A lot can be done for a client’s business if you are an independent, full-service ad agency, said Harish Shriyan and Amit Ray who recently joined Network Advertising. The duo, along with Vinod Nair, MD of Network Advertising, spoke to BestMediaInfo.com about the agency’s future plans.
Highlighting the agency’s positioning — Integrated, Immersion and Independent, Nair said, “If you are independent, then only you can do integration and immersion honestly and holistically.”
Talking about the agency's focus on picking businesses, Nair said, “It's either a retainer or a percentage because we are a full-service agency.”
Saying the agency did not lose a single client or laid off any employee during the lockdown, Nair said the agency’s complete focus is on the client’s delight. “We may have large revenue but if our clients are not happy, then it’s a problem for us. We don’t have a percentage of revenue aiming factor at all at Network.”
What was the thought behind joining Network Advertising? How different is your job and mandate here from your previous organisations?
Shriyan: Working for global media agencies, whether it is Omnicom and Mediacom in the past, I have seen how media agencies work, and what can be done and what cannot be done. I also believe a lot can be done for a client’s business if you are a part of a full-service ad agency.
Specific to Network, I don’t think we will find many agencies that are completely independent, Indian and, more importantly, full service.
There may be some full-service Indian agencies but they are either media focused, creative-led or digitally aligned, whereas Network is mid-sized but structured as large-sized and works as a start-up.
This is a fantastic combination; in the past we used to work as a full-service agency where everybody is creative, media, servicing. The strategy works together but now media is working in silos.
Ray: It’s been a marriage of minds; we all have believed in each other’s vision and complement each other in many ways. The Network is an independent, integrated agency just like the type we have worked for at the beginning of our career. I mean there is no division and separation, one agency looks after the entire business of clients.
You said working for an independent agency means not limiting capacity to do the right thing as opposed to a global set-up. What kind of freedom would you get now working with Network?
When you work for an MNC, you will not have the kind of freedom you would like to have. I don’t think people at senior-most positions at MNCs have independent decision-making power. It may sound like how it is possible but basically, most of the things are governed by certain principles, whether you are taking a new client on board or hiring talent, retaining business, elevating or making promises. All of it needs to have a certain level of approval.
At Network, we can make a very quick decision without much discussion and debate. Timing is a very critical factor in our business.
Ray: In global agencies, especially with today’s context where everything has become money or profit or evaluation, it’s all commercial objectives.
At global agency networks, we all have been told that you must have customer delight at the heart but your infrastructure and policies do not allow you to do that; you have to be within a framework. Independent allows you to be yourself.
Nair: Our positioning is Integrated, Immersion and Independent. If you are independent, then only you can do integration and immersion honestly and holistically.
What is your vision for Network advertising, and what is the initial road map set to accomplish it?
Shriyan: First of all, we want to have a full-service media conversation going forward where we will be talking about our data-driven media deployment focusing on the business outcome. We will do anything needed to strengthen it. Our focus is on large local clients in high-growth and future-facing categories, whether it’s BFSI, retail, etc., and this is what the vision we have for the agency going forward.
Ray: The purpose is to become a one-stop solution to the client’s problems. Many client organisations are clueless; most of them have the technology, capital but they don’t have the intellectual, ability or that kind of money to hire the best of marketing talent.
Here’s an agency that doubles up for that and clients. We speak the same language and this has been the journey of Network.
What will be the focus areas for the agency in the next two years? With evolving market dynamics, what new needs to be introduced?
Nair: We are a media-agnostic company as we have everything under the same roof, starting from brand consultancy to design to multimedia campaigns to digital. We ask ourselves, can we spend more time with the client's business and understand their needs and customer behaviour? Can we be useful for them in this paradigm, including reacting to the clients' issues quickly in terms of deadline?
What is the revenue target that Network has set for this year? Would you be able to achieve it given the pandemic situation?
Nair: A complete focus is on the client’s delight. We may have large revenue but if our clients are not happy then it’s a problem for us. We don’t have a percentage of revenue-aiming factor at all at Network.
Shriyan: We don’t set numbers that everybody is dying and killing to reach there. We want to do the best.
What has been the impact of the lockdown on the agency? How has the business been since the unlocking?
Nair: We have not lost a single client and not asked any employee to leave the company. In the time frame, we have been able to add a few businesses, we have got an Essilor lenses business, another one was Basic First from the edu-tech sector and few more are in the pipeline.
How would you define your agency’s character?
Nair: We don’t do project works at all except when it comes to branding design or brand consultancy; we do some consultancy work with the client and only then it's a project.
It's either a retainer or a percentage because we are a full-service agency.
Shriyan: You are not forced to do project because it brings in money. We want to be responsible for a client’s brand. If I come in and go, I am just slitting my relationship with the client as I really don’t know what has happened in the past and what’s going to happen in the future.
We want to co-create with the client and add value to their needs. The format works for us and we decide to do more of that.
HDFC, Essilor, Aditya Birla, Margo, Blue Dart, Vijay Sales, Henko, Mahindra are some of our clients.
Did any acquisition offers come to you ever? Did you ever give it a thought? Many independent agencies do it to scale up the scope of work.
Nair: Acquisition offers keep on coming every year from various global networks but we did not take it ahead.
A few agencies are seen launching separate consultancy divisions. What is your thought on this? Isn’t any agency’s job already to consult clients across aspects of running the business? Why launch a separate division for it?
Nair: Companies do launch something because they want to tell their clients about the specialisation. We do not believe in this.
What are your thoughts on the deep-rooted issue ageism at agencies in India? Does this disparity exist? Has it impacted you in any way? Does it even bother clients as to what age group of people is working on their accounts?
Nair: There are two kinds of people you require. One, those who have the ability to run fast; they need to be agile. But they also need to have wisdom, expertise, and a proven track record of solving different issues, to face different situations of a client’s business and market conditions. We require both of them to do justice to the client’s issue. People with age bring wisdom, which is not there at most agencies today.
Ray: If you are relevant to the client’s business, the client will never ask you to leave as nobody is bothered about age. It's only when you fail to deliver, then the age question comes.
The whole debate has been a creation of inefficient people. Clients want some intellectual and sharp input to their business problem.