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World's Leading Independent Agencies: The future is hybrid

India's first hybrid agency says magic happens if agencies are ageless, borderless, media-agnostic and free of silos

(L-R): GV Krishnan, Mithila Saraf, Raj Kamble, Siddhartha Singh, Kamal Mandal
(L-R): GV Krishnan, Mithila Saraf, Raj Kamble, Siddhartha Singh, Kamal Mandal

Lately, we have been seeing a strong polarisation among ad agencies. On the one hand are the monoliths – the large dinosaurs – that are doing the ‘biggest’ work. These agencies run on core advertising principals of deep-seated insights and big ideas, giving the brand a larger meaning. They have been solving marketing problems the same way since the 1950s. Unfortunately, the expression of this brilliant solution often lives, and dies, with a television spot. Or, at best, a web film.

At the other end of the spectrum are the so-called new-age, tech-savvy agencies that seem to speak only in memes. Their day starts and ends with AR, AI and Instastories, their strategies often confuse consumer truths with media-usage insights. And their idea of an ‘idea’ is a Buzzfeed listicle.

Think sharp, execute hybrid

At Famous, we have always said that the idea is the train and digital is just a platform. As is newspaper, TV, Twitter, the street or a pack label. Which is why we call ourselves a hybrid agency. We’re ad puritans at heart and swear by the basics – creating sharp, moving ideas rooted in raw insights – but, when it comes to bringing these ideas to life, we tap into every technology and medium at our disposal. Our #EducateTheGirlChild work for Nestlé is a great example of a hybrid approach. The initiative addressed a crucial matter – girls from India’s underprivileged communities being denied education. Nestlé and Project Nanhi Kali wanted to educate 100m girls. Our message was singular, but in true hybrid style, we took the message to India through innovations at every touchpoint – packaging, product, branded content, shockvertising, ebooks, user-generated radio and good old TV.

Hybrid starts with hybrid people

Walk into our office and you will probably meet a copywriter, a project manager, a designer, a blogger, a technologist, a psychologist, a linguistics professor, a hacker, a CMO… oh, is that an anthropologist dialing in on Hangouts? The best part is, you won’t know who’s who. In one corner product guys might be turning a ping-pong ball into a camera, while Google’s representative leads a workshop in the other. On Tuesday afternoons you’re invited to our TEDx Masterclass and on Friday evenings, our inhouse DJ (aka Creative Director) plays host.

The point is, a hybrid future starts with hybrid people. Take an MBA who wants to be a designer. Or a 55-year old who can Snapchat like a teenager. Invest in the dark horses, the misfits, the ones you just can’t explain – the word you’re looking for is ‘hybrid’.

Advertising isn’t a closed sect of Mad Men any more. From management consultants to college dropouts, everyone is after our jobs. Clients are staring at more options and demanding better results than ever before. We believe that only with the hybrid model can we surprise and delight them. What are you waiting for? Let’s get hybrid.

Raj Kamble – Q&A

Will you go to Cannes this year?
Yes.

AI: the best and the worst scenarios are…
AI should be used to bring an idea alive. Without that it’s just fancy technology.

What will you change in 2018?
We will keep finding better and newer forms of expression, even as we keep sharpening our thinking and creating more powerful ideas.

The best work of the past year is...
It’s from 2016 but I’m still not over it, so I have to say "The Swedish number". It’s an excellent example of how a sharp idea can be brought alive through any medium – even the most underrated one of them all, a telephone call.

FAMOUS INNOVATIONS: at a glance

Founded: 2012
Principals: Raj Kamble; GV Krishnan; Siddhartha Singh; Kamal Mandal; Mithila Saraf; Sumit Chaurasia; Hayden Scott; Tulika Rungta
Staff: 120
Locations: Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi, India.

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