Goafest 2023: Media agencies need to stop throwing warm bodies at every client problem, says Mindshare's Amin Lakhani

In the panel discussion at Goafest 2023, the importance of holding agencies accountable for outcomes, not for saving clients' money, was highlighted

Sakshi Sharma
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Goafest 2023: Media agencies need to stop throwing warm bodies at every client problem, says Mindshare's Amin Lakhani

Media agencies need to reflect and bring in the aspect of technology and problem-solving, otherwise they will not be able to go very far by continuing to throw warm bodies at every client problem, Amin Lakhani, CEO, South Asia, Mindshare, said at Goafest 2023 during a panel discussion of media agencies on 'breaking the old mould'. 

The session was moderated by Sam Balsara, Chairman, Madison World with panelists - including Aditi Mishra, CEO, Lodestar UM; Mohit Joshi, CEO, Havas Media Group India, Navin Khemka, CEO, South Asia, Essence Mediacom, and Lakhani. 

In this panel discussion, the importance of holding agencies accountable for outcomes, not for saving clients' money, was highlighted. Since agencies are not in control of all aspects of the marketing mix - especially distribution - clients often need to view agencies in that light. 

Overall, this session served as a platform to inspire and ignite a spirit of transformation across various domains of the advertising agencies through the process of unlearning and relearning in accordance with the advertising era of today.

Balsara said, "I will say that media agencies have had a good bull run for the last 25 years but it's true that with so much change that is happening a lot more needs to be done."

He stated that with so much happening, media agencies do not have an ideal structure. 

Responding to questions about structures posed by Balsara, Mishra said, "The way industry evolved we specialised in television, digital and now sometimes in CRM. We try to create client-centric structures and that's the direction in which everyone is trying to go. Perhaps there is a need to step back because the strength that media agencies have in today's dynamic world is that they are the ones who best understand consumer journey. They see all touch points from all aspects and anybody who is able to bring that together in this complex world is really going to be the best partner to the client because everybody is looking at how best can we make the journey more meaningful." 

She further delved for the need for fluidity within the teams, which ensures that learnings move across in different directions. 

"How do you make brand messaging clear and how do we create structures and ways of working which allow a seamless experience? There are two things that we did, going client-centric versus function-centric is one. The second thing is that we realised that sometimes it is not good enough to assign people to one piece of business and then wait. There is another concept we have started working with called fixed and fluid teams which means that people are not necessarily stuck to one business. It is another way of ensuring that the learning is transcending and moving along," Mishra added. 

“We will need to take a hard look at ourselves,” she stated. 

Balsara posed a question to Lakhani, "What should we do to ensure high-quality talent in our industry?"

Lakhani responded by saying that if commission and remuneration structures come down year-on-year it only throws that much amount of challenge for the agencies to recruit the right talent accordingly. "That is an industry-wide problem and I don't think we will be able to solve it right now but we can pick that up as we move ahead in our journey," he stated. 

Furthermore, he went on to add, "The other way to do it for the agencies is to step back and stop throwing warm bodies on every problem that the client is throwing at you. We are talking about digital transformation, consulting, and value-added services for our clients. Are we really applying that to ourselves? So, I think agencies need to reflect and bring in the aspect of technology and solving problems. Otherwise, I don't think we will go very far by continuing to throw warm bodies." 

Balsara said that a CXO or the CEO of a media agency needs to understand the whole picture of marketing and where media spends are splitting - along with the role of creative. 

"Most of the media people are disinterested in creative and they don't even know what creative is playing," Balsara stated.

Khemka observed that media agencies have come a long way and there was an era where scale was important. It was only later on that digital platforms became really important.

"We are now moving into the next era of advertising which is more sophisticated. So, today the age-old way of working for advertising agencies will not work anymore. You will have to provide a full funnel of services and more," Khemka said.

"People in the media agencies also need to be trained. Everybody will need to unlearn and relearn this entire sophistication and once we are able to introduce this entire journey of sophistication to our clients, they will also understand how much effort it is taking for the agency to take them into the sophistication era," he added. 

Balsara said that for a long-time agencies have been debating how they can move up the value chain in the client's mind and seek the top table.

Joshi responded by saying, "Despite the fact that agencies are working on every aspect of the client delivery, we are saying that consultants get a much better value out of the clients pocket. The only way to move up the value chain is to train ourselves to start thinking as problem solvers rather than media plan providers."

Furthermore, he went on to say, "The people at the top are the media planners who have evolved and become CXOs. We have to understand what the brand is facing and create a solution for that. We have to move up in our own thinking the way we see a media plan, it has to be a communication plan." 

In conclusion, Joshi said, "We are the media partners and not media agencies, so that partnership has to be made very obvious." 

Mishra stated, "I am not sure whether we want to be restricted to media, because media itself as a world is changing. Agency (word) gives a very wrong cue." 

Khemkha noted that moving away from one-way communications to more experiences is where the future lies.


media media agencies Goafest advertising Marketing Media Planning clients Sam Balsara Amin Lakhani Aditi Mishra Mohit Joshi Goafest 2023 Navin Khemka media partners