The Disrupters: Zero Gravity Communications – Finding success with the basics
Surviving and thriving amid the presence of large agency networks are the smaller, independent agencies, often referred to as ‘boutique agencies’. Quite often created by former employees of larger networks venturing out on their own, and sometimes by people from different professional backgrounds, these independent agencies are being increasingly recognised for their brilliant campaigns and benchmark-setting innovative thinking.
Adgully’s feature offering – The Disrupters – puts the spotlight on such small independent agencies that have been setting a blazing trail in the advertising industry with their work, their new way of operating and ideation, which have been creating disruption in the way the advertising business is done in India.
Started in the year 2014, with an idea in mind, fire in the heart and creativity in their hands, Zero Gravity Communications embarked on the journey with thoughts evolving and their strength increasing every year. Today, it is a full-service advertising agency built on four key pillars – Strategy, Branding, Advertising and Digital. In the words of the agency’s founder, Khusbhoo Sharma, “We are making whispers in this chaos. Soon, we wish to make the noise in the ad world to stop the chaos for a minute to watch the idea people have done.”
Sharma adds, “It has been a challenging and creatively satisfying journey from 2014 till now and I am proud of my ‘#theideapeople’ and all those who have stood by us. I have been fortunate enough to work with some of the best professionals in the industry and I believe that Zero Gravity Communications is set to be a force to be reckoned with the coming few years.”
The story of Zero Gravity Communications’ march towards being a Disrupter in the advertising world in Khushboo Sharma’s own words.
How it all began
I worked in different corporate roles like Strategy, Sales, and Marketing for seven years before turning into a full-time Brand Consultant. Having worked for international clients when I started as a Brand Consultant for Gujarat based brands, I realised a culture shift and a void.
I noticed that the market had solutions fragmented into sections, wherein network agencies focused on catering media solutions, creative agencies on just ideating advertising campaigns, but rarely ensuring that the idea transpires. And then, there are design agencies who give only specific branding solutions.
On top of all these, we have clients in Gujarat who are entrepreneurial with an adventurous attitude, bold with the business approach but very conservative, naïve and apprehensive of branding, and at times unaware how digital mediums are emerging.
I started working with a very different approach of first educating and making them aware, first bringing short term results to win customer trust while simultaneously working on long term strategies. With the first few clients in I realised that this void can be filled with a full service media agency that can be the right fit for start-ups, FMCG, SMEs, and corporates.
It began with pitching ideas and solutions to evident problems and challenges we saw faced by particular brands around us. Winning account after account to references coming our way, what started as a three-employee team is now 36 strong #theideapeople on board working for 35+ clients.
There wasn’t one ‘eureka’ moment to start this agency, but a gradual learning curve by identifying the gaps and a single-minded drive to create effective business solutions using the power of creative communication strategies, irrespective of the media at hand.
Why Zero Gravity Communications?
I am a science student, an engineer by education, who was taught logic first. When I found myself suddenly starting and running a creative agency, I wanted a brand name that distinguished us from others in the region we started.
There are parameters and variables for every equations or formula to work. I believe that successful branding or advertising is not a magic trick, but a well-formulated strategy. Parameters and equation of that don’t come handy to everyone, but a job of good communication strategist is to find just that.
Zero Gravity means the state or condition in which there is no apparent force of gravity acting on a body, either because both the body and its surroundings are freely and equally accelerating under the force.
Zero Gravity Communications (ZGC) is aimed at creating an environment for ideas, strategies, and solutions for brands that they get to communicate to excel freely without external gravity influence uniquely. Distinct due to the incubation that they get.
On the lighter side, I wanted my firm to reflect my ‘geeky’ personality!
The objective & vision
When we started, the objective and the vision was to excel at every project and clients that we were working with and to build a portfolio, learn as much as we can from each project.
Today, after five years, we have a strong portfolio, case studies, and as a team now we are focused, aligned and driven. Selecting the brands we want to work with, looking at the scope of our services and most importantly, looking for sincerity, professionalism and mutual respect in the agency-client relationship.
As an agency our vision is to become a result oriented and ROI driven full-service media agency for brands, especially in Gujarat.
Giving creative ideation an edge
We equip ourselves with a clear design thinking ideology that employs a human-centric, problem-solving approach to create brand experiences that seamlessly integrate a brand with their vision.
Creative communication is crafted with the principle of ‘inclusive branding’. We make sure to create a unique brand story that imbibes emotional quotient, distinct brand proposition and more in-depth understanding of target consumer, and reflect the same distinctly with visual communications across media.
Our creative ideation edge is that we create solutions which are Practical & Realistic with Principles.
We can have an excellent idea for million-dollar campaign budget, but how to create effective strategies when you have a fraction of that as budget from your client? We try to solve this daily or work to find a solution on how to maximise the impact with the budgets we have at our end.
Tackling the client brief
Trust me, you have to become a pro here. For us, this has come after a lot of experiences, learnings, and failures.
It is a very lucky day when we get a brief which is a well thought out requirement from the client. Most of the time they are either one-liners or conflicting paragraphs. They also do come in all forms these days – over call, on WhatsApp, sketch, or detailed drafted document.
If our team thinks the brief is not right, we do reverse engineering. We ask questions that help the client draw the real problem statement for us, solution outlines and what things are acceptable and unacceptable for them.
Once the brief is decoded and we have gathered clarity over the task assigned, we set our snipers on the deadline and put all our energy and resource to bring out the best solution for the brand and while doing it, #theideapeople keep the ultimate goal and limitations handy.
Thus, we apprehend, accelerate and appraise.
History says that the most basic and simple things in the world create disruption.
For any campaign or communication strategy, the central goal is to reach out to the consumer to serve the purpose of the brand at hand. The question that we continuously, daily, on every small thing ask is “How well have we kept that consumer at the center while designing the strategy or campaign?”
As an agency, we keep two perspectives in front of us. First is the client, who wants to tell people about the brand. And second is his consumer, whose attention is already consumed by many.
Basic is always approachable, relatable and can’t be duplicated. Bringing out something from the quest of most basic things is the most challenging task. Reimagine the obvious, simplify communication, and go with basics. This is how we bring disruption.
Running an independent operation
There are a multitude of opportunities and platforms today, which have made the playground so much more dynamic that being a jack of all trades while excelling at them has become a necessity. Understanding the science of running an independent operation is in other words like puppeteering the quantum realm where everything always seems to happen all at once. And there is nothing more fascinating than being a part of this crazy and utterly creative phenomenon.
Being independent allows us to stay focused and be objective driven for our clients. We innovate, work with constraints and budget limitations to bring more effective solutions. There is always a possibility in the future to be part of network agency but that should happen when we find the right fit and sustainable scale that allows us to keep our individuality and edge with local knowledge.
Working out the pitch advantage
For ZGC, a pitch means a chance to explore a fresh and even experiment with path-breaking ideas that have the potential to become a disruptor. It means to give the client an idea of the loud and brave portrayal of their brand can be. It provides an opportunity for the brand to see where we could catapult their brand communication while highlighting our passion and team effort in a short space of time. A pitch helps us do the maximum realisation of our capability as an outsider with depth and breadth of solutions we can give. Our approach for pitch remains around the research, what has been done and redefining or reintroducing the primary USPs of the brand to the audience in perspectives that haven't been explored. So, even if our pitch approach isn’t on spot clients have come on board looking at the shear passion and drive with which our team has pitched.
Also, as a small team, we don’t have dedicated pitching team, so we make extra time, come together as a team. Late hours and weekends come to our rescue when we have a big pitch to make. In the coming years, we look forward to pitching some interesting brands with our reimaged ways.
The challenges & opportunities
Challenges are ample, such as unorganised creative services, freelancing vs agency without an in-house team, no formal marketing setup at the client end, in some cases no formal setup to evaluate agency or coordinate with, no formal call for pitches, and so on. We complete and fight these challenges as a part of our daily living.
Gujarat is quite a challenging market at the outset, and is equally rewarding if you manage to not only provide services but also add value to your clients. The 'value for money' attitude is an indispensable character trait in the people of this land and reasoning starts and ends with this, everything else lies in between.
Once we thoroughly understand this concept, streamlining the opportunities and overcoming the challenges becomes second nature. This is what we define as a 'Relentless Approach'. With the right attitude or more importantly keeping the wrong attitude at bay, agencies behold tremendous opportunities irrespective of its scale.
We believe we have a huge scope to do a lot of good work in Gujarat market. There are many National Level Product & FMCG brands, promising Start-ups and Corporates in Gujarat who need the right size agency with a deeper understanding of the local market, legacy, business challenges and accessibility for prompt servicing.
Our core focus is tapping this market and creating impactful work here first while working whatever other opportunities that come our way.
The 5-year plan
Honestly, 5 years are too long a time to plan for in this era. Technology changes the face of communication every few months with new disruptions. As a strategy, we keep achievable but ambitious targets and growth plan for one year which is tracked closely month on month basis and a broader outline target for three years. We have grown over 150% + in the last two years consecutively and are aiming toward maintaining a similar growth trajectory in the coming year.
So, was it all worth it?
Yes! The journey from the very first client to the newest client is well cherished, hard-earned with blood and sweat of everyone on the team. All days haven’t been the same. The days when we lose a client or a pitch due to whatever reason, we never let it affect the spirit of #theideapeople! We lower the gear sink in the learning, amend the mistakes and race higher. For me, passion and attitude aren’t just buzzwords, but a habit that I have internalized over time and cultivate the same in my team.