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Trends 2020: Agencies will need to behave more like a publication house - Naresh Gupta

Naresh Gupta, CSO and Managing Partner, Bang In The Middle, takes a look at communication in 2020, the change we need to see and rewriting the rules. 

The year gone by has been a tough one for the industry. Agencies across spectrum have struggled. Agencies have been squeezed on margins, on talent and on growth. The 20-30 agency new biz beauty show is the clear indication that business is thin for most agencies. 

While there are external factors like a stagnating economy that have impacted business, the trouble the industry is in, is not external. The fault is structural. 

This is how I see it going forward. 

2020 and onwards will mean that agencies will need to behave more like a publication house and less like anything they have been before. 

The agencies will produce more 

The age-old practice of taking months to crack a brief, find an insight, research a concept and write a campaign will increasingly come under pressure. The clients now are under tremendous pressure of a moving consumer and evolving preferences. With brands now placing speed to market as an important element of strategy, agencies have to reshuffle the way they work. The ‘digital agencies’ are doing this in their own way. Though I personally hate to label the agencies by this narrow silo and division. I feel it undermines how the agencies find solutions by narrowcasting their scope. Though the new media landscape will force every agency to be quick to execute. This is a massive challenge for the legacy network agencies who aren’t structured like this. 

The Media neutrality is a relic of 2019 

The entire communication business is built on being media neutral. There is no bigger issue than being media neutral and what the agencies tend to call ‘idea central’. The agencies can no longer afford to be media neutral. Media neutrality worked under the assumption that media is constant and consumer is moving. This is the old-world dynamic and it has been thrown out by the new emerging media choices. Today, the consumer and media both are moving at speeds not witnessed before and it’s the communication business that is getting left behind. If the agencies insist on being media neutral, then both addressable linear broadcast TV and the new platform like TikTok are beyond reach for them. 

Advertising came into being as the representative of media houses. Communication agencies don’t need to be representatives any more, but they cannot be neutral either. 2020 and beyond the communication companies will have to think media first and idea later. The new decade requires solutions that work for fragmented audience, and not just with broadcast dynamic like earlier times. 

For agencies, to produce more and be media centric, they will need to reskill and retool themselves. The clients need to drive this change, only then will the brands find continuing success in the market. The new brands that are coming into the market today have no sense of history and they are rewriting the rules by doing these two things.


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