Never Ending Story’s Amitabh Bhattacharya shares his thoughts on production in India from an agency and in-house perspective
Indian production company Never Ending Story is a proud supporter of Little Black Book as its partner for the Indian market. As part of the relationship, the company’s founder Amitabh Bhattacharya and LBB explore what makes India’s advertising industry tick. In this piece, Amitabh delves into the production side of the creative industry and shares some of his experiences.
LBB> How can production work with in-house agencies?
Amitabh> This is an interesting question. Though the production process remains the same, the relationships between in-house creative and marketing teams don’t. I can only say it from a production house’s perspective. One big advantage of working with in-house creative agencies is that they don’t have a ‘client’. That changes the equation completely. Everyone is more measured. The creatives and the brand teams generally sing the same tune. For the production house, that’s one less hassle to deal with. I would say from a business point of view it is more convenient. At least for now.
LBB> How does working in-house compare with working for an agency?
Amitabh> A traditional advertising agency has a diverse portfolio of brands which means a wider choice for creative people. It encourages crosspollination of insights. When you work on multiple brands you deal with different types of creative challenges. That’s what makes an agency so exciting and vibrant as a business.
Unfortunately, the agencies seem to have lost their sense of purpose. It reflects in the quality of their creative products. They are not focused anymore and struggling to retain their leadership position in the advertising industry.
In such an environment it is natural for advertisers to explore new models. In-house agencies are one of them. Over the years, quite a few global advertisers have set up their in-house creative departments. So it is not entirely a new model. What is new though is the context. Today the advertisers are less dependent on agencies. And unless the advertising agencies find a way of resurrecting themselves, advertisers will have little choice but to explore other sources.
LBB> Can you give any examples of work that has done well that's been created in-house by a brand?
Amitabh> There is Innocean, owned by Hyundai. Amazon also has an in-house creative team. I have had the opportunity to work with all of them on different projects and the experience has been quite good.
LBB> As a producer, what have you learnt from working with a brand?
Amitabh> I started my career as a copywriter and became a producer after spending over a decade in advertising. So I have some knowledge about the business of brands. When I switched to production it helped me understand scripts better. It also helped me interact and guide our young directors to deal with brand hygiene.
Now things are different. The line between advertising and production is getting blurred. Agencies are producing their own films and brands are inviting production houses to write scripts. These are very interesting times for the advertising and production industry.
LBB> Tell us about the pioneering in-house agencies in India. Is this something that's widespread or still not as popular?
Amitabh> There are a few home-grown brands that have in-house agencies but nothing significant. MRF Tyres used to have one, but they also had mainstream agencies working for them.
Even global brands with in-house agencies have network agencies and freelancers on their roster. So I don’t think in-house agencies will ever become ‘popular’. It may be an option for brands with deep pockets and diverse portfolios.
LBB> As a producer, working with a brand directly means you’re having more direct conversations with the people who understand the brand. How does this affect your job?
Amitabh> In the present scenario, direct interaction with clients does help expedite the process. You get to understand their concerns first-hand, there is less ambiguity. When agencies get involved, one has to be extra careful. They often remind you of their ‘creative rights’ and use it at their convenience. Briefs and minutes of meetings frequently get lost in translation leading to delays and cost overruns.
But that does not mean that agencies are no longer relevant. They play a pivotal role in building brands. They have a tried and tested model that has seldom failed in the past. The problem begins when you judge an industry in isolation. Social media has disrupted our social structure. Technology is driving ideas. New communication tools and platforms are emerging every day. These are challenging times for the advertising and marketing industry.
LBB> From a global perspective, are there any brands you think consumers outside of the country are interested in and that are interesting production wise to outsiders?
Amitabh> Most Indian companies enter other countries through mergers and acquisitions. Take Jaguar and Land Rover as brands. They are legends in their own rights. How many people know that they are owned by Tata? There are quite a few Indian brands that cater to the Indian and South Asian diaspora abroad. I don't think the Indian brands are big enough in global markets for people to get curious about.
Brands like TCS, another Tata company, is today the key sponsor of almost all the major marathons races in the world. I am sure people around the world participating in or watching these races are curious about TCS and Tata. Mahindra, Infosys may be some of the better known Indian corporate brands abroad.