"Bhaiyya, show me that yellow one with red border." Surely, we would have come across something like this at some point in our lives - be it while shopping with our mother, sister, wife, or in some cases with our girl friends. I am not being sexist, but typically women do this when they go out shopping. It is not uncommon for them to go out and spend an entire day rather fruitfully doing just window-shopping!
So what am I saying? I am saying that those in agencies have another set of women in their lives - their clients. A similar refrain happens while the agency blokes are interfacing with their clients. "Guys, can you pass me the option with larger logo and the woman in pink? No...no...not the one with hammock, but the one with the traffic light."
Isn't there a rather uncanny similarity between the two situations?
Let's take the case of these women. The only thing they are clear about when they go shopping is that they may want to buy... say... a saree. They wouldn't know which shop they want it from. They are not clear about why do they want to buy it. Nor are they sure about the colour they want. Ask them whether they want a Kanchipuram (Kanjivaram), Chanderi, or a Banarasi, and they are likely to be mostly clueless. If you check the occasion for which they are wanting it, they just might know the answer to this one. And budget? Well... just forget it. They just might say Rs.1000, and end up spending Rs.10,000, or vice-versa.
Now let's check out the traits demonstrated by a typical client. They may brief all their agencies about some communication they wish to do. The objective of this communication may vary in vagueness from 'building awareness' to 'coutering some aggression of the competition'. Do they want a TVC or a press ad - well, go figure ("Whatever is likely to work the best, please suggest. We'll internally discuss and finalise!"). And the budget? The typical answer will be "Budget will be need-based."
So, what does this lead to?
In case of these women on a shopping spree, it might lead to a huge amount of frustration for the people manning the saree counter. Women might leave a trail of opened sarees of various hues in their wake. They may even critique the wares shown to them. And a common refrain you might hear is - "You don't have a lime green saree with olive green border. I was only looking for that combination."
And the clients...? More often than not, they are likely to be parroting similar sentiment - "Your approach doesn't address the issue;" "The competitive move is aggressive and we don't want to come across as reactionaries;" "Why haven't you shown us the option with waterfalls;". In short, agencies don't seem to be able to deliver to their 'brief'.
Creative and servicing alike, get absolutely frustrated with such repeated window shopping sprees by these women in their lives called clients, and start to drift away to other, more attractive women, or get a sex-change done and become women (clients) themselves.
It is a fact that clients get the advertising they deserve. With every such shopping spree, they make their chances of getting a path-breaking communication solution even more remote. Not only do they end up doing disservice to their own company or brand, they also add to the brain drain in communication industry.
It is time they realised that ad agencies are not saree shops, and actually started to think before they ask their agencies to show them the wares. Or else, they will be the ones who will be left standing holding the lemon.
And as far as agencies are concerned, they also need to put their foot down and resist such exploitation which is continually leading to exodus of talented folks from the industry. They need to strongly raise their collective voice against such adhoc behaviour of their clients and stop any further erosion of their value. It is commonly known that no one can insult you till you choose to feel insulted. It is time the agencies chose the path of building self-respect by refusing to be treated as Saree shops!