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Neither an agency nor a production house. What are they?

A new ecosystem of content startups has emerged. Here’s how they’re rolling in brands and taking on big agencies.

By  Tasmayee Laha RoySep 16, 2022 12:46 PM
Neither an agency nor a production house. What are they?
The evolution of content marketing has created a new ecosystem of strategy-driven content startups that are working for brands across sectors from FMCG to entertainment. (Representational image: Nick Fewimgs via Unsplash)

Content marketing has come a long way from promoting a product to telling a story and putting the consumer first. The other new addition to this space are strategy-driven content startups. Brands are taking their content business to these new-age companies that are ideating, creating and packaging micro-content for all sorts of marketing communication.  

“We are neither an ad agency nor a production house. We sit right in between and take on all your obscure to large-scale content and production needs,” says Aaliya Amrin, co-founder at By The Gram.

Who are they and who do they work for? 

They call themselves a content-first company. Based out of Mumbai the company services clients like Netflix, Tiger Baby, Hotstar, Dharma, Audi, Shantanu and Nikhil and many others in the luxury and entertainment space.

Know about The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives? A lot of their season 2 promotional trailers have been done by By The Gram.

Explaining costs, Amrin says, “You get what you pay for and content is no different. A digital ad film can cost you anywhere between Rs 15 lakh to Rs 55 lakh while a TVC can take you right into the Rs 80 lakh to Rs 2 crore bracket.” 

Among marketers who were surveyed in India in 2021 by business intelligence platform Statista, 27 percent stated that using content marketing as a strategy helped them engage new audiences. 

An increase in brand awareness was the second most popular benefit of content marketing reported by another 26 percent of respondents during the survey. Clearly, amplification of reach, engagement and leads is pushing brands to find partners who are expert at storytelling.

“We are neither an ad agency nor a production house. We sit right in between and take on all your obscure to large-scale content and production needs,” says Aaliya Amrin of By The Gram

Why aren’t they going to the larger creative agencies? 

According to Jitendra Hirawat, Director - SoCheers Films, this is a demand-supply situation.

According to him, in advertising’s creative realm, digital videos have been experiencing high demand, especially since the last few years and digital penetration is further going to accelerate this demand with more engaging content. 

“In such a scenario, many times, the bigger agencies face a bandwidth crunch, which is where newer and smaller players come in. These startups are aptly positioned to fill this bandwidth gap. Secondly, being a fairly new player, they tend to offer economical and budget-friendly options,” he says.

Interestingly, many of these startups once started as a part of a bigger agency. For instance, The Rabbit Hole started off as a small three-member video agency unit within FoxyMoron back in 2017.

At the time, they were taking on small, one-off ad productions for their clients as and when required. They were keen on growing in this space and on realizing the demand from clients and potential of the talent they had on board, they decided to take the leap and pitch to one of the largest OTT companies launching in India.

However, they lost that pitch as the brand felt they lacked the team size and expertise to take on their mandate. 

This failure fueled a hunger for growth, which led to this small video solutions team breaking away as an independent agency under the Zoo Media network. 

“It is the era of decentralization and independent agencies are winning as brands are more and more so looking for unique and customized offerings,” says Chtrbox’s Pranay Swarup

Pitch, please 

The Rabbit Hole established itself as an independent entity in 2020 because of the need and demand in the market for expertise in video content solutions,” Rishabh Khatter, Business Head, The Rabbit Hole, tells Storyboard18.

Turns out, the same OTT brand that rejected their pitch is now on their client list along with a host of others like Tinder, Swiggy, YouTube India, Unacademy, Maybelline, Zebronics, Ponds.

The focus of the agency is mostly on marketing communication - title marketing, OTT marketing, marketing on Web3.0 or anything else in the digital space.

The brand has worked on a lot of popular promotional campaigns for projects like Netflix’s AK v/s AK followed by their Behensplaining, Tinder India’s TinderLog and others.

The Influencer quotient in-house 

Another interesting aspect of these agencies is that they sometimes have other functions like influencer marketing as a part of their offering. Like, Chtrbox, which is a creator marketing platform and agency that helps brands produce and distribute influencer-led videos.

Chtrbox was started by Pranay Swarup in 2016 in partnership with Rohit Raj and Varun Duggirala (founders of The Glitch, which in 2018 was acquired by WPP) and strategic investments from media personalities and entrepreneurs, Roshan Abbas and Gaurav Kapur.

Content creation for Chtrbox is a part and parcel of their offerings. Their clientele include brands that increasingly cater to a digital-first India. Some of these are P&G, HP, Amazon and CRED. “Brands that come to us come with the focus of tapping into the love and attention creators have from audiences, and leveraging the creative skills creators have to help brands tell their stories,” says Swarup.

What's next?

According to him, it is the era of decentralization and independent agencies are winning as brands are more and more so looking for unique and customized offerings.

Content is coming at us fast and furious. It is expected to grow by leaps and bounds in the coming years and the space will see a huge number of new agile and edgy entrants giving the traditional ad shops a run for their content money. This is one video you don’t want to skip.

First Published on Sep 13, 2022 9:00 AM