Friday, August 16, 2013

Are you in Love with your Client?

The relationship between an advertising agency, and a client cannot be generalized  categorized and summarized in simple words.

The win of an account, as I have learnt, doesn't depend always on the creative strategy and innovation in thoughts, but on various other factors.

Chemistry, being one of the most important one.

In my opinion, a relationship between the two is no different from any regular relationship we would have, and identifying the key to making things work can be as simple as comparing them to what kind of relationship one has.

The most important thing in a fruitful relationship is trust.

In this scenario it is difficult to categorize something that takes years to build, because many a times we begin a relationship in the first interaction itself.

That’s why I feel that this relationship can be compared more universal - LOVE

Falling in love with your client can be a beautiful process. It can be instant, or can take its own sweet time. It can be conditional, and sometimes unconditional. It can be paternal, maternal and brotherly. It can be a fling, a one night stand, or a commitment for a life.

Like any relationship, its needs time, patience, understanding, and it also needs sympathy and empathy to overcome the ups and downs that life’s situations may bring.

In my professional career, I have built relationships with various kinds of clients, and it’s difficult to categorize them all together, because some are complicated, but there are a few categories I have managed to slot.

Here goes:

Infatuation is a feeling that’s based on fantasy, and not on experience.
It’s the feeling a when you are given a foot in the door of a client who was beyond your reach till today.
Until now, you have read about the great client in the news and admired their brands. Suddenly you are shaking hands with the guys behind the magic and exchanging visiting cards. You are mesmerised by their credentials, amazed at their strategy and the brief completely floors you.

The agency visualises that someday they will sign a big contract and this is their claim to fame.
This is a beautiful moment but many a times, when they really get to know each other, the feelings diminish, because either the client has called you for an extremely small brief or your expectations have been too high. Your hopes of bagging the big brands fade away over time. Financially it doesn't make sense and it’s nothing more than a talking point among your peers or a logo in your credentials. Alas!

Puppy Love

This is that same childish feeling, only difference is that it is between adults.
Mostly experiences in an agency’s start up days.
In this stage, the agency spends a lot of time on the projects. They admire the small briefs, and believe something great is going to come out of this. They almost become partners in the venture and share the tiny successes and moan the failures, against the big bad world.

Most people believe that things won’t work out between these two, and more understanding and stability is required. Eventually a rocky patch blows the ground off their feet and things don’t turn out the way one would want it. But since involvement is at its max in this stages of an agency, the attachment to the ideas is more.
One feels that this is the peak of their creative thinking.
If only the agency knew that the future has much better to offer after the heartbreak. Like life, after a teenage crush.

Unrequited Love

Ouch! This one is about the ballads and sad songs.

Unrequited love is a love filled with heartbreaks and one that almost all of us have experienced sometime in our life. It’s the dreaded one sided love. The agency had dream of working with the client. Tried hard. Pitched harder. Put in the late nights. But things didn’t work out. They never would. Something was unbalanced. It just wasn’t mean to be. 

It would be wrong and useless to be spiteful. The best thing is to move on, because you never will always give you another chance, and no effort goes waste.

Platonic Love

This is Vanilla flavored love. No chocolate chips. No fruity bites.

No deep feelings but, there is respect and understanding.

Platonic love is the simplest of all types. There are no strings attached. It’s pure and friendly. The kind of relationship you have with close childhood friends.

Its starts of with the initial excitement and fun.

Over time this gets stagnant but yet both sides are committed.

The agency is to the point. The client is upfront. No great out of the box thinking. A retainer is signed and it’s been going on and on. No tiffs and if there are any, they are sorted on email and agreed mutually.

It’s good for both, because both benefit in some way or the else.

The agency is proud that they have a client for so long (shows trust) and the client is happy that they don’t need to spend time scouting for someone who they will need to explain their business all over again.

Why fix it if it’s not broken?

Maternal Love

This term usually connotes love that is fostering, tolerant and caring. The agency has a past here. The agency understands the client’s roots. They know their strong and weak points, sometimes better than the client knows itself. This could be because of the attrition at the client end, and the agency being the only constant.

The agency cares and nurtures the brands, to get the best out of it. They sit and spend time with middle management before they present to the top bosses in the final presentation.

These relationships are precious. Having a client who believes in you to that level is an important guiding light in an agencies lifetime, and leaves a lasting impact on the learning curve.

Trying and meeting expectations is a constant endeavor.

Agencies love working with such clients because sometimes they are judged by passion and experience not only outcome.

Paternal Love

Much like maternal love, but this one comes with a twist - A good chance of being misunderstood.
Love that involves control and some power. Paternal love is the one a parent gives when they are preparing a child to be ready for the outside world. They will put in the long hours and in the end won’t give up easily. The agency stays in the power seat in their domain and won’t take no from the client, for an answer.

If you are a client, and if you have ever encountered such an agency in your life, I can just hope you haven’t misunderstood your agency. Somewhere they still brood over what they must have said to you to hurt you.

Pick up the phone and call them right away with a big Hi!! And I guarantee you will get a bigger Hiii! back!

Romantic Love

Butterflies, bliss and love songs, is all you need to think of when you experience romantic love. It’s beautiful, and just what Cupid ordered. It’s got passion, attraction, caring and respect.
You feel the tickle in your tummy, the world looks so much more beautiful and you can’t hold that grin back, no matter what happens. The agency loves going to the client’s office, and the clients are invited to the agency’s parties.

Agency happy. Client happy.
The world’s is a happier place.
Everyone’s having the time of their life!
Agency wins awards.
Client wins promotions.
The world is in envy.
Some gossip that this will never work out, and is going to break soon.
But who cares?
This one relationship... is for keeps! Wedding bells someone?

Companion Love

Best Friends feel this kind of love.
It’s about those times when you feel you can go for a drink with your client, without the awkwardness after you are a few drinks down and slur that follows.
There is warmth, understanding and a bond that goes deeper than just work.
Personally this is my personal favorite.

It’s unconditional, to a level. It’s the one client, you feel obliged to give good work to, and the client reciprocates by clearing the payments as soon as possible.

It’s fair, just and long lasting.

The kind that if things go wrong, you are ready to talk it out and move ahead, together.
Soul-mate Love

Many a times you walk into the office for a regular credential presentation.
Something clicks and the next minute you have a project on hand.

The timing is so perfect that it’s almost God sent. It happens. Right place. Right time.
It goes beyond math, physics, chemistry and biology.
In the second meeting your strategy and creative clicks and you have a client to bank on. If you look back and think, this may have something to do with good karma! Trust me, its happened more than once to me.

Unconditional Love

There are three F’s why a agency works with a client.
1.    Fame. 2. Fun. 3. Finance.
Most of the time its only one of F’s that are a reason to sign on the dotted line.
If the work is fun, then you might not get fame and finances.
If it’s for fame, chances are you've hardly been paid, and it’s not really been fun.
If it’s for finance, there are chances, you are neither having fun, or anyone is going to care what you did.

When it’s for neither of the above it’s just because you want to.

It’s not great fun, it’s not going to make you famous. It’s not going to give you great monies.
It’s just because you want to. You feel good about doing it.
When an agency does a project for free. Maybe for an NGO, or a charitable cause, or a friend in need.
Just to see a smile.
Not to win an award for Social Service campaign.

A client sometimes reciprocates by referring your name to another client.
Not because he has a motive, or it was a prior condition, but just because he likes you, and wants to see you grow. God bless them!


So as you see its many categories, and types. Many a times its not just one and can be a combination of more than one type.

The Big Question is, “Do you love your client?” and if yes, “What kind of love is it?”
If you are on the other side of the table, maybe you asked yourself,
“Does my agency love me?”
If the agency in question is Synapse, just call me to help me clear your doubts (if any)
I’d like to take you for a dinner.

It’s on me!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Time to give Marketing's 5th P it's due

In 1960, Jerome McCarthy invented the 4 P’s of Marketing.

Product. Price. Promotion and Place.

They were made famous by Philip Kotler in his book 'Principles of Marketing' in 1967 and is worshiped as a Bible, for many marketers across the world even today.

But in the world of marketing today, the consumer sits in the cockpit, and not on the backseat. Audiences are broken into fragments and slices in excel sheets of rows and columns that don’t print on a single A4 sheet. (Even in landscape mode)

Products have turned into experiences.
Prices have changed to bargains, deals and value.
Product promotions have moved online, offline, below the line, above the line, in circles, squares, triangles and every possible smart art shape you can imagine.

The new ecosystem is millions and billions of unstructured one-to-one interactions leading to previews, reviews and overviews, sometimes even before the brand in launched.

Loyalty is a fantasy, and survival is no more simply Darwin.

This means that many of the tools and assumptions we grew up with are no longer valid on their own, and newer tactics need to be added to a marketing plan.

In this environment, one humble 'P' has always been used, to get spikes in sales and many a times changed brand image, helped it earn an advertising award, and create connect with the consumer, but not given his fair due.

I say, enough of this step-brotherly treatment and it’s time this little P is given his due, and his rightful place in the great hall of ‘P’ame... I mean Fame.

Bugles please. Drum rolls.
The much awaited entry of...
The P that helped us achieve targets with clever thinking...
The P that spoke to the hearts of our customers...
The P that won Gold at Cannes (and still didn’t get credit)...
Inducting in the great 4 of P’s of Marketing...
Presenting the 5th P
(Ok, after all that hype, I’m sure you were expecting something earth shattering. Something that made you think, Oh My God!. But it wasn’t like that. Right?)

But here is my case on why 'Promptness' is my nominee for the 5th P.

Promptness means, being on time, carried out or performed without delay, to move to act on spur, to assist with a reminder.

Promptness is the reaction of the marketing team to capitalize on an event, or a current happening. Like a breaking news, a sudden occasion. 

Like a win of its home soccer team, a unexpected success of its brand’s ambassador, a reaction to a move by the government, a quick answer to a possible challenge, a retort to a competitors move.

Promptness is all about being street smart and quick to react.
It’s those smart moves that wins awards, spikes sales and conquers hearts.

Promptness is when BPL Mobile reacted to Orange Mobile’s entry in the Indian market by publishing a advertisement, saying ‘Welcome Orange’ and an image of a fruit juicer.

Promptness is when Surf Excel appears on the cover page of a news daily, with a Green Tshirt hanging on the clothes line, saying Dho Dala, immediately the next day after India defeats Pakistan in a cricket match.

Promptness is when Las Vegas’ Casino congratulates the Royal Family on it's latest family member with a invitation to the newcomer after 21 years.

Promptness is when Durex wished all the mothers of their winning Football Team, and thanking them in media, for not using their products.

Promptness is when Orange Mobile printed names of their loyal customers on the newspaper front page, along with the regular advertisement, personalizing the message. 

And it’s not just great brands, with great budgets that can do this only.
Even a simple action can get that mileage with the right thinking.

After the 26/11 episode in Mumbai Taj Attack. The city was enraged. There was an unsettled feeling in each one of us. We wanted to be heard. The common man wanted a platform for him to voice his feelings.

A huge candle march protest was organised outside the Gateway of India a week later, which was attended by many, including the rich and famous of Mumbai. In that crowd there stood a young man, with an A3 printout, holding it as high as he could.

The poster had an image of colorful Bangles and said...
“A gift from the people of Mumbai, to the politicians of the world”

The next day, a chain mail was making the rounds in people inbox's, of images from the parade.

That day, my phone didn’t stop ringing, my mailbox was flooded, and my SMS’s inbox exceeded its limit.

People who I had remotely met in life also called or forwarded the mail to me, to confirm if that was me, holding the poster with the bangles. I confirmed their doubt sheepishly, and after seeing the overwhelming response,  I secretly feared that I am going to get a threat call too.

Luckily I didn’t.

It was a prompt idea. Designed in 5 minutes and printed on my office printer.
Cost: Rs. 5.
Media buying budget: None
Eyeballs: Every proud Indian.

That’s Promptness. 

It’s nothing new. 

We have been doing it all the time.

By being opportunists. Dance pe Chance. Bouncer pe Sixer. Mauka pe Chauka.

Being prompt, by saying the right thing to the girl at the right time and right place, and seeing her blush, giving you a clear indication, that you got her attention.

Some might argue, that this theory could be a branch of Promotion, and I would agree and disagree on a few points. 

Promotion has three benefits:
To present information.
To increase demand.
To differentiate a product.

But Promptness is a blend of promotion and place too with a relevant purpose to be there, and not just push information. It talks directly to the consumers, with perfect timing, while they are more receptive.

It creates talking points like as if it were their own creation, or personalized to them directly. It not always talking about the product benefit, but it pursues them to stay loyal to their brand. 

Sometimes, it doesn't even have a reason to present any information about the brand and it's benefits. You won't see too many promotions being retweeted, liked, forwarded on social networks, but a act of promptness goes all the way up. 

Its because today's generation lives in the now, its all about getting those likes, posts and status updates and repins.

I guess lets accept this new P in the family, and give it,the much deserved due.

The 5 P’s: Product. Promotion. Price. Place and Promptness.
I agree that it doesn’t have the same zing sound as the others, but has far better zing when practiced with precision.

Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Kotler, this humble student, rests his case.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


The last resort


Dadagiri. Bhaigiri. Gandhigiri. Annagiri etc

Keeping with the trends of the times, we have witnessed a sudden rise of the suffix giri, added nowadays to any sort of behavior that is unusual, with a certain attitude.

These revolts have been synonymous, with being cool and trendy. Further glorified by the Indian film fraternity.

Its a zig when the world zags, action, by revolting and rebelling - with style.

So Gandhigiri was when the father of the nation, chose non-violence over violence.

Dadagiri was when a group of thugs, did the exact opposite.

Followed by Bhaigiri, because Dada, sounded a tad older and the younger crop needed a fresher and more evergreen title.

Bhaigiri was much more evolved. They had brand ambassadors, led by some top bollywood faces, their own lingo, a signature attire, a swagger and what not. Bhaigiri soon became a brand to reckon with. You have to know a few in your area to get your work done.

Then came the reincarnation of the Mahatma, with Annagiri.  A man who got his share of publicity. The masses and classes both loved him. Journalists were eating from his hands, which left him none to feed himself. 

Till he finally realised that the trick worked brilliantly to garner TRPs, and for a change got the opposing parties to show that they agree with each other.

No matter yeh kaise giri, there always is something for marketers to learn, ponder, and take references from their case studies. After all, each of them had their briefs, researches, challenges, big ideas and flawless executions.

Each of them got footfalls, eyeballs which is every marketing assignments end objective.

What was common between all these giris?

Think Different

Gain Eyeballs, Footfalls

Embarrass the Target

Force action without forcing the target

Gandhigiri was all about thinking different, and they embarrassed the British, by not retaliating and the world took notice. Eventually winning freedom for the country.

Dadas thought different again, and embarrassed the poor, by throwing their utensils out of the home, especially the atta ka dabba which was full, no matter what the financial situation of the family. Making loud noises, enough to wake up the dead.

Bhais preferred to make a simple phone call to the rich and famous businessmen. Promptly covered on front pages, embarrassing them for their vulnerability, and finally giving in to their demands.


Now, being in advertising, the thought of connecting with a few bhais must have occurred to most agencywalas also, once a while.

Why? You may ask.

Well its simple. Any kind of business, no matter what it is in, has one universal concern - Collections.

Collections, not like hafta, but your own money which needs to be paid as a remuneration for your services and products.

You slogged nights and weekends, sacrificed lunch and make-did with sandwiches for dinner. You managed to finally get the project done in the nick of time. You send the bill, feeling bad about the amount you estimated and negotiated for, realizing it was far less for the amount of time and effort it took.

Then suddenly

The client is travelling.
Stuck in important meetings.
Phone is unreachable.
Extension is busy.

If they do ring, they refuse to accept your calls, and somehow mysteriously claim that the umpteen texts and reminder emails 'never reach' them.

To make matters worse, the new Point of Taxation Rules 2011 under Service Tax, require advertising agencies to pay the tax as soon as soon as the invoice is raised, irrespective of payment collection. This service tax must be paid within a stipulated time after providing service.

The nail in the coffin is the industrys credit period norms that vary from 60 days to 90 days. If you have been in the business for even a small while, you will know that this means that they finally look at your bill on the 90th day and point an error in the amount, or worse - Negotiate.

Which means on the day you were expecting the monies, all you get is a returned bill, and youve lost the service tax amount you paid well in advance!

Then the some unknown manager steps in, and points out that the accepted rate card is now changed. Accepted? Who accepted? A bunch of people who have no clue how the an advertising agency works? Comparing two agency strategies, and creative outputs, like they compare two photocopier vendors!

It's sad when a purchase manager calls the agency, and asks what is 'so different' in what they are offering, not understanding a clue of what the S of strategy means. Yet, has enough power to cut his bill by half.

Unfortunately, agencies have to survive in this industry. They have to deal with the same people, time and again, and if not him - his boss, his colleague, his neighbor  or maybe his assistant, who will one day become a client himself.

So the Bhai idea is ruled out, most of the times.



Agencies need to start their own rebel system- Agencygiri!

Advertising Agencies, need a more sustainable solution to collect their dues. My recommendation is an in-between road that has the assertiveness of Gandhigiri, and the aggressiveness of Bhaigiri. Yet is sophisticated and well thought of.

The Agencygiri Protest Fundamentals

Who. Where. Why. When. How.


We understand that we cant reach their phones. Emails arent acknowledged. So the only option left is, go to their offices and meet them personally.

Unfortunately, their extensions just keep ringing, and if the receptionist does get through, theyll keep us waiting endlessly. By chance, if they do come out and meet, theyll be rushing or pretend to be rushing, from one meeting to another, and will casually tell you that they will call you that very evening. Yeah right!

But one thing is clear.
This is one place they can be contacted.


One would think that this is an obvious answer. Who are we targeting? We have to target the client, company, department or division at fault. But arent we doing exactly the same thing, and failing.

So we take a Rule No. 1 of giris - Dont Zig - Zag.
The uniqueness of Agencygiri starts with Who.

Most of our clients have nice elaborate reception areas. Frequently seen here are the client's valuable partners, their own clients, other business owners, traders, suppliers and vendors and many a times you might just spot a client you know from another company, who is now waiting for his interview call here.

So we target these guys, with nothing much to do here. Sitting and grabbing newspapers, their mobiles, simply staring at the receptionist, or reading the company values, out of sheer boredom. Or anything they can get their hands or eyes on.

These guys? Why?


Let me explain why.

The reception is the face of the company. Its flashy, clean and quiet.
More like an attractive web banner, leading you to the virus inside.

Everyone comes to the office reception...
From potential candidates, to international delegates.
From secretaries, to signatories.
From the fresh chic interns, to the sales returns.

So visibility is guaranteed. 
Media Planners - take notice of the award winning product and promotion placement.


Prime time is important.

Lets catch them when the rush is maximum. Taking a cue from our predecessors- footfalls, eyeballs are important. Only then its got the potential of a succesful giri
So we target the morning hours. Right when everyone is trailing in the office.


So here we are. At the clients reception, early in the morning, targeting everyone but the client.

But what are we going to be doing here? Can someone please explain what are we going to do, or say? Simon go back???

Well Simon, please go back to your agency studio department, one day prior to the protest.

And here is the Big Idea.


Get your own accounts department introduced to your creative department. 
They probably have never met.


An office boy waits for the client to walk in the next morning, leisurely.

The boy tells the client, that the banner he asked for is ready.

Puzzled as he will be, his reaction will be What banner?

Open our nice big banner, in the center of the reception.


The enlarged pending bill printed to the size of 6 feet x 4 feet'

And then the boy wraps it up back in a jiffy, ensuring that none of the people waiting at the reception get a real good look, but the client gets a clear view of the enlarged bill with subject and amount. 

With a red status stamp, that reads - Overdue.

Oops, Sorry Sir, wrong artwork got printed, and walks away.

Thats Agencygiri.

Effects (and side effects):

Client calls (and he will), tell him it was a mistake. 

Clarify that it was a banner printed for the accounts team offsite training happening today, and it was sent to him because of some misunderstanding.

Apologize and promptly follow up for the payment status.

End the call using your best comic timing, saying you will send the large print, if he needs a copy.

Evil Laugh Huhehahahaha.

The client will rush to his desk and process your bill, no questions asked.

He might even appreciate that you didnt escalate the issue by going to his boss, because he might realize that you could have.


This is a work of fiction. 

Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the authors imagination or are used fictitiously. 

Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

No one was harmed during the writing or researching this blog.

We have never tried this. So positive results aren't guaranteed.

Stunts have to be performed by professionals. Don't try this at offices, unless guided by expert supervision.

But I hope, simply reading this will end the strife caused to any agency from this Chu***giri.

End Note:

Luckily we have a beautiful bunch of clients that have been built more on trust and relationship, where we don't ever need to resort to such tricks, and we simply call the client and tell them we are in need of the monies. That probably is the best way to sustain in business and keep your business afloat.

We also proudly say that, No vendor has tried it on us, and hopefully won't.

Forward the link, at your own risk. If it works for you, let me know.