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Subhash Kamath, Kainaz Karmakar and Santosh Padhi share words of wisdom for advertising agencies

BestMediaInfo.com has compiled suggestions and tips given by Kamath, CEO of BBH and Publicis Worldwide, India, Karmakar, Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy and Padhi, CCO and Co-Founder at Taproot Dentsu for the smooth running of advertising agencies in these unprecedented times

(L-R) Subhash Kamath, Kainaz Karmakar and Santosh Padhi

The Covid-19 pandemic has given birth to a new set of challenges for advertising agencies. These include production issues, remote working, virtual pitches, increased workload and adverse effect on employee mental health, etc.

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Amid all these challenges, on one hand, clients expect agencies to come up with quick solutions and on the other hand, they want it to be fool-proof and highly creative. As if this was not enough, there is a constant concern among agency people about clients holding back payment and advertising spends.

BestMediaInfo.com caught up with the best minds in the advertising industry— Subhash Kamath,  CEO of BBH and Publicis Worldwide, India, Kainaz Karmakar, Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy and Santosh Padhi,  CCO and Co-Founder at Taproot Dentsu — to share with us a few things advertising agencies should practice and must avoid doing in order to sustain in these trying times.

  1.  Don’t stop your people from pushing hard for great work

The agencies must encourage their people to be creative and be open to newer ideas, suggests Karmakar. “Some people in agencies believe you will upset the client if you push an idea or an execution too hard. The most upsetting thing is giving mediocrity to your clients, offering a 70% product instead of 100% product,” she said.

  1. Agencies must not settle for deals that are not profitable to them

The agencies must command better prices for the efforts they put in and must not settle for something they think they don’t deserve. “It's the agency's responsibility to negotiate hard and ensure they're compensated well. You have to learn to say no and walk away from the negotiating table if the deal is unprofitable for you. Ultimately, it's your reputation on the line. The better-run agencies are quite profitable businesses, so obviously they have commanded a good price,” said Kamath.

Last year everyone was collectively hit by the pandemic and agencies did work for lesser monies. This year even though some companies are doing well, they are still asking agencies for a discount, said Padhi. He said this is a time when clients and agencies must support each other on moral and humanitarian grounds.

  1. Advertising professionals must learn to take criticism

Karmakar said one must not surround themselves with people who never disagree with them. “You will never get an honest opinion and you won’t know how to handle it when you get one.”

  1. Agencies should not underpay deserving employees

Kamath, Karmakar and Padhi are of the opinion that the stars of the agencies should be better paid so they do not leave for economic reasons and stay motivated.

  1. Agencies must push back unreasonable demands and deadlines

The working environment in advertising agencies is often considered to be toxic and should be improved.  Kamath said one reason this happens is because the leadership has not learnt to say no to unreasonable demands of clients.

“I think as an agency, we need to do multiple things to correct this. First of all, you have to be sensitive to your people's needs. You've to counsel them to take regular breaks and not work after a certain time in the day. You have to help free up the weekends and encourage them to avail of their earned leave. At the same time, it's vitally important for the seniors in the agency to push back hard on unreasonable deadlines, which one may accept as an exception but not as a norm,” Kamath said.

  1. The agencies must come together

All the three advertising veterans believe that in such tough times, as an industry, all agencies should come together and motivate each other in whatever form they can.

  1. One must pay attention to creative intuition

Karmakar said that sometimes agencies mistake a creative person’s inputs for arrogance. She said agencies must learn to respect their intuition because the gut is where great work is born.

  1. Celebrate but not focus only on awards

The agencies must learn to celebrate the good work done by their employees and must not look down on taking a break.  Karmakar said, “Wins are often followed by briefs instead of drinks. Taking an evening off to acknowledge your team’s good work is not a waste of time.”

Agencies are increasingly working to win creative awards instead of actually solving issues of the client. Kamath said creative awards have itself become an industry and a lot of talent is wasted in creating work to win awards, which no one really sees apart from the juries. “The good agencies are the ones who win on real work that stands out. I don't believe in scam work and have always been against it. But I'd be absolutely proud to receive an award for work that is real and solves a genuine brand problem,” he stated.

  1. Focus on long-term revenue targets

At a time when revenues across industries are in a fix and people’s morale is down, agencies must focus on longer three-five year revenue targets, said Padhi. He said agencies can expect a revenue boost during events such as the cricket world cup but that happens once in four years and one cannot expect the same revenue targets every year. This is why agencies must have a longer vision and focus on long-term revenue targets.

  1. Stay motivated

This is a time when agencies must stay motivated by creating more interesting and engaging work even if the client rejects it. Padhi said that good work is the best healer, and at a time when people are disturbed and going through depression, engaging in work will help them to get less impacted by the ridiculous media around us. 

He said creative people must have fun, work for the kick and come up with bizarre and fresh campaigns to keep themselves entertained and motivated.

  1. Spend time with your families  

Padhi said that in the advertising world, people at work have always been family but today the pandemic has led to our families becoming our friends. This is why people should spend time with families and make the best of it. 


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