Only good work and innovation — and not the agency network’s brand name — can command a premium in today's day and age, feels Raj Kamble, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Famous Innovations, one of India’s leading independent creative agencies.
In a conversation with BestMediaInfo.com, Kamble said big brands were realising that if they wanted to do good creative work, they needed an independent person who can understand them and their ideas.
"Today’s networks were yesterday’s independent agencies. Be it Ogilvy or Leo Burnett, they were all started by one person who personally did the work. That was always what advertising was about, and I think we’re going to be back there again full circle," he said.
Kamble said the in-house creative model of clients will not work. "Clients need different kinds of minds working together on their brand, getting exposed to all kinds of categories and audiences and bringing an outsider’s view to the table. In-house agencies can’t afford that."
Kamble said the digital media bubble (ongoing trend of making money on buying digital media) will burst soon and only agencies that focus on the creative part and charge for that would last in the game.
“I think the value of creative talent is going to come back and as technology evens the playing field for everyone, creative talent will shine more than ever,” he said.
How was the year 2019 for the agency in terms of growth?
2019 was fantastic. Of course, our numbers won’t be as big as the Ogilvy’s and McCann’s of the world, but no big agency can ignore our numbers. It’s something we are very proud of. Other than growing healthily, we won Agency of the Year for the fourth year, won over 10 new brands and brought some great people on board.
What kind of growth are you looking at in 2020?
We haven't set our numbers for 2020 yet, but our strategy for the coming year is to do more and more hybrid work. Only good work and innovation can command a premium in this day and age. We already have lots of solid strategic and digital work. We just have to push on that more. The one-line brief is to have more big ideas executed in new mediums.
How does the agency aim at upping its game on the digital front?
We don’t believe in the distinction between ‘digital’ and ‘mainstream.’ We believe in big ideas. And those do well on all mediums. We don’t believe in digital media buying, but we do believe that ideas can be brought alive interestingly on digital. Most digital work today is just adapting the big idea into web banners, insta stories, etc. If we have a retainer client, we usually do all of that work anyway, because we don’t want to hand over our idea to someone else for adaptation. But we hope we can do more big ideas on digital.
It has been four months of acquiring Three Bags Full. How well has the acquisition proved for the agency?
Three Bags Full was an emotional acquisition, more than a rational one. When I saw the agency, their work and particularly met the Founders — Sandeep and Akshay — I was very impressed. Both are ex-Ogilvy creatives, very strategic, very savvy with new media. Thank god we went for it. This was one of the best things to happen to Famous in the last 5-6 years. We found some amazing people in the journey, and coming from a small setup, they have a true entrepreneurial mindset — that’s exactly what we believe in.
Do you agree with the notion that as much as new-age brands are willing to work with independent and upcoming agencies, the already well-established bigger brands are still shying away from working with them?
I think a big revolution has already started. All the big brands are realising that if they want to do good creative work, they need an independent person who can understand them and their ideas. Big agencies are like dinosaurs where you brief somebody, then they go and brief somebody, then the message passes through a dozen people and you don’t know who’s working on their ideas, and you end up with emotionless work that follows agency patterns. In an independent agency, you are talking to the owner directly and he or she has a personal investment in your brand because his success depends on your success. Clients today want results, and the world over, we are seeing clients move from large network agencies to independent ones.
We've been fortunate to work with big brands like Mahindra, Titan, Nestle, Raymond, Times, Aditya Birla, Haier, etc. And many other independents are doing extremely well with other large brands. If you think of it, today’s networks were yesterday’s independent agencies. Be it Ogilvy or Leo Burnett, they were all started by one person who personally did the work. I don’t think our industry is suited for the corporate structure. It’s always about who is the person working on your brand, how well you connect with him/her and how emotionally together you solve problems. That was always what advertising was about, and I think we’re going to be back there again full circle.
A lot of digital agencies have made a niche for themselves. Many say digital agencies still don't understand creativity as much as creative agencies? Isn't creativity media-agnostic?
I don’t think there is any such thing as digital or mainline. I believe in agencies that are accountable for the client’s brand. Who can solve the brand’s problems, make the brand profitable and loved. If that requires digital do that, or it requires you to print something on your plastic bag, do that. I think the agencies that are media-agnostic are going to succeed. Of course, clients find that digital agencies are cheaper. The problem there is with the business model. Most digital agencies make their largest revenue from media-buying and so they don’t charge for creative. But this won’t go very far as the digital media bubble will burst soon and creativity will be our only shelter. Creative talent is very expensive today and it's impossible to afford it on the kind of retainers (minus media buying) digital agencies get.
According to you, what are the things that will help shape the Indian advertising and marketing industry in 2020?
I think the value of creative talent is going to come back and as technology evens the playing field for everyone, creative talent will shine more than ever. In a world where you can find a 2-3 lakh per month kind of digital agency at every corner, I think only the agencies that do brilliant creative work will survive.
I don’t think the in-house creative model is going to work. It is upsetting to see people moving from agency side to client side, then hiring one studio person and getting all artworks done there to save money. I don’t think any good creative person will accept to work on only one brand all day every day. A brand needs different kinds of minds working together on their brand, getting exposed to all kinds of categories and audiences and bringing an outsider’s view to the table. In-house agencies can’t afford that.
2020 should be all about solving conventional problems in an unconventional way.
What is that one thing that you wished to fulfil in 2019 and couldn’t do in terms of work? How and when do you intend to do it in 2020?
I wish we created more work that entered true pop-culture. Something that created a buzz not just among the twitterati but the people on the streets, in local trains and across India. Hope to do more of that next year. Our plan is just to focus on doing brilliant creative work that people can talk about — not just something that goes from one award show to another award show. 95% of the work from India that wins at Cannes is not real, it’s just created for award shows. I hope we can create work that India talks about — from my mother to the CEO of every big company — and then it wins a Grand Prix at Cannes.