Guest Article: Blame it on the beer: Antony Rajkumar

By Antony Rajkumar , JWT, New Delhi | In Advertising | March 16, 2012
There are uncanny parallels between why people hop pubs and switch jobs, with special focus on agency life.

At a crowded pub amidst the din of music, I managed to overhear a conversation from a nearby table. It wasn't entirely surprising that the guys were from the advertising fraternity, what with the extended happy hours generously serving up to drown the sorrows of our profession. One was saying why he wants to leave his job and his friend was telling why he left so many.

Antony Rajkumar

Eavesdropping can sometimes be very amusing - almost akin to a naughty peep through the keyhole. Combined with the disadvantages of wine, it made me mistake words for thought! But I did leave the place musing about the similarities between why people hop pubs and jobs, and put them in words. Here are some you might have used and some more that can come handy!

The pub hopper

Some just have non stick bottoms. Nomadic by nature, their CV runs several pages not essentially with achievements but with a list of agencies that can give a serious complex to a directory. You are what you are. Keep it going. Until the day one of the global holding companies acquires every single agency and makes it a rule never to rehire, one can enjoy the scenery. Go ahead - the list is long and everybody needs somebody.

No more happy hours

When an agency environment resembles that of happy hours, it's very accommodative to all kinds. However, business challenges can bring happy hours to an end faster than you can say 'another pint please', leaving the revellers to slowly fade away into the night. Many agencies have seen it happen, some more often than others. Conventionally, the smaller/niche agencies clamp up fast but again, I may be wrong.

On the other hand, when the going gets tough, even the larger ones start to look at their resources more carefully and evaluate performances. It can get difficult for the ones who stay in the game for free drinks. Find your happy hour someplace else, mate!

Dance floor is too small

And then, there are times when you feel that you are not getting enough of the action. You feel stifled, the background person who is often denied his 10 seconds of fame. The music could be good but you can't put your foot on the dance floor because there are already so many doing the dirty dancing. If you are in the mood to move and shake it, you move on to where you can do it!

Music is bad

You cannot be blamed if the pub is playing real bad music. For the agency it is the culture. Let's face it, businesses come and go but the culture of a place is stickier and if that fails to glue in people and create the magic that we wake out of bed for, it's time.

Can't stand this crowd

You may at some point have walked out of a pub finding the crowd distasteful. Don Marquis, a man who performed many roles with the pen, once famously wrote, "I drink only to make my friends seem interesting." Sadly, that's not a viable option and not one that normally a liver can agree with. Quite frankly, people don't change overnight unless you work with a bunch of schizophrenics.

The worst of moments pass by if you are part of a good team and the best of it is barely tolerable if you are in a crowd. The advertising business is all about people but just a handful can make it a bad crowd. If you are not playing together, you are in the wrong game. As Pepsi puts it, you need to change the game.

That one's got booze

There are better things in life than advertising, but advertising makes up for not having them. Face it, some agencies can just run out of advertising. The business is changing so much that sometimes one wonders if you had signed up for an auditing firm or an advertising agency. Some of us are better off with apple pies than pie charts. The litany of sorrows can go on, but perhaps there are some places where advertising is still your idea of what it should be. If you find one, walk across and sign up!

The legacy bar

Some pubs have a rich history and vintage appeal and we often enjoy spending an evening or two in such places. The workplace is an entirely different matter, though, if it starts resembling an archaeological site where fossils crowd the place (fossils = people who are long past the sell by date, but no one knows how to get them off the rack!). You can't get past them with your ideas or with your career. So you keep moving till you become one!

I'd better walk before I crawl

At the beginning of the advertising career, one does a lot of things in the same position (read designation) and as time passes by, the person does pretty much the same thing but in different positions (again read designations). When realisation dawns, they become people who drink to drown their sorrow! But when better or bitter senses prevail, they are like the ones who have been told that sorrows know how to swim!

Fortunately, the business is evolving, changing, growing and taking new shapes. When you've had one too many, you say bye to Captain Morgan and find dry land close by for another shot. The trick is to stay high if you want to stay in the business.

The bouncer is getting me fresh air

Well, okay! You don't always leave a pub on your own. Sometimes you are taken out and will not be let in anytime soon, if ever. This one needs no explanation. Whatever the reasons you were shown the door, you are at least very clear you have to find one someplace else that will let you in. Happy hunting and hey - mind the bouncer!

I'd rather have coffee (smell the coffee beans)

'Alcohol is necessary for a man so that he can have a good opinion of himself, undisturbed by the facts'. You'll find many who don't know this line but live by it, sitting pretty on bar stools. Advertising, too, in many ways creates such illusions that get us hooked. The agency business is also like the line from 'Hotel California'; 'you can check out anytime you want but you can never leave'. Not true for everybody, though. Some just call it a day after a long night and move on to more mundane, less frenzied jobs ranging from professional wrestling to marketing to car salesmanship...

So there you have your reasons. Don't worry about how it looks to someone else. Remember, beauty is in the eyes of the beer holder!

The author is associate vice-president and strategy planning director, JWT Delhi.

© 2012 afaqs!