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Sudarshan Banerjee on why ad industry needs to bring back the love

On its 5th birthday, Utopeia Communicationz has decided to give special gifts to five deserving, but not heavy on the cash front, start-ups. The ad agency will create ads for these five start-ups for free in a bid to give a boost to the ventures. And it is all out of pure love! 

Started on November 20, 2012, Utopeia Communicationz is led by 5 Managing Partners – Sudarshan Banerjee, Sean Colaco, Mitali Srivastava, Krishnaraj Bhat, and Krishna Padhye. The agency’s tagline: ‘Bring back the love’, reflects its intent of bringing back the love for brands, love for the agency from clients, and love for agency from its employees. 

In a reversal of sorts, Utopeia has released an ad that asks all budding entrepreneurial ventures to send in their briefs and the five most deserving start-ups will get their ads done for free by Utopeia. The ad is headlined boldly: “Which agency offers free ads, in the name of love?” and is designed in vintage style. 

The ad takes the quirky and unusual path that has been part of the DNA of Utopeia, as is reflected in its work done for clients such as Reliance Recron, Priyagold, Nutrela, MAN Reality and more. Utopeia prefers to call itself a retro agency and has been aiming to bring back the good old days to the advertising industry in the way it functions. 

This strategy also finds resonance in Utopeia’s clients, as shared by Lalatendu Panda, Head of Marketing, Reliance Fresh & Smart, who said, “Utopeia is the quirkiest agency in India. The team has a lot of passion and commitment, which is really commendable.” Reliance Fresh & Smart has been associating with Utopeia for four and a half years now. “It has been a fantastic journey,” said Panda, adding, “I keep challenging them and they are always up to the challenge. Technically speaking, Utopeia has grown a lot with the times.” 

In conversation with Adgully, Sudarshan Banerjee, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Utopeia Communicationz, speaks at length on the agency completing five years, how the agency came together, key achievements, clients, creativity and the road ahead. Banerjee is one of the five Managing Partners of the agency. He has worked across Media, Strategy, Direct Marketing, Digital Marketing and Account Management, along with copywriting in the course of his career. 

Excerpts:

How are you celebrating five years of Utopeia?
We are having a smallish party on our office terrace, the theme for which is retro and we are going to invite our clients. After that, we will get on with the 6th year from Monday (November 20, 2017). 

Along with this, on the occasion of completing 5 years, we are actually doing something for the start-up ecosystem. Five years ago, we were a start-up – bootstrap, as they call the start-up where you didn’t have an investor or funding. So, we know the problems that start-ups face. There are many start-ups that are deserving and who could do with some help from a communications specialist. Hence, we have decided to let the start-ups send in their briefs for us to do an ad campaign for them free of cost. There is a small ad that has been created to that effect and this is how we are giving back in a way to the start-up ecosystem so that deserving start-ups can get all the support that we can provide them. In the world of packaging and looks, your idea might be great, but if it is not packaged well or communicated correctly, it might not be as successful as it could have been. 

What are the key highlights of Utopeia’s five-year journey?
We began Utopeia with the concept of bringing back the love. It happened because we felt that the advertising industry has started to lose the love with its employees, with its clients and therefore, the consumers of the clients’ brands are also becoming fickle. Back in the day, advertising had a holistic approach to all of these things because they had multiple departments, multiple functions all working together to give clients a holistic solution to their marketing problems. But with the time, the agencies broke up into smaller separate niches – media, outdoor, digital, so on and so forth, so much so that the client did not really have a single contact to talk to or a single agency with whom they could discuss their marketing problems. That was the backdrop in which Utopeia is formed. We call ourselves a retro agency and we thought of doing things in the old fashioned way in terms of identifying category experts, giving clients senior advertising people to handle their businesses and so on and so forth. 

What are your views on today’s full service agencies?
Full service agencies today are not that they used to be in the past. Today, there are multiple sub-agencies inside a larger group, each with a separate P&L and they have a separate agenda for the client. For example, I am a marketing specialist or an advertising communication specialist and I have realised that this particular problem of the client can be resolved by direct marketing. But since I don’t head the direct marketing division of my agency group and I only head the creative part, I am not going to suggest to the client about the direct marketing solution because that will end up giving the business to the direct marketing division and, therefore, that money is not coming to my bottomline or topline. 

(L-R)- Krishna Padhye, Sudarshan Banerjee, Mitali Srivastava Hough, Sean Colaco, Krishnaraj Bhat
(L-R)- Krishna Padhye, Sudarshan Banerjee, Mitali Srivastava Hough, Sean Colaco, Krishnaraj Bhat

What defines your sense of creativity?
Given that I am the business head of the agency, my sense of creativity actually would be stuff that is going to be both entertaining and pleasing to the consumers, but at the same time also very effective in terms of moving the product. Like we say, art in advertising is commercial art, the commercial purpose should be fulfilled in order for it to be successful, but that might not necessarily go down well with all creative agencies in the industry. 

Category of clients that you specialise in and you aspire to work with?
We aspire to work with pretty much any client who comes with a marketing problem. One of the things that we look forward to is to actually solve problems that most of the people cannot solve. We come with a very strategic plus creative idea based solutions for the marketing problems that one might have. The categories that we have ended up specialising in are retail, real estate and luxury marketing. 

What are the interesting trends that you have seen in 2017 in terms of ads, videos, etc.?
The trends that we see in advertising are that of content consumption. Consumers are becoming more and more discerning. Back in the day, advertising was all about interruption marketing in the sense that the consumer would be watching or reading something and suddenly gets interrupted with an ad. Today, a lot of content is created in such a way that they let the consumers look for it. For instance, in YouTube if you are watching an ad, you have the option of skipping it. Similarly, if I had it on television, I could skip that ad and a lot of us do that. So, you have to create content that is entertaining and also something that the consumer going to speak out or like viewing and, therefore, the line between what is content in terms of advertising and what is content in terms of consumption that the consumer is otherwise watching is blurring. 

What are your expectations from 2018?
The expectations in the coming year are to ensure that we continue to do what we are doing well, but more consistently and reach out to more categories and probably make it a better place for our employees than we have ever made it before. We are about 45 people today in 5 years and we are looking to grow more. 

As a last word, what are your thoughts on being an entrepreneur?
It’s not everybody’s cup of tea. If you have a day job, you should think twice before switching from that job and becoming an entrepreneur.

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