The eternal ad agency dilemma: the price of an idea

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The Bajaj V is perhaps one of the best brand ideas of recent times. Of course it remains to be seen if the actual product goes on to win the hearts & wallets of consumers purely in terms of featurs, performance, pricing and overall ‘value’. But just the idea to make use of scrap metal from INS Vikrant made me (not a potential buyer, a non-bike enthusiast) sit up and take notice of the brand. What’s more, it made me positively disposed to the brand even before it is launched. After all, the intangible ‘likability’ of a brand plays a huge role in brand preference. Often, such likability is expected to be imbued in the advertising – the onus being solely on the ad agency. So it could be a me-too product or with nothing remarkable as a product story but the pressure is on the ad agency to come up with a compelling, differentiating story.

Bajaj V

In that context, it is heartening to know that the central product idea for Bajaj V came from the ad agency. It got me wondering how such an idea will be rewarded or can be rewarded at all. Usually such efforts by ad agencies – ideas which create brand preference, will mean a performance incentive or a hike in retainer fee but do those truly justify the bigness of a brand idea? Not that I have the answers but this ‘pricing an idea right’ is not an easy task and not addressed by the agency fraternity. The retainer fee formula of ‘overheads plus margin’ is supposed to deliver brand ideas – good, bad, mediocre etc., with brand metrics (sales, market share, brand equity measures) at the end of the year as some sort of measure or proof of results. Some independent agencies have adopted the ‘pay for results’ approach but I still wonder if that does full justice to some of the big, bold brand ideas. Consultants, design & branding agencies seem to operate in a different price brand altogether (relatively speaking) when it comes to pricing – be it their strategic recommendations or simply a new brand identity. Is it because they are able to position and sell the long term impact of their output better?

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