It's 2018, globalisation has changed the world, and a technological revolution is taking place. These revolutionary changes are very obviously reflected in our lives by the fact that nowadays, everyone owns a ukulele, and a digital agency. There may even be more digital agencies than there are companies that those agencies can work for. There will come a day when digital agencies will just start hiring one another, because why not?
A few years ago I heard one of my relatives talk about how there were private universities growing like mushrooms in the streets of Dhanmondi. Now that's been replaced by digital marketing agencies, that claim to optimise clients' relationship with customers using end-to-end digital services. While doing research for this article, I went through the websites of many such agencies. One of the companies used so much corporate jargon in there “About us” section that at one point it didn't even feel like an agency, it felt like an all-encompassing business entity that would solve every problem anyone in this country can ever have.
Sadly, that agency is not even close to being successful, very much like the thousand others that have opened up. Most of these companies go wrong at the very start of their business - they're not really digital marketing agencies, they only do Facebook marketing, and they're not even very good at that. In reality the digital sphere goes far beyond Facebook. Unfortunately, Bangladeshi brands are yet to realise that, as every day they are straying further from content marketing. Bad puns and horrible visuals that look like fever dreams do not count as content marketing.
If you dig deep into why these visuals are so terribly designed and copy so badly written - you'll find that it's because agencies do not value talent. Most good designers and copywriters won't work for little to no money, unless they have serious self esteem issues. Agencies like to underpay their creative talent, and make the lowest bid whenever a company looks for marketing solutions. This has destroyed the industry, all creative talent is undervalued, and of good copywriters are rare to find.
Brands are suffering because of this, even if they don't understand it now. Few months ago a telco released a visual of a tornado, paired with the copy “Ashche jhor shamlao ghor,” in response to a looming natural disaster in the coastal areas. It was unclear what exactly their intentions were with this. If they were trying to warn people about the storm, this was quite an insensitive way to do that. Advertising of this sort gradually makes people not even want to be associated with the brand, no matter how loyal they have been to it in the past. Sometimes you'll come across posts and visuals that are genuinely funny and engaging, and you will share it on your timeline thinking it's an intelligent play on words. In a few minutes, someone will tell you that it's been ripped off of a foreign brand, and chaos will ensue.
Some agencies use messed up metrics for judging how the posts are performing. Someone tried to prove that Amari's 900,000++ Tk offer was a successful campaign, because likes and reactions are worth lots of dollars. When really it was all negative publicity, and it is a myth that all publicity is good publicity. One might wonder how these agencies sustain despite their terrible quality of work and tendency of lowest bidding. I had gotten an answer to this as soon as I joined university, about 3 years ago.
In my first year, an apparently well known agency sent a hiring circular that they were looking for interns. Being a struggling freshman, I'd applied. Not only did they unnecessarily bully the candidates during the interview, they also paid a meager 3000 Tk to the interns. That would be fine, had the interns deserved it. They worked 30 hours a week, were sometimes woken up by the bosses at odd hours of the night and told to make new graphics, and still only received the bare minimum payment. Some agencies like this are surviving only because of naive, freshman interns.
Last year, another agency called Logos sent a hiring circular. This time we were third-year students and knew better than to apply anywhere and everywhere, but something there caught my eye. The hiring circular they’d sent had a vector that was downloaded from the internet, with the watermark still on. Pair that with grammatical mistakes in the copy, and you have a quintessential Bangladeshi agency advert. Since then, I have noticed many photos being stolen from the internet and then used to promote a Bangladeshi brand. This creates a lasting bad impression on both the customers and industry insiders.
If you own a company, watch out for these signs when hiring an agency to do your marketing, because your entire brand identity depends on it. One small blunder like an unremoved watermark or an insensitive joke can cost you more than just money. If you're planning to start an agency, please stop and think if you can really add value to the industry. Unless you're able to do that, I would highly encourage you to invest in something else, like a ride-sharing app.
Writer is the sub-editor of Next Step. Reach her at email@example.com.