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Tuesday, April 1

Agency Planners vs Brand Consultants

Some days back, a planner friend mailed me this old post by Richard Huntington on agencies vs brand consultancies. You can read it here...

Got me thinking. My two pence on this issue.

I agree with Richard and my friend that agency planners short-change themselves. Rather agencies short change their planners. And there are a whole host of reasons for the short-change!

1. In life we don't get what we deserve. We get what we negotiate. And the agencies(many of us) are lousy negotiators when it comes to pricing our thinking and solutions.

Agency thinking is like web 2.0 services. Mostly for FREE!! LOL

Historically, the price tag on planner thinking has been Rs.0!!! And that explains why we are often not taken that seriously.

2. Specialists vs Generalists. The specialists almost always get taken more seriously and paid better - be it doctors, engineers or lawyers. Our biggest asset actually works against us. Because we give a breadth of solutions to an ever bigger array of communication/ business problems at an ever faster rate, planners become extreme generalists. And therefore never paid that much or taken that seriously.

3. Process over Solution. Many agencies have s simplistic triangle model for a brand solution. Little rigour, little research( for lack of time or money or both). So, even though our solutions may actually work better, and we may be far faster, we get paid lesser.

Money for process, solutions for free:-)

4. Analysis vs Creativity. Historically, the clients and our society has paid greater emphasis on analysis. Analytical skills were/ are still sought after. Creativity was restricted to smaller circles! Where we lose out to the brand consultants is that we are perceived less analytical and more creative in our approach than them. Therefore smaller fee cheques!

5. Investments vs Milking. The little that I know of brand consultants, they invest their monies in their tools, in learning upgrades, in building case studies. Here again, agencies(most) are far less committed. They are far more engaged in juicing the few good planners they have than in investing in the department. In the knowledge economy, learning is a capital investment.

and finally 6. Unbundle. Agency planners can get paid more if we unbundle ourselves from the agency creatives. Well, the danger is that we may end up being more brand consultants than planners but if we can manage the decoupling without losing our creative edge, I think we can up our thinking fees!!

Maybe this topic needs a re-visit sometime soon!


Dharmendra said...

First and foremost the folks at the Agency themselves need to respect their planners and their work. As far as I have seen work in any agency refers to creative work.
There is no hope in hell till internal respect is first earned.
One has to understand that creative is a subset of brand management and the planner's role in beyond the creative product.
To a large extent client's themselves lack true understanding of their role. Simply appreciating good creative work will not take the brand anywhere. Manish, this is all about illetracy in brand management. Very few know and hence are not even equipped to appreciate the account planning efforts. Instead of waiting for a solution it would do you a lot good if you move into a consultancy for time and tide waits for none. Agencies will continue to talk big and deliver small in every way. Nothing will happen or if it does it will be too late

Manish said...

check out a related conversation at the goafest...http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?newsid=1158526

reptile said...

Great post, came online to check the results. Two things come to mind when i noticed this -

The bit about planning, is the debate about plannerliness - a state of mind, or a department? We are by and large, admen, aren't we?

The value is in bring synthesis to the table, over analysis. Most clients actually do a great job with analysis (and God help you if it's a financial services chap on the other end..). Our expertise is in being brutally honest, and at times, violently original.

It's important to recognise this - because what we do here isn't very different from consultants - Just packaged differently. I still haven't got my mind around that consulting versus advertising debate though. The fact that they've managed to embrace design, and maybe a little bit of discipline in process might just be the departure - as you suggest.

Apropos the respect quotient, I personally believe that there's tremendous respect from the outside-in, clients, other marketing services folks, but we're not able to see the value in ourselves - not unlike the abject self-pity of a navel gazing fellow. Then again, respect does not necessarily translate into money - and that's a pretty serious problem..