AgTalk | India's first free-minded agency: Law & Kenneth's Anil S Nair

Its growth has been nothing short of being phenomenal. Started as an Indian outfit of St Luke’s, an UK based agency the four Indian representatives namely Praveen Kenneth, Anil S Nair, Sandhya Srinivasan and Anil K Nair, quickly realised that entrepreneurship was their calling and that they needed to do something different. So was born Law & Kenneth when Andy Law, the founder of St Luke’s joined hands with Praveen and his team.
 
The agency in the words of Anil S Nair, CEO & Managing Partner, Law & Kenneth, adopted a simple but comprehensive style of pitching to the clients which focused on giving the client an honest sometimes brutal view about advertising. He says, “we are India's first 'free-minded agency' where the brand custodians are empowered to give an unbiased POV and consultancy to brands, closely working along with the clients, to deliver tangible results in the market place.”
 
On the other hand, Nair is thankful to the clients who chose them above the established agencies to get something different and more effective than the run of the mill in business. The agency has steadily grown in size and stature through the last decade and today has a presence in design, digital and activation.
 
Anil S Nair has close to two decades of experience in the field of advertising and prior to launching L & K, has had stints with Quadrant Communications, McCann Erickson India and Mudra Communications. Adgully spoke to Anil S Nair, CEO & Managing Partner at Law & Kenneth India to know more insights about the agency. 
 
Adgully (AG): This has been a tough year for the economy and the business. Can you give us a sense of the market?
 
Anil S Nair (ASN): I honestly cannot say if the year is tough or not but I would say that there are lot of corrections that are happening in the whole business environment. The automatic growth which the industry was used to is not happening. However we are enriched with more knowledge. The future of  our businesses depends on how well we adapt now. The big mistake will be to think that this is only a slow down and normalcy will return soon.
 
AG: Do you feel that the whole business of advertising has become research oriented? 
 
ASN: During tough times the tendency is to do 'over research' than rely on our guts. Hope that is a passing phase. Because soon we will figure out that research has no magic formula to save brands but insightful thinking has. 
 
AG: As you said, today consumers are not responding to regular advertising, so do you think digital has much better chance to grow in such a situation?
 
ASN: Well! I have a different take on digital. I believe whatever change has happened today in this domain is because of ‘digitization’ and not ‘digital’. Digitization allows the information to pass on very quickly. For example, today we know which movie is going on and what is worth watching from our peers. The flow of information between two people is happening so much through the personal media. Today the direct conversations between the consumer and the advertising person would not be enough. As an advertiser or marketer, I need to find ways to embed the brand in between the conversations that are happening. Companies and brands need to understand this change that is happening post-digitization. 
 
Today the whole content of communication has altered. The communication is at cross roads with branded-content, as we call it. Whether the consumer gets the relevant information about the brand in the most interesting and entertaining manner, through whichever medium, is what matters. I believe Coke studio is fantastic branded-content concept in terms of marketing! Through Coke studio the promotion of their products is really high and the best part is, for an average viewer the promotional products are not coming in his view of watching the show. The brands today need to think in that direction to come out of traditional tried and tested methods. Today we need to be really creative. The Dewarists, is also one of the fantastic branded-content.
 
I believe every brand can do this, if we stop lying to our consumers. Brands should stop claiming that they are the best, washes the whitest, makes kids brainiest etc. Today's consumers are cleverer than before, they question back. 
 
‘Hum mein hai Hero’ was bold step in that direction acknowledging the capability of the consumers of India to make a brand. Through our campaign we wanted to say the truth that - yes consumer has the power. We opened our campaign out to the consumer to take it forward. 
 
AG: Tell us the 5 key trends that we see in the next two years?
 
ASN: The biggest trend that will happen would be that many brands would revisit their core. You will see a lot of change happening on the brand platform as a lot of brands would re-work on their core values.
 
Secondly, brands will actually start creating a dialogue with their consumers. They will change their vocabulary as well. 
 
Thirdly, the brands need to think the next step very quickly because consumers have become smarter. They need to know what next! This point reminds me of the first Tata Tea politician campaign where the consumers ask a politician, what is your job profile, what is your qualification. Today consumers behave like this to brands.
 
The fourth trend is that specific to our industry, the talent combination will change. We will see people with different skill sets making their presence felt in the advertising and media domain. The era of co creation has arrived. It's going to be a potent combination of creatives, strategists and technologists that is going to drive the brands conversation with its fans.
 
Lastly, I believe that the system of annually, quarterly, monthly, weekly reviews will go away. We will have to review ‘every single day’ because a day later is a new world. If by afternoon 25,000 conversations happen around your brand, you will have to think there and then according to the conversation. You can’t wait for a monthly or quarterly review. So, there will be a real time monitoring and engaging in the coming future. 
 
AG: So do you think digital and social media have compelled the brands to re-think their strategies and that, they have to be to be on their toes 24 X7?
 
ASN: Oh Yes! Absolutely! Today people say India is yet to see that phase. But I personally think it’s nothing like that. Given the kind of deep mobile penetration that has happened in India today, companies are waiting to explore so much in that direction. Today everybody holds a mobile phone. So the ‘revenue’ would be from the real time engagement because as a brand my status updates and blogs are not enough for the consumer. They need the more relevant information. We have to come up with customized content. We will be doing a lot towards that area and will be getting a lot of share with engaging content. The content today has to be entertaining, engaging and topical. But the fundamental principle of storytelling will not change. What changes is how you tell those stories.
 
AG: Given the scenario, how would you do like to you rank Law & Kenneth?
 
ASN: I really don’t know where to rank myself but all that I know is that the ranking stands in the client’s (our customer’s) mind. It’s like the brand whose ranking is in the mind of the consumer. Going by the number of invitations I get from the brands who want to explore an opportunity to engage with us, I certainly feel that I am in the top 10. There are far bigger organizations than us but caliber wise I believe that I can match those organizations. I have utmost respect towards all the other agencies irrespective of their size and rankings.
 
AG: In your journey, of almost a decade now, what trends brought to the position you are in today?
 
ASN: Our core strength is our ownership of the brands we handle. The relationship we have with the brand owners speaks volumes about it. The only trend that we believe is relevant yesterday, today and tomorrow is the unbiased and passionate commitment towards brands and their success. 
 
AG: Tell us about some of the key clients that you have in your kitty?
 
ASN: We have 40 clients in India: ITC Personal Care: Fiama, Vivel, eBay, Renault (18 months and five products launched), Hero MotoCorp, Dabur: Fem, Honitus syrup etc (under Dabur) Godrej Interio, Tata AIG General Insurance ,ING Life insurance, Times Now, BPCL, Lavassa, Barista, Kent Water Purifiers to name a few. We have clients who spend over 100 crs and some who don't spend a penny on media. We are excited about each and every client of ours. 
 
AG: Have you ever thought of joining hands with a larger Network by offering majority stake and still running the show, sell-off? Or you intend to stay independent?
 
ASN: We are not focused in that direction at all. We are just focused towards navigating our clients and their brands towards success. I believe that being independent is just a state of mind.  
 
AG: Any new practices that you are focusing at right now? 
 
ASN: Law and Kenneth specializes in four areas .The first being, Advertising, and Brand Consultancy  which is our fundamental offering .Second being Networked media or what we call Connected media (Formerly digital), and we are one of  the  finest players in that domain. Third practice is Design in which the team is doing exceptionable well. Our belief is, Design should be leveraged commercially. We do one of the rarest things that others have not got into as yet, Environment Designing. Our endeavor here has been to make a brand out of design. Our focus here was to create something differential out of a design. For instance the WTF Bar One. Our efforts stand testimony to the same.
 
Lastly, we believe in engagement. We create strategic engagement between the brand and the consumers. We are not focused towards doing launches and dealer meets. Our division Ngage is focused on enriching the moments of truth in a brand - consumer relationship. 
 
AG: You have had a fantastic journey so far. In all these years can you recollect some instances which genuinely made you smile?
 
ASN: I have been brought up by two hard working people, my parents. Like my father, I have this 'kidaa' of creating my own identity. There have been many instances which have made me smile. However there are two notable ones that I would like to share.  I smiled from the core of my heart when we had our official L & K identity, our company’s (name) board went up for the first time in the middle of the night on our wall and the second time was when we approached A.R. Rahman with our concept for Hero MotoCorp and he responded saying that it was one of most inspiring briefs that he ever got from an agency.
 
AG: Give us a sense of your national presence & strength, where all are you located?
 
ASN: Right now we operate out of four branches in metros - Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai. L & K has over 300 employees. 
 
AG: Any word of advice to the new joinees in this profession?
 
ASN: Join this field for the right reason and with an understanding of the business. Most importantly join with an understanding of why you are joining it. Once you are clear about it you will never settle for anything else in life, like me.
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