No Idea? Get Idea

Shephali Bhatt

In advertising, ideas are money. Then why do creatives give it all away for free and turn a blind eye to idea theft? BE asks the hard questions
Caution: The tone of this article is slightly harsh. In our defence, if you are in advertising you had it coming.Under ordinary circumstances, you empathise with a victim. Not with the Indian advertising industry, at least not this time. Why not? Because for the longest while now, agencies who claim to be problem solvers haven’t figured out how to prevent a basic issue that mars their existence: the theft of ideas at pitches.

A few weeks ago, we had an anonymous senior adman pen a much discussed column about idea theft. It’s this convenient thing clients do as agencies present their most `groundbreaking’ work. They adopt (read: steal) ideas that catch their fancy without so much as a by your leave. Some other agency gets to work on the campaign and soon Agency No 1 is staring at a YouTube video, now gone viral, that keeps clocking like after like. Leaving its staffers seething in impotent rage and the desire to scrawl `Hey, this was my idea’ in the comments thread. If this sounds distressingly familiar, look no further than the mirror while trying to find people to blame.

First, agencies don’t do their homework. All clients aren’t cut from the same righteous cloth. There are Bermuda Triangles of the marketing world, who have a reputation for idea shopping.It was something a large Indian conglomerate was frequently accused off especially given its close ties with a particular agency.But typically, such clients opt for whoever quotes the lowest. And yet, pitch after pitch, ad shops go in all guns blazing, their finest creative minds working overtime, effectively delivering their best ideas free of charge. Mostly, the idea gets mutated by the time it comes to fruition so the original agency often finds its ownership hard to prove.

To quote a few instances, the preorder strategy, a digital queue for the launch of a fast food chain in India was supposedly presented by an agency that didn’t get the account. A knit-wear brand is notorious for idea shopping. A creative head remembers writing a campaign for the Ministry of Tourism once. He didn’t win the account but one of his lines showed up in the final campaign. 8 out of 10 creative directors have been on the receiving end of this unabashed thievery of ideas.

On the other hand, there are the rare cases of magnanimous clients like VIP who compensated an agency for using a modified version of its brand name suggestion for a new line of women’s bags -Caprese.

Idea theft, like many advertising grievances, isn’t confined to India.Re m e m b e r t h e # S h a r e AC o k e campaign? A veteran adwallah told us that when the original idea (by O&M, Sydney) was adapted by another agency in a different market, the Australian network agency created a mini uproar and got compensated. Good for them if that’s what actually happened.

A n d wh at d o t h e i r I n d i a n counterparts do? Nothing. Actually, they discuss it grudgingly over a pint or few of beer. So, next to nothing would be more like it. The conversation brings about life-altering thoughts like -If the client can make us sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), why can’t we do the same?
Legally, they can. But with agencies shying away from asking for a meagre fee hike, the chances of them demanding an NDA are slim to none. With undercutting and declining margins, agencies are under so much pressure to achieve topline, they can’t afford to say no to any fresh stream of revenue or upset a marketer by bringing up the NDA. The last thing anyone wants is the reputation of being a difficult agency.

“The irony of it all is that despite being the biggest supplier of ideas, we have no command over our own product,“ laments Anil Nair, CEO and managing partner of L&K Saatchi & Saatchi. The client knows agencies are desperate for new business. If he is unscrupulous, he will take advantage of the situation. It’s a sign of a shortsighted client though, says Ajay Kakar, CMO, Aditya Birla Group financial services, to relinquish Lord Krishna for his army . We know how that panned out.Nonetheless, it’s the agency network that should boycott such clients.

So, why haven’t the doyens of this industry done anything to check these defaulters? “It’s because most of our senior leaders are on extension and they don’t give a damn about where this industry is headed,“ says Satbir Singh, managing partner and CCO of Havas Worldwide India. You have people who should’ve retired two years ago, getting paid a crore annually. Why would they risk anything? Rather why do they need to risk it for something that in most cases doesn’t even concern them?
Celebrated creatives are typically insulated from this phenomenon; it’s mainly the mid-level creative who often ends up feeling violated. Ideas are likely to build his career and the stuff histories are made of. The agency ecosystem needs to safeguard these or run the risk of losing talent to another industry (a fad plaguing advertising but that’s for another edition).

The AAAI (Advertising Agencies Association of India) says it’s working towards protecting ideas. While the call for a pitch fee went nowhere -rumour has it that agencies keen to pitch coughed up the fee themselves -in the last few years; they are looking to revisit pitch guidelines along with the ISA (Indian Society of Advertisers), shares MG Parameswaran, the association’s president and the advisor to FCB Ulka.The NDA clause will be a part of the revised guidelines, we’re told. So, when do we get this revised charter, we ask? In about three to four months, says Nagesh Alai, chairman of the legal wing. Until then, and maybe even after then, it’s open season on

The Legalese Simplified

Ideas cannot be protected under any law pertaining to intellectual property rights (IPR) Copyrights protect expression of an idea. Patents protect inventions.

But, an agency can enter into an agreement with a client whereby he’d be bound to keep information given at the time of pitching confidential.

While industries like cinema, music, photography have strong unions safeguarding the creative folks’ rights, ideas are not protected under IPR anywhere. Only its embodiment in a tangible form can be protected.

The best way forward for a creative in any field is to be wise about their sales pitch.

If you’re a lyricist, share a stanza; a musician, share a tune; a scriptwriter, share a chapter.

And if you’re an adman, show your past work to the client or sign an NDA before showing speculative work.

If you are desperate, God save you.

(Inputs by Rahul Chaudhry, managing partner at Lall Lahiri & Salhotra, an Intellectual Property law firm)


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Digital to Overtake TV Ad Spending in Two Years, Says Forrester

Digital to Represent 36% of All U.S. Ad Spending by 2019

Credit: Oblivious Dude/Flickr available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License

U.S. advertisers’ spending on digital advertising will overtake TV in 2016 and hit $103 billion in 2019 to represent 36% of all ad spending, according to Forrester’s latest estimates based on its ForecastView model. U.S. advertisers will spend $85.8 billion on TV ads in 2019, which will equal 30% of overall ad spending that year, according to Forrester.

But digital won’t usurp TV because of big brand advertisers taking their commercial money and redirecting it toward YouTube and Facebook. There will be some cannibalization of TV budgets, but the bigger contributing factor will be an influx of new money dedicated to digital because marketers are able to prove that digital works, said Forrester analyst Shar VanBoskirk.

Marketers aren’t upping their digital budgets because of bright shiny objects like so-called native ads or computer-automated programmatic buying processes. They’re doing so because the economy has recovered. Advertisers have more money to spend now than in recent years and the oversupply of ad inventory online gives them a lot of places to put that money. And they’re comfortable spending their money online because years of testing and learning has shown those digital dollars are well spent.

“We’ve landed at a more mature state with digital than we were even in our last forecast where people were still wildly experimental. Now for the same reason [marketers] have proven data to grow their budgets, they also have proven data to not overspend,” Ms. VanBoskirk said.

There will still be experimentation, but it will be more measured. For example, more experienced digital marketers will move around their online budgets. They are beginning to cap their proven search budgets and put any additional money to digital’s emerging areas like mobile and inventory that can be bought programmatically, Ms. VanBoskirk said. And new-to-digital advertisers, like b-to-b brands, are limiting their money initially to more cost-efficient channels like search.

As a result of the care marketers will take with their digital budgets, Forrester expects the overall growth in digital ad spending will start to slow slightly.

The ability to measure digital ads’ effectiveness is why the hierarchy of digital ad channels won’t change in the next five years, even with an increase in mobile ad spending. Forrester expects advertisers to spend $46 billion on mobile ads in 2019, but spread that amount among digital’s umbrella channels so that a mobile banner buy counts as display, for example. Mobile will drive 66% of the growth in digital ad spending over the next five years, but those smaller-screen dollars will be largely going to the same digital channels as desktop dollars.

Search still king
Search advertising will remain the biggest benefactor because advertisers are able to measure its benefits most directly. Display advertising, which includes digital video ads, will follow close behind because it appeals to brand advertisers. Spending on social advertising, like Facebook’s and Twitter’s in-stream ads, will grow more than any other digital channel over the next five years, but Forrester doesn’t see it overtaking search or display in that span because social ad measurement still has to mature.

“Marketers are deliberately choosing tools that are more measurable [than social], that they have more experience with and that have a more obvious direct-response value. And they’re still trying to get to the place where they can measure how social media is going to pay off for them,” Ms. VanBoskirk said. Conversely email marketing is considered more measurable than social and “the workhorse of most marketers’ toolkits,” she added, but is so cheap that “it is never going to be the lion’s share of a budget.”

While digital ad spending surpassing $100 billion would be a milestone, the mark could have been bigger if it weren’t for the category cannibalizing itself. Brands will be putting more money toward digital advertising, but they’ll also be shelling out to create content, a cost that Forrester does not include in its estimates. And some brands will find a way to hang on to their money by distributing that content for free on digital channels like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as well as on the brands’ own properties.

“This is a $100 billion forecast, not a $150 billion forecast, because companies are starting to realize that paid media is not always the best investment for the comprehensive customer experiences they want to create,” Ms. VanBoskirk said.


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Brick and Martyr: E-Tailers Race Ahead

Flipkart, Snapdeal & Amazon post Rs. 1,000-crore loss in FY14 in hunt for customers
Online retail seems to be rapidly coming of age in India -in the financial year ended March, Flipkart’s sales challenged those of its nearest brick-and-mortar rivals, according to filings with the Registrar of Companies, although the segments that they operate in aren’t strictly comparable. Meanwhile, the marketplaces operated by Flipkart and Amazon India posted losses. Amazon, which entered India a year ago, logged a net loss of . 321 crore while Flipkart saw this ` more than doubling to ` . 400 crore, according to October 31 filings.Due to restrictions on foreign investment in selling directly to consumers, Flipkart and Amazon run their websites as marketplaces -connecting buyers and sellers.Hence, the figures relate to commissions from sellers and revenue from advertisements on their ecommerce sites. In this respect, Amazon Seller Services posted revenue (commissions) of ` . 169 crore. Flipkart Internet, which manages the portal, had total income of ` . 179 crore. However, Flipkart India Pvt Ltd, the website’s wholesale arm, said sales amounted to ` . 2,846 crore in the year ended March, more than double the `. 1,180 crore a year ago.

Rival Shoppers Stop posted revenues of . 2,713 crore through its 73 department ` chain stores that mostly sell apparel and lifestyle products. On a consolidated basis though, including electronics chain HyperCity, sales amounted to ` . 3,771 crore. Kishore Biyani-run Future Lifestyle Fashion posted total income of ` . 2,743 crore from its department store formats Central and Brand Factory besides its own labels such as Indigo Nation and John Miller.

Amazon Wholesale didn’t disclose a comparable total. It posted a total income of ` . 1.4 lakh with a net loss of `. 3.71 crore for the six months ended March. CEO Jeff Bezos had said previously that it exceeded gross merchandise sales of more than $1 billion within a year of launching in India.

Online retailers typically burn through cash as they battle to acquire customers by offering goods at cheaper rates.

“At this moment, most companies are building market share rather than having a phase of harvesting their business model.Lots of money is being spent on building share and cost of acquiring customers has certainly gone up since last year,“ said Devangshu Dutta, chief executive at retail consultancy Third Eyesight. “In addition, online players are investing by building supporting infrastructure, which in turn affects profitability.“

According to a report by consulting firm Technopak, the $2.3-billion e-tailing market is expected to swell to $32 billion by 2020 and account for 3% of the total Indian retail sector. With Snapdeal reportedly posting a net . 264 crore, the combined loss, along loss of ` with Amazon and Flipkart, now stands at more than ` . 985 crore for the last fiscal year.


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Markets for Cybercrime Tools and Stolen Data

The research described in this report was sponsored by Juniper Networks and
conducted within the Acquisition and Technology Policy Center of the RAND
National Security Research Division

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E-comm E-ad Spend to Nudge Google Past the $1-billion Mark

In the great Indian ecommerce race, the real winner is a company which isn’t even on the race track–Google, the USbased search giant. The California-based company , sources said, is on its way to clocking over $1 bil `6,000 crore) in revenue from lion (.India in the year to March 2015, helped along by heavy spending by ecommerce firms.According to company filings, Google crossed ` . 3,000 crore in revenue for the year ending March 2014, up 47% from the year before.Globally , the Google’s revenue in 2013 was $58 billion.

“Marketing budgets have gone through the roof. It’s highly competitive these days and whoever pays the most for a keyword wins the race,“ said Vasudevan T, a former head of digital marketing at Myntra who is now the CEO of online coaching firm Coatom.

For companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter, India has been a paradox. While their largest user base outside of the United States lives in India, making money in the market has been tough.

However, with cash-rich e-commerce companies like Flipkart and Amazon looking to acquire more customers, online advertising has seen a significant increase. “There will be a surge in the digital ad spends by these companies, and we are already seeing this,“ said Nilotpal Chakravarti, who heads media and research at the Internet and Mobile Association of India.

E-commerce companies are already one of the top spenders in the digital advertising market. Of the total digital advertising spend, nearly 18% came from ecommerce, according to IAMAI.“When I saw our online spends the first time, I almost fell off my chair,“ said Ruksh Chatterji, who ran the apparel business for Jabong until February 2014. “Google is a large player in display and search engine marketing that are the key pillars of ecommerce advertising,“ said Chatterji, who is now vice president of India Operations at digital media network Komli Media.

For e-commerce companies, search is the biggest marketing channel along with social media.Typically , online businesses spend close to 25% of their topline on marketing. But in case of ecommerce, it could go up to 50%, said Vasudevan.

Google, which considers India as one of its fastest-growing markets, is also making large investments. Recently , under an ambitious Android One initiative, Google brought local manufacturers together to bring down cost of mobile phones. Google declined to comment on its revenue from India.

While revenue is growing, Google is also entangled in tax disputes. The company booked at total of `. 311 crore as “income tax paid under protest“ for assessment years 2007-13 as it continues to litigate tax claims made by Indian authorities. “Google India has been paying taxes in India on the aforesaid business activities in accordance with the applicable laws of India,“ Google said in a statement.

Tax authorities have made an additional claim of ` . 751 crore between assessment years 2006-13.


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Zuckerberg in Capital

Facebook’s billionaire founder Mark Zuckerberg is in New Delhi today . One of the big engagements on his itinerary will be his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a keen supporter of social media as a means of reaching out to people. For the social network, India is the second-largest market outside the US in terms of users but one that generates little revenue. Zuckerberg would certainly be looking to correct that. ET looks at his India pages…


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Infographic: The Cybersecurity Lives of Millennials

cyber security

Infographic: The Cybersecurity Lives of Millennials

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`Anti-Facebook’ social network creates a buzz

In a matter of days, the new social network Ello, described as the `antiFacebook’ for its stand on privacy and advertising, has become perhaps the hottest ticket on the internet.Created last year as a `private’ social network, Ello recently opened its doors on an invitation-only basis.

Because of the limited supply and strong demand, the invitations have been selling on eBay at prices up to $500. Some reports said Ello is getting up to 35,000 requests per hour as a result of a viral surge in the past week.

Ello appears to have caught on with a simple message that seems to take aim at frustrations of Facebook users. “Ello doesn’t sell ads. Nor do we sell data about you to third parties,“ the company says. Its “manifesto“ states: “We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce, and manipulate -but a place to connect, create, and celebrate life.You are not a product.“

Ello’s policy states that the practice of collecting and selling personal data and mapping your social connections for profit “is both creepy and unethical.“

“Under the guise of offering a `free’ service, users pay a high price in intrusive advertising and lack of privacy.“

Based in Vermont, Ello was launched by a group of artists and programmers led by Paul Budnitz, whose previous experience include designing bicycles and robots.

Budnitz says on his page that Ello was designed to be `simple, beautiful and adfree’. Nathan Jurgenson, a social media researcher at the University of Maryland, welcomed Ello’s fresh approach.

“I love these moments of new social media when conversation explodes, moved to imagine how social media can be different, questioning core assumptions instead of just fretting and complaining -all before this paint even dries,“ he said on his Ello page.A San Francisco protest is planned against Facebook supporting “drag queens“ who lost their Facebook accounts. Ello does not require real names.

Ello’s rise comes amid complaints against Facebook from the gays that the social network began disabling accounts using stage names instead of real names.


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Power boost for mobile devices

Scientists have developed a new technology that could lead to gen-next wearable computers with self-contained power sources and smartphones that do not die even after hours of heavy use.The technology could reduce energy consumption in mobile devices and computers by tapping into the power of a single electron to control energy consumption inside transistors, which are at the core of most modern electronic systems.

Researchers from the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Texas at Dallas found that by adding a specific atomic thin film layer to a transistor, the layer acted as a filter for the energy that passed through it at room temperature. The signal that resulted from the device was six to seven times steeper than that of traditional devices.Steep devices use less voltage but still have a strong signal.

“The whole semiconductor industry is looking for steep devices because they are key to having small, powerful, mobile devices with many functions that operate quickly without spending a lot of battery power,“ said Dr Jiyoung Kim, professor of materials science and an author of the paper.

“Our device is one solution to make this happen,“ said Kim.

Tapping into the unique and subtle behaviour of a single electron is the most energy-efficient way to transmit signals in electronic devices. Since the signal is so small, it can be easily diluted by thermal noises at room temperature. To see this quantum signal, engineers and scientists who build electronic devices typically use external cooling techniques to compensate for the thermal energy in the electron environment.


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