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Agencies should keep in mind India's polarised political landscape while making ads, says Blink Digital's Rikki Agarwal

The Co-founder of Blink Digital says communication agencies should consider the overall sentiment and the state of the country to stay clear from potential controversies

Rikki Agarwal

Communication agencies must start looking at Indian sentiments while making advertisements to avoid any potential controversy, says Rikki Agarwal, Co-Founder, Blink Digital.

Speaking about brands being trolled on social media, Agarwal said, “Somewhere, the country’s political scenario is much polarised and as communication agencies, we need to stay away from it.”

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Tanishq, he said, is a great example of a beautiful ad but because of the polarisation that exists in India, it was not taken in a good sense. "Agencies have to consider Indian sentiments and the state the country is in," he said.

Talking about the growing importance of advertising agencies, he said, "Independent agencies give better offerings to brands and deliver faster than the global agencies."  

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“Independent agencies are more accountable, agile and do things faster than global agencies and brands have access to leadership.”

“Globally, in the list of top 10 agencies of 2020, seven were independent. The future is independent agencies,” Agarwal said.

Agarwal said the belief of clients in global tie-ups is killing creativity as global agencies aren’t good at innovating. 

He said smaller agencies are unable to scale up because the industry is dominated by global networks. 

“For smaller agencies, being acquired is the best proposition. These agencies have never believed that their actual company can make more money. Scaling a creative offering is very difficult and getting media business is almost impossible considering that most big clients have big agencies tie up across the globe,” he said. 

Talking about the agency mergers happening within global networks, he said, “The mergers at the network agencies are happening but they are still not operating as one. The model should be one agency where networks are giving creative, technology and media as a single offering wherein everyone is accountable and not passing the buck to each other. True mergers are those where the DNA of both the companies merge and work powerfully as one,” he said. 

“Most of the mergers are to create perceptions; networks expect the merger to happen to maintain the top line but it’s not the way a company succeeds. Most of the mergers by network didn’t go through. They kept on buying but it didn't work,” Agarwal said.

The agency is in the process of strengthening its programmatic media-buying capabilities. Blink Digital has taken on board some new clients and will take a few more in this arena. 

“Our main focus is on building technology such as building websites, technology products for clients. The second focus area is making companies e-commerce enabled.

“We are looking to hire a lot of programmatic media-buying capabilities. The agency’s goal is to strengthen its media team and hire senior-level leaders that support the agency to acquire more media business,” Agarwal said.

He said the agency’s media capabilities will add 50-60% to the total revenue of FY 2022. Media business will increase the top line but the bottom line will still be mostly driven by creativity and technology.

At present, the agency has a team of 10-12 in media buying, and they plan to double it by the end of January 2021. The agency is hiring for the roles of media planning (digital or programmatic), VP media or business head.

Speaking on the impact of the Covid lockdown, Agarwal said, “It's been a rollercoaster ride. Before the lockdown, January-March was profitable for the agency but from mid-March till May, our business was hit drastically. But after that, it picked up well, since our clients are most e-comm enabled.”

He said a lot of clients who never used to spend on digital have started spending on the medium, which gave quite a good recovery to the integrated digital agency. The agency has on-boarded several SMB clients that started spending on digital in the pandemic.

However, it is unlikely to match last year’s turnover. “It’s still three-and-a-half months to go for us. Hopefully, we should. Our targets for this year were quite aggressive; we were looking at a 70-80% growth but that’s not happening for sure,” Agarwal said.

According to Agarwal, investment in digital for FMCG clients was 5% or 10% of their total media spend. The category had never focussed on creating digital assets but now they have started doing digital-first campaigns and looking at creating digital assets because the road for creativity on digital is different than the road for creativity on TV.

Speaking on the marketing trends in 2021, Agarwal said, “A lot of companies that used to believe in mainline are moving their focus to digital. They are hiring digital experts and specialists considering digital as a bigger platform.”  

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