Ad professionals gathered at the conclave conducted by the AAAI (Advertising Agencies Association of India) acknowledged certain issues plaguing the potential of the industry. Primary concerns that came to the fore include mediocrity and lack of accountability.
Meenakshi Madhwani, managing partner, Spatial Access Solutions was emphatic in her suggestion, "Today, advertising agencies are not giving value to what they do. Instead of being change agents, advertising executives are reducing themselves to a stature of commission agents by negotiating rates."
According to her, in addition to the three legs of ad agencies, media and advertisers, the fourth leg of accountability needs to be factored in to bring stability to the industry. She told HT, "It is possible to look at the work done by the advertising agencies and then quantify and relate to the results delivered."
If the agencies are contributing to the growth of the client's business, it needs to be accounted and based on that a fair price needs to be charged for the same, she added.
Madhwani touched upon a relevant point as mediocrity and commissioning are sending the industry in a vicious spiral.
There was also a view that advertising professionals are resistant to change and lack commitment. Shripad Nadkarni, Director, Marketgate Consulting lamented the fact that not a single industry initiative has addressed the talent issue. He stressed, "Advertising actually used to build brands in the 80s and 90s but it is not happening any more. Certainly, the industry is unable to attract good talent which is finding its way into retail and other industries."
Nadkarni also urged the industry to come out of a self-fulfilling prophecy and give good inspiring leaders like Nandan Nilekani to the youth who may be inclined to join the industry.
The first panel discussion also spurred a debate between media and creative professionals arguing over whether the unbundling of creative and media agencies has worked well or not. Clearly, the inability to have unity in the industry as well as to have a common measuring barometer are also coming in the way of the advertising industry.
Lynn de Souza, Director, Lintas Media Services agreed to Madhwani's view of bringing in accountability, "Competing measurement bodies need to come together and give enough resources to a single body, which will be respected for what it shows as a mirror to all of us. That will help us claim the right credit for our work, much unlike the fair-weather policy now."
As of now, clients are clearly dominating the advertising agencies to reduce their rates and that is leading to mediocre work in a lot of cases. The advertising industry seriously needs to have a look at many of these issues to really be a part of the great Indian growth story.
Madhwani put the writing on the wall - as commission agents, there is no future. Unless value is added, there will be no difference to the state of affairs.