People or agency – what drives the brand-agency relationship?

Sometimes, the brand and agency partnerships are long-term, but the people working on the account keep on changing at both ends. The secret here is that it's not just about long-term brand and agency partnership, but the people who stick around on an account for years becoming the brand custodians in the truest sense

Tanzila Shaikh
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People or agency – what drives the brand-agency relationship?

Amul and Dacunha Communication's partnership is the epitome of a long-term brand and creative agency partnership. The relationship goes back to the year 1966 when Eustace Fernandes, the then art director at the agency created the famous Amul girl, who has been the face of the brand for most of their ad campaigns and topical posts. 

Time and again Amul has wooed the audience with their topical posts with quirky captions. The brand has always given credit to the agency for their trendy topicals and even agreed to the fact that they trust the agency so much that they themselves see the topicals at the same time the consumers. Isn’t it amazing? The amount of trust Amul has in Dacunha is rare to find in the advertising world. 

Sometimes, the brand and agency partnerships are long-term, but the people working on the account keep on changing at both ends. The secret here is that it’s not just about long-term brand and agency partnership, but the people who stick around on an account for years become the brand custodians in the truest sense, to the extent that they don’t even need approvals for most of the creatives before it is out for the public to see. 

Rahul DaCunha

Rahul DaCunha, Dacunha Communications, told that all the people who are working with Amul in DaCunha have been working for more than 20 years. “That builds the sense of trust in any brand,” he said. 

While a lot of experts say that the senior level management is the custodian of the brands and they should not change in order to keep the brand value intact, many believe that it’s the agency culture that drives the brand from its core to the next level.

Nitin Karkare

Nitin Karkare, Vice-Chairperson at FCB Ulka, serving the brand Amul for the last 35 years, spoke to about the importance of people sticking to an agency. He said, “Consistency is a very powerful value and in today’s world, it is not taken very seriously. It is really important for people to work on an account for a long time because of this they are able to imbibe the brand culture and belief. Thus, delivering what the clients need. Every time when a person leaves and a new person comes, we lose time as it takes them time to understand the brand, the culture of the agency, and so on and so forth.”

“When someone sticks on an account in an agency for a quite good amount of time, they get to see a brand built by them and be part of the journey. They witness the highs and lows of the brand and see it successfully cross the various obstacles and take a pride in the journey,” he added.

Apart from Amul, FCB Ulka has been serving Zodiac since 1996, Nerolac for 30 years, Tata Motors since 1998, ITC Foods since 2001 and a few other brands too on a long-term basis. As an agency, they believe in building brands right from the seedling stage.

With the enormous amount of time devoted to a brand, one understands the essence of the brand and what they stand for. 

Nisha Singhania

Nisha Singhania, Co-Founder and Direct of infectious Advertising, believes that every brand has its tone and personality, it is very important for people to understand the tonality of the brand. She said that the more creative people stay around a brand the more they catch what it stands for. The nine-year-old agency has long term relationships with clients like Ultratech and Inorbil Mall, the values of which they have thoroughly researched and grasped over the course of many years.

While it’s important for people in the agency to remain on the account for the long-term, it’s equally important for brand teams to not change. People from the brand side play an important role while building the brand as they are the main custodians of the entity and it's their passion and vision that drives the brand forward. However, there is an equal amount of disruption amongst the people from the brand side as well. 

Experts say that there is lesser consistency on the brand's side than on the agency’s side as people take it as a stint, not something they can continue for decades. 

Abhijit Avasthi

Seconding the thought, Abhijit Avasthi, Co-Founder of Sideways Consulting, said, “In my Ogilvy days, while I was consistent on an account, people on the client-side kept on changing. A lot of times it's the agency that knows the brand in and out more than the people from the other side. A little bit of change is fine, or else the ideas will become stale.” 

In his 21 years of career in the advertising industry, Avasthi has built brands like Cadbury, Asian Paints, Pulsar and many more. 

Virat Tandon

Similarly, Virat Tandon, Group CEO, MullenLowe Lintas Group, said, “In my career, I have seen that the client-side moves faster when compared with the agency.” 

Advertising is people’s business. Therefore, so many times when a person moves out of the agency, the brand might also move out along with him. But this too comes with a disadvantage.

Shashank Srivastava

Shashank Srivastava, Executive Director at Maruti Suzuki, believes that for a brand the whole organisation matters because everyone is involved in the process of building the brand. It’s not just about a few people working on the brand account. He explained, “Sometimes people change agencies and the kind of impact they have in one agency while working on an account, might not be there in another agency. The brand story is not about one transaction but it is about the big picture. Brands evolve over time. It is not about only a few people in the agency, it is about a lot of people.”

Seconding Srivastava’s thought, Tandon commented, “You see when people change the agency, they sometimes take the clients with them but they are not able to deliver the kind of work they were doing in their earlier agency because the agency ethos, culture, people are different at agencies. This hinders the evolvement of the brand.” 

MullenLowe Lintas Group has been serving Tanishq, Tata Tea, Google and Surf Excel for a very long time. 

For a successful brand-agency partnership, it’s important for brands to consider agencies as partners and co-creators rather than just service providers. 

Abhinav Iyer

Abhinav Iyer, GM - Marketing and Strategy at The Muthoot Group, said, “We have been working with ABM communications for over 15 years now. We don't call them an agency; they are our partners. We have collaborated to build a brand. The senior leadership at both ends have been the same mostly. So, if there are any new people coming, we orient them.”

“While the senior level management should remain the same, the junior level may change because that's where the fresh talents come on board. Sometimes you need a new perspective, a fresh perspective, so that's when you need new talent. Also, constantly challenging the agency custodian is something you should exercise every now and then. ABM coined a 5-minute gold loan for us and it worked for us wonderfully,” he added.

People or agency brand-agency relationship