Monday, August 31, 2015

“To bring smiles on consumers’ and clients’ faces, we have to toil really hard”: Almin Premani – AVP Operations, Candid Marketing

Delighting and surprising customers – that is the essence of any brand activation. But, it’s easier said than done; a lot of hard work goes into bringing about those smiles. There are countless challenges we face while executing an event or activation. Low budgets, high expectations, tight deadlines, the list is endless…

It begins with seeking permissions and licenses from the authorities, where, more often than not, red tape is the order of the day! And if the venue is an unconventional one, like the Gateway of India, India Gate, Juhu Beach, Carter Road, Marina Beach, etc, well, God help us.

Certain venues come with inherent problems. For instance, at airports, the time available for production is very limited – we get only 3-4 hours, that too strictly night! Besides, tie-ups with associates become a huge challenge, especially in remote areas and places like the North East. And imagine erecting the world’s largest umbrella  at Carter Road, Mumbai – right in front of the Arabian Sea during the windy, rainy season! But, for us, the show must go on, come rain or shine.

Then there is the issue of manpower – right from scouring for the right promoters, for which we have to find presentable faces with a confident demeanour, screen them, train them and then keep a hawk eye on them, lest they digress from the brief. Because, admittedly, there is a question mark over their commitment – remember these kids are not in for a career; most are students who take up the job either to finance their education or just to make their pockets bulkier for a flashy lifestyle. Not to forget, finding the right vendors and support staff to help us in creating and controlling innovative set-ups.

We also have to closely monitor and give daily updates to clients for manpower-driven activities, which is a logistical and coordination challenge, especially when an activation entails 1000+ touch points across India.

Last but not the least, is to have a roving eye on the activation landscape, globally – to keep ourselves abreast of the latest in technology and explore new possibilities and avenues to bring the most innovative ideas to fruition.

It’s hard to pick three of the most challenging briefs Candid has executed. Because, like I said earlier, every brief comes with its own set of challenges. But, these three are on the top of my mind as I write this – mind you, it’s just the tip of the huge iceberg of 40,000+ activations we’ve executed in the 20 years of our existence!

Nissan 370Z
For the launch of Nissan 370Z in India, the brief was to have an unconventional press conference. We began with an unconventional venue – The Pawan Hans Runway, Juhu! The car became the first ever car to have been launched on the runway in an action-packed (pun intended) way…
The next big task was to have a high-octane act involving two open roof double-decker buses and a trailer running side by side on the runway. We did that with renowned stunt master, Alan Amin, within the limited time available – just half a day!
Add to that the responsibility of adhering to the security guidelines, with 200 invitees from the Press in attendance for this rare spectacle, and you will know just how tough it was to pull this one off!

To promote SabTV’s ‘Sab Ke Anokhe Awards’, we had to erect the #SabseAnokhaUmbrella – the world’s largest umbrella (30 feet high, 60 feet in diameter) at a high footfall venue in Mumbai.
Now, the ideal venue for such an installation would have been a mall. But to ensure that the 2000 kg-heavy steel structure stood its ground, it required digging a 6 ft. deep hole to lay a solid foundation – something no mall was ready for!
So, we had to look for alternative venues such as the Shivaji park, BKC, Police Ground, etc.. But, we finally chose Carter Road, which offered flexibility in terms of digging required and the working hours, and also provided space for a stage with high visibility for the official unveiling.
We started digging on 15th July, just when Mumbai was awaiting its second spell of rains, and built the magnificent umbrella with huge scaffold structures that acted as wind-cutters from three sides, still allowing high visibility from the road.

We created a 3D model of Lord Hanuman that was big enough to attract eyeballs and light enough to be strapped to a drone in one week. As the drone-strapped Hanuman had to fly over busy locations, apart from getting the necessary permissions, we also had to hunt for locations where there were no cables at the height it would fly – which in itself was a task!

All’s well that ends well!
After a hard day’s work, if a job is executed well, the smiles on the consumers’ and clients’ faces also mirror ours – and that makes every drop of sweat we shed worth it.”, quips a broadly smiling Almin.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

10 things I have learnt on Captain Candid’s Adventure Ride…

– By Amrita Kumar, Managing Partner, Candid Marketing.

1.     Always be prepared for a crisis. If there is no crisis or fire on any front, there is something wrong.

2.     All our work is divided into elements we can control and ones we can’t. It’s always better to have all the elements we can control done way before time, so that when it comes down to crunch time – all your time and bandwidth is free to handle elements you can’t control.

3.     The client is not always right. Sometimes, even they do not know what they really need. It is a sign of a mature and honest agency to know this.

4.     A good idea is not always a good revert. Being honest at this stage is important. One may still choose to go ahead with the good idea, but let’s not kid ourselves that the brand comes first.

5.     If we don't respect ourselves, no one else will. We should respect our time, our work and our legacy.

6.     Having said that, legacy will not get you anywhere. Consistent and dependable good work will take you everywhere.

7.     If you lose a pitch, it is usually for a very valid reason. Again let’s not kid ourselves. Even perception of the winning agency in the client’s eyes is a good reason.

8.     Never claim or promise error-free work – in an industry where vendors, temporary manpower etc make up more than 70% of the execution, one cannot and should not.

9.     Promise to be the client’s eyes.  That means more. Identify problems, update client and do your best to fix it. That is what gets client’s trust.

10.  Always be hungry. To learn, to try, and to adapt to new things and ways.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Candid turns 20!

August 15, 1995. As India celebrated its 48th Independence Day, an idea was being hatched. An idea called Candid Marketing, which had the potential to set brands free. To liberate them from the tedium of traditional media. 

Yes, there was B2C communication, but it was passive and one-way, at best. Where was the personal connect and interaction with consumers? How could brands gauge the efficacy of campaigns,  how could they measure consumer responses or their emotions?

Consumers simply read, watched and listened to ads, without really having a way to respond or give feedback. If they did not like the communication, they would simply turn the page, or turn the TV or radio off. KAPUT! And all the marketing bucks would go down the drain.

Candid Marketing leapt into this gap by becoming India’s first-ever strategic brand activation agency, promising (and delivering on that promise) to bring brands to life and enabling a one-on-one connect with consumers.

 Candid won over many companions along the way – Unilever, Microsoft, Pepsi, Nissan, Sony TV, Oakley, Vodafone, Pidilite, Grant Thornton, GSK, Cadbury, Godrej, Pogo, Star TV & Kingfisher, to name just a few – always finding newer ways to surprise and delight consumers.

 An indefatigable passion for innovation and originality clearly reflects in Candid's regular appearance at various industry awards shows, where we have been consistently winning across categories for our various properties & activations.

 With a laser-like focus on its core business, Candid has also broadened its horizon with two new initiatives –

- Candid Play, which heralds the sports activation business in India and paves the way for franchises, teams and leagues to have a positive, engaging impact on fans across various sports and get the maximum bang for their marketing bucks; and

- Candid Events, which sets the stage for events of all kinds: Celebrity Events, HR Events, Sales Meets, Exhibitions & Conventions, Bloggers’ Meets, Award Shows, etc.
Today, as we turn 20, we look back proudly at our exciting journey, dotted with more than 40,000 activation campaigns (…and counting!). 

Candid Marketing invites you for a walk down memory lane as we revisit our journey – the many challenges, the hits and misses, the accolades and the awards we have picked up along the path to where we are today.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The power of over-communication

Nowadays I feel like I belong to the old school. The school which believed that the client and agency talk to each other everyday in active periods and at least once a week in the not so active periods. I believe that one should send minutes of a meeting or discussion so nothing falls from the cracks. I believe even if it takes a few days to get back with information or costs or a rework that a client has asked for, it's as important to also keep updating the client on status and progress. 

I hear teams specially from creative and client servicing complain about briefs changing on them or too many reworks or a brief losing priority. This to some extent can be avoided by communication. 

I physically feel uncomfortable when I see briefs being taken and no conversation with the client for the next week to ten days till the revert is ready. In an industry where we still to a large extent live project to project, I think it's important to tell the client, we want your business, we are working on your brief. 

I also believe  that it adds to story telling and eventually selling if we also keep the client updated on difficulties and barriers once faces while putting together the revert. It definitely helps in bonding. 

In this day and age where everything is getting commoditised thanks to the dreaded procurement teams, it's relationships which will help in value added engagements and hence work.  And relationships are built through over communication. Call me old fashioned. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

"How to lose an activation agency in 10 days"

Day 1: While briefing them, given them vague details of the brand you are working on and call them a vendor. Give them two days to respond with a presentation. Promise them more details will be sent later on an email. At the end of the meeting, also mention you have run out of your cards.

Day 2: Not pick up the agency's calls or respond to smses asking for your email ID and the information you had promised to send.

Day 3: Pick up the call and send the information and ask them to present the next day.

Day 4: You can choose. Either make them present after making them wait for forty minutes and then tell them the brief has changed. Or like a few ideas but then tell them they are way out of your budget. Either ways, ask them to rework and also come back with costs.

Day 7: Not respond to calls or smses for setting up a meeting.

Day 9: Call the agency and be inflexible about setting up a meeting time next day.

Day 10: After seeing the presentation, appreciate it loads. But tell them plans have changed for now and this will be executed next quarter. End the meeting requesting the presentation to be emailed. The .ppt version.

Amrita Kumar

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Experiential. Digital. Activate! If you throw peanuts, you get monkeys.

I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years and like many in our industry, I am sick and tired of having to justify the value activation and events deliver! It’s true that many clients not only get it, but also get it enough to reap the benefits of the results. But many other clients don't.

By many a yardstick, our business is the toughest business in the marketing communication gamut… yeah, yeah, everyone thinks they have a tough life but seriously, from a business perspective, running an activation/events business is pretty damn tough. If you were to analyze our business with Michael Porter’s 5-forces model, you’d pretty much decide to shut down the agency and open a kirana store. Everyone who can put pressure on the agency, and many can, to get their pound of flesh does.

Agencies and the industry are unable to invest heavily in key elements like quality of people (creative, strategy, planning, technology), creative resources, technology, SAFETY, vendor development, quality of materials, training of temporary manpower…. the list is endless.

Unfortunately, what is playing out is a sad game of short termism that is leading to deep long term damage to the industry. With the almighty squeeze that the 5 forces are playing out on agencies in the business, its becoming harder and harder for agencies to invest in what’s good for the business and for clients’ brands.

In such a scenario, the stakeholder who should support and bolster the agency is the client; because it's the client whose brand and asset is at stake and who stands to gain the most from the agency thriving and delivering better results. Many clients, unfortunately, are looking at quick gains to get the most out of their money NOW, rather than looking at investing in the agency and its resources to be able to get value for their brand in the medium term.

How can clients help activation/event agencies?

First, develop ‘non-short-term’ relationships with agencies, and make some level of financial commitment to such relationships. Such commitments allow the agency to have a medium term view and invest in resources that would then contribute positively to clients’ brand building.

Second, Instead of calling for multi-agency pitches, which is counter productive because agencies are investing in pitching rather than the process of building clients’ brands. Trust in your agency’s ability, give them more information and ‘gyaan’ about the brand, and make them a strategic partner. It will pay back in dollops!

Third, respect intellectual property of the agency. Just because an idea has no physical form does not mean it belongs to nobody. If your agency does not have the ability to execute the idea you have presented, “buy” the idea and get another agency to execute it (if you like). Investing in intellectual property develops stronger relationships and develops the industry at large.

Fourth, pay fairly for the value you are getting. Negotiation and driving value is all very well, but no agency or business is going to take on projects that make a loss. If the client is going to beat the price down, the difference will show in quality, for sure. You may get a great value deal 1 time out 10 but you will end up paying for it the other 9 times.

HELP us help you, I say to all clients, help us to deliver better, deliver more, deliver faster for your brands.