Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Talented launches new social agency, The New Thing; Viren Noronha joins as co-founder

In an exclusive interview with Storyboard18, Gautam Reghunath, PG Aditiya, and Viren Noronha shared their views on why there is a need for a new agency in town to help brands create cultural conversations and moments on social media

Published: Aug 1, 2023 12:11:14 PM IST
Updated: Aug 1, 2023 12:37:57 PM IST

Talented launches new social agency, The New Thing; Viren Noronha joins as co-founder Much like its name, The New Thing will help brands create new cultural conversations and moments on social media. (L to R: PG Aditiya, Gautam Reghunath, and Viren Noronha)

Founders of Bengaluru-headquartered creative shop Talented Gautam Reghunath and PG Aditiya went to their client Viren Noronha with a pitch. That’s unusual in the agency business. The founder duo pitched Noronha the idea of joining them as a consultant. However, after several rounds of discussions and ideation they realised that brands in India haven’t explored social media in depth like several other mature markets in the world. They discovered that there is a scope to do far more new creative experiments on social media. That’s how The New Thing was born.

The New Thing is Talented’s new social and culture marketing agency. Former social media head of Swiggy, Noronha, has joined the unit as a co-founder. He will be joined by a few content creators as part of the agency’s founding team.

Much like its name, The New Thing will help brands create new cultural conversations and moments on social media. In an exclusive interview with Storyboard18, Noronha, said, “The name holds us accountable to our own definition of disruption—to do things so different that it destroys the old methods. To brands, it offers instant clarity on who we are and what we’re about to do.”

At a time when brands are hyper-active to capture consumers’ small screens at all hours, Noronha thinks social media strategies need serious rewiring. He said, “I read a quote that went something like—if you’re not actively creating for internet culture yourself, no strat deck can save you. So we envisioned an agency made up purely of these creators, and run by them. That means our talent has full ownership of their work - idea to pitch to execution.” He is also of the opinion that brands have a direct line to the people who are shaping internet culture.

Read on what the trio are planning with the new social grid.

Q. What is The New Thing all about?
Viren Noronha: The New Thing’s primary focus will be to help brands create cultural conversations and moments on social - something we believe very few brands are getting right. We want to make brands work for the internet, not the other way around. And true to our name, we do not want to shy away from keeping up with the ever changing landscape of the internet. So even our brands don’t have to.

Q. What makes The New Thing different from any other social agencies?
Viren Noronha: Getting social right is hard. And, the way agencies and brands look at it needs a desperate refresh. My experience at Swiggy and Tinder showed me evidence of a crucial shift - it’s not about what your brand is saying, it’s about what people are saying about it. To stay relevant you need to lean into those conversations. You need to contribute to internet culture with your content. So are we just ‘another’ social agency? No. Are we a NEW one? Yes.

Gautam Reghunath: We didn’t start The New Thing with the intention of being a part of what is already out there. We started to make a powerful statement about how social can be so much more than what it is today. A growth function not a cost centre. Once more and more brands and agencies are open to this truth, let’s talk.

Also read: How global advertising business reviews affect agencies in local markets

Q. What are the new client needs that you’re noticing? How are you decoding those?
Viren Noronha: In an age where everyone is chasing that big idea, getting people to notice your idea needs a big idea in itself. It’s not enough to put out creative work, we have to make people see it too. That’s the need of the hour - how do you move culture by participating in it? Not trying to get its attention.

Q. Why did you decide to branch out now? Also, why do you think you need a specialised social division? Will you have more of such divisions? If yes, what’s the focus going to be like?
Gautam Reghunath: There’s a clear reason why we’re launching this as a separate agency. Right from the kind of talent needed to workflow and processes, it’s become quite clear that specialised social-first creative mandates have to be run very differently from wider creative mandates. They need completely different ways of working. At the same time, an agency staffed and run entirely by creators gives our clients a direct line to people who are shaping internet culture. All of this means we now believe we have a disruptive take on the business behind social-first creativity.

PG Aditiya: This model is also how we currently envision scaling Talented and branching out our brand—by enabling creative entrepreneurs their own agency platform to build from, instead of assuming we can simply incubate a new practice internally by ourselves. At the core of our new ‘Talented grid of agencies’ will sit Talented itself - an ideas shop, a medium-agnostic creative agency staffed by the brightest creative talent in the market. Specialised agencies like The New Thing and potentially others in the future will be organised under and report into Talented—therefore having the ability to tap into this grid of shared services, while continuing to run as independent shops with their own unique personalities and specialisation.

Also read: How small and mid-sized Indian ad agencies find their mojo, and grow

We don’t have specific goals for launching more agencies currently, but we’re open to creative entrepreneurs who may have disruptive takes on businesses that are adjacent to Talented’s. And if we believe those can add value to Talented, our people and our clients, then we’re certainly interested.

Q. Have you mapped out any acquisition plans? Are you open to it?
Gautam Reghunath: Never say never but no acquisition plans per se. We’re currently more excited by the opportunity to build from the ground up than acquisitions.

Having specialised divisions is a very network ad agency approach. Do you agree with that observation? If not, how are you viewing this expansion move?

Gautam Reghunath: Conceptually, sure it’s network-like. Nothing wrong with the network model either. If that’s how one needs to look at it to make sense of it, sure. The fundamental difference here though is that Talented wants its agencies to be entrepreneur-owned and not entirely network-owned.

Founders like Viren with skin-in-the-game while building from the ground up. Think of it as an agency version of a well-backed start-up.