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You need more Scarecrows to make the industry survive for centuries: Manish Bhatt

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Shamita Islur
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Manish Bhatt


Having completed 13 years in 2023 and building Scarecrow M&C Saatchi into the agency it is today, founder Manish Bhatt reveals the core behind the agency’s success.

Scarecrow M&C Saatchi started a new wave of agencies in 2010 when founder Manish Bhatt along with Raghu Bhatt decided they would fill the need gaps in the advertising industry. 

Talking to Social Samosa, Manish Bhatt said, “Raghu and I spent around almost three decades in the field of advertising. The first 15 years were spent in various agencies like Ogilvy, McCann, Contract, Publicis, Bates. And then we wondered what are the need gaps? When you spend one and a half decade in an industry, you wanna have an opinion about how the work should be.”

And hence, he began his very own ‘extroverted’ agency. Manish mentioned that Scarecrow is an open book and the reputation, the resources, the position, and the experience they have created, along with the people and companies gained over time is like an equity.

This is why he strongly believes that whatever product they create should have longevity to it and it should exist in people's minds, for years to come.

Also Read: Great work & great creativity thrive within the rules and framework of the law: Manisha Kapoor

Changing trends in the Advertising industry

Manish notes that every decade or two, there is an emergence of a new wave of agencies and with it comes the need to evolve.

“Before us, there were agencies like Ambience, Trikaya, Enterprise, Rediffusion, Contract and more. Slowly, there came a phase where agencies suffer from a very simple syndrome of not paying attention to all the jobs of a variety of clients. That is the main insight - the clients may get lost in a larger setup.”  

He continued that the challenges faced by the industry are all pretty common. Changes in technology, media bifurcates, old brand building changes lead to clients’ anxiety which is passed down to agencies. 

Which is why, Manish wishes that somewhere someone sees there are peers, seniors who are more experienced and talented to inspire the people in this creative industry.

He also wants people to be inspired by Scarecrow’s work and be the guiding light for others. 

“The industry has survived 100 years, I think you need many more scarecrows to make the industry survive for more centuries to come. And I think passing the baton is very important.”

He went on to explain that this is why the agency has remained extroverted, because he wants their work to be visible.

Work culture and client relationships

Highlighting their work culture, Manish claims that he has focused on creating an architecturally positive work environment for his employees and the clients. His major focus has been to invest in the culture and commemorate the people responsible for creating visible work.

He talked about how surviving the trajectory of the economy, especially during the pandemic, was made possible because the colleagues have been really good decision-makers.  

Their hard work has been a key differentiator that has led to Scarecrow’s growth. He said, “Earlier a lot of my colleagues were wary of hiring freshers but we went ahead with it and we cared and trained them personally. We took pride in training them.” 

This has led to them embracing many challenging brands and solving their problems to create a good learning environment. 

Manish said, “The problems make the solutions richer. I think the more problems you solve, the better you will be. This is why you must invest in culture.”

He continued to say the agency has evolved to serve clients on the digital front but they have never specifically announced it. He said their core strength lies in doing painstaking work for clients and providing solutions and this is what pays them. 

This has also helped them forge client relationships. Manish mentioned, “The most important thing for us is that from the very beginning even the largest conglomerate like Nestle's of the world or ITC’s of the world or Reliance's or others, put trust in us. We didn't let them down. So this is more of a case study for us. That makes more groups believe in us and makes our work visible.”

M&C Saatchi’s acquisition

In 2018, Scarecrow merged with UK-based advertising agency M&C Saatchi. Talking about the three-year-long ‘courtship and marriage’, Manish said that partnering with another agency had never been on their radar. “We weren’t looking for any strategic investor in the beginning. But when there was a Saatchi brand name involved, we had a fascination. If Scarecrow has a suffix or prefix, it has to mean something.” 

He continued that even if it's been five years since the partnership, they have been fairly independent in their operations and decision-making. 

Bold Campaigns

Scarecrow has been able to achieve profitability and scale in a relatively short period by creating campaigns that were way ahead of its time for brands like Spykar, Reliance, Quikr, &pictures, Religare, Wagh Bakri, FunFoods and more. 

When asked about what goes into creating such bold campaigns, Manish mentioned, “We look at the work which we do as a preservation or giving life to the culture we live in, apart from the hygiene factors of tick-marking the client's need.”

He talked about how concentrating on preserving culture has led to them creating iconic ads that are still talked about. Citing Irrfan Khan’s iconic AEGON Religare Life Insurance campaign " target="_blank" rel="noopener" title="">KILB - Kam Insurance Lene Ki Bimaari Hai, he believes that agencies should also focus on creating things that last longer than the season it has been designed for. 

He also talked about entering the international market with a pitch for Tourism Australia and the film that was discussed by the Prime Ministers of Australia and India. 

Manish wants Indian agencies to be sought after globally and has led Scarecrow towards that direction. 

“People think that West is the headquarter and East is just the following office. What we should think is that it's a collaboration, a network where we work together, where we are equal.”

Themed celebrations

With this, celebrating the agency is quite special to the entire team. Every year, they have celebrated anniversaries with unique themes, many of them honouring art and communities that make them.   

Manish talked about launching Scarecrow through an art show in a Gulaba based gallery called the ‘viewing room’. He continued, “We invited the whole industry - media, friends, peers, clients, everyone and the theme was ‘Scarecrow’. People didn't know it was the launch of an agency. We just invited people for the art show and the 15 artists expressed themselves based on the theme. We later unveiled the logo of Scarecrow with veteran Alok Nanda.” 

Through the years, the agency’s anniversary themes have focused on celebrating advertising in a quirky manner and Manish believes that it reflects what advertising is supposed to be in the industry, at core. 

They have followed the same route for the 13th anniversary by focusing on numerology. The otherwise ‘unlucky’ number has been deemed auspicious for the Scarecrow team with them celebrating their hard work despite the superstition surrounding it. 

Goals

Manish envisions 2023’s goals to centre around the inclusion of the youngest minds at the agency. He said that the last whole year was very fascinating, with 15 people working together, and some of them being the youngest.

He concluded, “There’s a high chance we will watch out for the work done by the youngest minds of Scarecrow. That’s where I would put my money.” 

M&C Saatchi Scarecrow M&C Saatchi Manish Bhatt Scarecrow founder Scarecrow founder Scarecrow Manish Bhatt