Abhik Santara
Guest Article

"Don't join advertising; don't stay in advertising..."

... says this Ogilvy executive...

That's right, I said it.

"Don't join advertising; don't stay in advertising..."
And that's my advice to many youngsters who are either trying to get into advertising or trying to get out. That one's on the house. To the small lot of people who in my limited understanding might contribute to advertising, the following checklist might just help decide whether joining and staying in this industry is a feasible career path. This might guide you through some of the myths associated with the way the industry functions.

Just for the record, a recent analysis by AdAge indicated that the turnover in the advertising industry is higher than that in related industries. It's growing at a rate faster than competitive industries, with the gap increasing to 10 per cent in the past year.

"I Love Advertising"

Really? Do you? What do you love about it? More importantly, do the two of you even make a good couple? Be very clear about your traits and interests that can be most appropriately played up. Just for the record, "I love Fevicol ads" is not a good enough reason.

However, that's easier said than done. And one must get into the thick of things to know what gives you the kick. Craft is essential to know what discipline to choose, but if you've got tons of other human qualities like curiosity, observation, articulation (in any language) or just pure hunger to make things happen, you could probably swim with the sharks. So, introspect, identify and play to your strength.

If you think you don't have these traits naturally (and it doesn't make you less of a person if you don't), don't join.

"I can run it my way"

Here's a fact - the most successful people in the business are supremely disciplined. They're punctual and have a methodical approach to their work. They take full ownership of every decision and don't call it a day without getting the job done. Sure, we have flexible working hours and a slightly casual approach to dressing. But as the number of interactions with clients in every discipline is on the rise, we're also seeing a rise in the number of people wearing pajamas not being taken seriously.

If being forever casual is your thing, don't join.

"I can walk into 'Mannat' anytime"

Sorry to burst your bubble, but selfies with Mr. Bachchan and Shah Rukh don't happen at the drop of a hat. If you're coming in for the glitz, I'd advise you to kindly reconsider.

There's loads of grinding and hard work before you even get those chances. And when you do, it will be equally challenging to keep pace with their standards of output and professionalism. To be honest, in your early years, you're more likely to be handed over their pictures and asked to design a hoarding. And you know what? You've got to be okay with that.

If you think Karan Johar will invite you every day for coffee conversations, don't join.

"I can have a full work-life balance"

Recently, a very senior creative colleague told me that he doesn't want to be an NCD if that means compromising his social life. Scary, but understandable. I've seen Piyush working from 7:00 am in the morning till late at night and then drive to Pune for a meeting early the next morning. I know of others at the top who follow a similar regime. They have a very rich social life, but when duty calls, they're prepared to sacrifice personal time.

"But smart people should be able to manage their work on time." That's not how it works in advertising. We're in the business of ideas and interesting things happen when you jam with people, spend time spit-balling and chatting with each other. Not all days are bad, but there are those days.

If you're not ready to ever miss your niece's birthday, don't join.

"I Feel Settled"

People throw this word, 'settled', around a lot these days as a way to describe a risk-free career path. Risk comes from taking chances. I personally think that in advertising one always has to take chances. Advertising is interesting because it's not repetitive, no two days are the same and that's the charm of this profession. If you start getting comfortable on the job because you're used to the same thing every day, don't give yourself a pat on the back. It should bother you enough to want to try a new role or a new craft or maybe even a new job. Not many professions require you to upgrade your skill set as frequently as advertising does.

If settling down is your thing, don't join.

"I can smoke up, abuse and break every social code"

Advertising is fun, period. It's a happy industry. But don't get swayed by this. Do everything if you must, but restrain yourself from overdoing anything at the beginning of your career.

I have, unfortunately, seen many bright young guns going astray trying to pack everything in at the start of their careers. I don't mean to be judgmental of this generation and I understand it's a personal choice. But these things can just take your focus away from work. In your early years, spend more time travelling and meeting people, fortifying your skills, refining your theories, learning about cultures and engaging with your brands. Advertising opens you to new worlds every day; enjoy and learn from them.

If you feel like singing 'Lucy in the Sky' every night, don't join.

"I will only work in a big agency"

Yes, there are merits; there is scale, there are processes, there are big brands and there are big names. But that's not the only way to learn the profession. In fact, it may not be the best way. Look around you; the biggest names have the humblest beginnings. Not everyone started with the big three. And it's perfectly alright to join a smaller set-up. Learn the ropes, work your way up and get some exposure. Processes make departments and departments augment output. But smaller agencies are nimble. You can be taking a brief, making a presentation and writing copy all on your own. Working in such an environment certainly helps your all-round development and helps fast-track your understanding of the trade. Gradually, you should aim to move to a bigger agency. But preparing yourself well for a few years is not a bad deal.

If flashing only a red card can give you 'the high', don't join.

Having discouraged you enough, let me assure you that there are many great reasons to join, and stay happy in, advertising. It is, and will be, one of the most interesting and fun professions to pursue.

I will talk about those reasons next time.

(The author is executive vice president and cluster head, Ogilvy Mumbai)

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