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

Content marketing has come a long way from promoting a product to telling a story and putting the consumer first. The other new thing in this space are strategy-focused content startups. Brands entrust their content business to these new era companies that imagine, create and package micro-content for all kinds of marketing communications.

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

Who are they and who do they work for?

They call themselves a content-driven company. Based in Mumbai, the company serves clients such as Netflix, Tiger Baby, Hotstar, Dharma, Audi, Shantanu and Nikhil and many more in the luxury and entertainment space.

Do you know the fabulous lives of Bollywood brides? Many of their Season 2 promotional trailers were done by By The Gram.

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

Among marketers surveyed in India in 2021 by business intelligence platform Statista, 27% said 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 26% of respondents during the survey. Clearly, amplifying reach, engagement, and leads drives brands to find expert storytelling partners.

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

Why don’t they cater to big creative agencies?

According to Jitendra Hirawat, director of SoCheers Films, this is a supply and demand situation.

According to him, in the creative space of advertising, digital videos have been in high demand, especially in recent years, and digital penetration will further accelerate this demand with more engaging content.

“In such a scenario, larger agencies often face a shortage of bandwidth, which is where newer and smaller players come in. These startups are well positioned to fill this bandwidth gap. Second, being a relatively new player, they tend to offer low-cost, budget-friendly options,” he says.

Interestingly, many of these startups have already started as part of a larger agency. For example, The Rabbit Hole started as a small three-member video agency within FoxyMoron in 2017.

At the time, they took on small ad-hoc productions for their clients as and when needed. They wanted to expand into this space and realizing the customer demand and the potential of the talent they had on board, they decided to take the plunge and introduce one of the biggest OTT companies launched in India.

However, they lost that ground as the brand felt they lacked the team size and expertise to fulfill their mandate.

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

“It’s the era of decentralization and independent agencies are winning as brands increasingly seek out unique and personalized offers,” says Pranay Swarup of Chtrbox.

The Rabbit Hole has established itself as an independent entity in 2020 due to the market need and demand for expertise in video content solutions,” Rishabh Khatter, Business Head, The Rabbit Hole, told 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 agency mainly focuses on marketing communication – headline marketing, OTT marketing, web3.0 marketing or anything else in the digital space.

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

The internal influencer quotient

Another cool thing about these agencies is that they sometimes have other functions like influencer marketing as 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 launched 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 an integral part of their offerings. Their clientele includes brands that increasingly cater to a digital India. Some of them are P&G, HP, Amazon and CRED. “Brands that come to us come with the goal of tapping into the love and attention that creators have from the public, and leveraging the creative skills that creators have to help brands tell their stories,” says Swarup.

According to him, this is the era of decentralization and independent agencies are winning as brands are increasingly looking for unique and personalized offers.

Content and above all comes to us fast and furiously. It is expected to grow by leaps and bounds in the coming years and the space will see a slew of nimble, forward-thinking new entrants giving traditional ad shops a run for their content money. This is one video you don’t want to skip.


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Raymond I. Langston