’t have a creative department, what they do is that they go to a bunch of creative directors and outsource their work to production houses. They don’t have an existing creative partner.”

While Nayak says they also outsource their work, he feels nice to see media agencies doing some amazing work and understand the importance of creative agencies and their work. Media agencies outsource their work to production houses but the same holds true with creative agencies as they too work with production houses outside their agencies. The difference is creative agencies have creative expertise.

Simi Sabhaney Simi Sabhaney

Simi Sabhaney, CEO, Dentsu India, feels that the left brain and the right brain have finally come together to create magic. She said, “Marketing seeks data-driven solutions and media agencies are custodians of data. Numbers tell a story. When unearthed they are a goldmine of insights. They help you diagnose the problem and provide granularity in understanding the behaviour and interests of target audience. By adding creativity to their skillset or by collaborating with creative agencies, media agencies are in a position to talk to a right set of audience with personalised messages, on a platform the audience are most receptive to, thus yielding results that are measurable.”

In conclusion, while media agencies have been doing creative work, they have been doing so to provide business solutions for brands. Creative and media agencies have their own forte and they do collaborate when needed, sometimes within the group agency, sometimes with an agency outside the group.

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