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The communication business today is a meme. Transient. Flippant. Momentary. Joke.

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Why is it that the brands have started to have fun at the cost of the agencies?, writes Naresh Gupta, the Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Bang In The Middle.

We have a problem.

This is often the question that should make brands reach out to communication agencies, and they should be ready to pay for the solution they expect to buy. That is exactly what has stopped happening. Rarely do agencies get calls from brands that have a problem, maybe the world today is devoid of issues that brands face and need solutions for.

The communication business today is a meme.

Transient. Flippant. Momentary. Joke.

Often the brands think that posting a few memes is enough and then the next meme comes they will post it again. In between the memes and jokes, the consumers will be so engaged that they will run to websites and stores and vendors and influencers to swipe their card, open their wallet and they too will post a meme.

Why do I say that? I can give you two examples of ‘pitch invites’ we had from two very large, very reputed, very progressive brands.

When I say pitch invite, it is The Pitch Invite. It is supposed to be so big that it will change the business trajectory of the agency. The clients have become very good at making their invite sound like the most important event that will ever take place, almost like the sighting of Halley’s Comet.

The first is from a very large real estate developer who wanted a multiagency pitch to sell possibly North India’s most expensive residential apartments. The apartments are so expensive that even looking at the side of where they are located might make your wallet thinner. The brand was clear, we will charge you if we give you work. The joke was on the agencies, I do know some who did pitch.

The meme was on us!

The second is from an insurance agent aggregator who wanted us to mount a song and dance show. They wanted us to meet their existing and potential audience, do insight mining, arrive at sharp consumer insight, do A/B testing and then produce ‘content for WhatsApp’. The client took offence and banned us from their brand when we impolitely declined. The meme was on us.

These are not the only two we have, we have more. Some even more hilarious than this.

Why is it that the brands have started to have fun at the cost of the agencies? Aren’t the agencies still solving business problems? Creating acts that change the course of humankind? Even win the biggest accolades at the biggest platforms globally? Or all of this makes no difference to the marketing directors?

The answer lies somewhere else.

What is free is value free. Any pitch that the clients call is a free show and two dozen agencies line up to mount a variety entertainment show. The process goes on forever, the client gets bored and the pitch is never closed. The client does some internal work, falls in love with what they do and then calls agencies and throws another bone. The meme is on us. Is this a rule?

We had one of India’s largest packaged goods companies walk into our office, chat with us and were awarded a task. There was no competitive creative show, no commercial bidding, just a clean business conversation. The agencies are full of examples of this kind too. The work that has been produced after such conversation is sharp, effective and makes a difference to the brand.

The onus is really on us who are in the business of communication. The memes are already here, they will only get brutal.

Can we solve the problem we are facing ourselves?

Naresh Gupta is the co-founder and chief strategy officer of Bang In The Middle. Views expressed are personal.

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