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When a big brand like Tata Group faces outrage, as it recently did for its Tanishq ad depicting an inter-religion marriage, how much does the client brief to the creative agency come under the scanner?

Could the possible fallout of such controversies be a more careful evaluation of the creative brief, in future? How much should the brief change to have the necessary guard rails, and more importantly does it even need to change?

The Drum gets a cross-section from client, agency, and academic world to share their views on what needs to change and what should not change in the client-agency interaction. 

Pallavi Chakravarti, executive creative director, Taproot Dentsu

New riders – not needed

No new rider can be added to any client brief or the creative process of any agency that will make our work ‘offence-proof’. And no new rider should be added either. After all, what all can one guard against? Where will the next stone come hurtling from? Who will throw it? Why? Who is to know?

Use your own moral compass

In a country where people are remarkably quick to take offence and have their “sentiments” hurt, the best bet for marketers and communicators is to use their own moral compass while issuing briefs and creating work – if one is making something with the correct intent, one should go right ahead.

Tanishq and the agency behind the ad did absolutely nothing wrong – on the contrary, they tried to tell a story of harmony – still, they faced a backlash. So how can anyone add riders to change this sort of a situation? How do you fix for something that may potentially break because someone, somewhere decides to attach hate on you? You can’t. So you just keep working and strive to do the right thing by your brands.

Pawan Sarda, group head (digital, marketing and e-commerce), Future Group

Hits and misses

In the world of social media, it gives brands a platform to have a dialogue with their audience compared to a monologue in the traditional mediums. There are hits and misses as brands are always surrounded by a larger conversation we carry as a country.

Remain contextual

Marketers should bring on its brief ‘contextuality’. Information sharing has never been as fast as it is today. Therefore, contextuality should be kept in mind.

The agency needs to ask the question ‘what not to do’. It is very important to ask this question keeping the brand, brief and the current mood in mind.

Dr. Renuka Kamath, professor - marketing area, SP Jain Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai

Let the brief be

I hope the creative brief does not change. It should not! We are all responsible for changing the narrative for a more inclusive society. This is a price we, and brands (as in this case), pay for obstacle-ridden progress. Never has it been more important as now to be brave and stand by humanity. 

That said, Tanishq is a well-respected brand and has in the past dared to make ads that are different and tell a woman's story. It has been about taking on social stigmas like remarriage. But with this film, I was not sure how the positioning of the brand was being met with this ad. This was not Tanishq. It was bold, yes, but Tanishq isn't a brand that takes on the world so strongly.

Don’t play with the core of the brand

Agencies and brand managers should go back to basics. Revisit brand positioning principles and stick to them.

Resist the temptation to stand out for the sake of it. Don't play around with the core of the brand.  Moreover, brand managers need to be mandatorily attending a few of the ad tests by the agency.

Creative agencies should also look at genuine ad testing as a must with a sample size that is justified. Focus group discussions with the target group can reveal a lot.

Gaurav Nabh, founder-CEO of Korra, a digital content and marketing agency

The client brief is unlikely to change because very few brands in India even have the ability to take on such topics. Leader brands seldom rock the boat and most challenger brands are too afraid to take on the controversy. 

Agencies! Behave like the custodian of the brand

Agencies need to advise their clients better on both the merits and pitfalls of the idea. They are equal custodians in a brand’s market equity and hence need to find real stories and insights and not just pick on seemingly controversial topics just because they seem disruptive.

Testing helps

Testing creative ideas with real consumers always help. It provides a good understanding of how your average consumer will perceive you and your brand, no matter how controversial the idea.