Abid Hussain Barlaskar
Points of View

How can agencies attract the right talent?

The most common grouse in agencies today is lack of talent. Then there's talk of whether the brightest creative minds even want to enter the ad world. A few tips.

In an interview with afaqs!, Anil Nair, CEO and managing partner, Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi India, said that the crazy-creative people are no longer joining the advertising industry. Nair also suggested that the industry needs IITians - "... Those who have more creativity in them than people realise. They have a 'solutions' mindset and don't want to get into engineering solutions!"

Admen, the likes of Piyush Pandey, do exist today, but in Nair's words, they are not in the advertising industry anymore.

However, as multiple avenues came up over the years, they have also pulled in the creative misfits who step out of the queue and avoid being slaves to the day-to-day grind. However, a buzz that these minds no longer find their way into the traditional ad industry or are not ready to stay in is widely accepted by industry veterans.

We spoke to experts to find out why and what agencies can to do to change this.

Edited excerpts:-

Bobby Pawar, MD and chief creative officer at Publicis Worldwide is of the opinion that there is a diverse line of work today and the restless young minds have to be kept moving with more involvement.

How can agencies attract the right talent?

Bobby Pawar

Speaking about industry trends, Pawar says, "It's a couple of things; first, the entertainment industry has opened up; people in advertising, like scriptwriters, can actually make a good living out of TV shows, song-writing and, possibly, live better than they would in advertising. The number of options has opened up especially for writers and even art directors. Preeti Verma from DDB Mudra is also a fashion designer. Secondly, the process in advertising has gotten too laborious. The great jobs don't filter down to the younger levels; they're done at the higher levels. The younger people are not too patient and want to be involved in the big work too.

"Agencies should get the younger guys more involved, so they get the experience along with the due credit. I try to interact and involve the younger guys as much as I can. Something from me rubs off on them and vice versa," Pawar says.

He further points out that there is a lot of pessimism around advertising. "Say advertising is dead and it is going to change, some people decide to leave the industry for fear of being shoved out. Nobody wants to a part of an industry which seems to be losing steam," Pawar adds.

"On the other hand, young people don't want to work in fear and dejection; they have other options. I know of people from the industry who joined stand-up comedy. Agencies now need to collaborate and gather multiple skillsets. Our country also has a culture of 'main khud ka kuch karunga'. Creative people are not divorced from that," Pawar further states.

Priti J Nair, co-founder and director, Curry Nation, points out that the advertising industry itself is going through a difficult time. While there is a lot of pressure on creative minds, there are so many avenues that have opened up for them.

How can agencies attract the right talent?

Priti J Nair

"Creative people are a restless bunch. I guess that is one of the reasons why people are moving out of the business. People are setting up their own shops; they've had enough of the multi-layered, multinational kind of structure; taking care of so many people along the way and not the original creative product. The creative person is the semi-account servicing person too," Nair says.

Nair opines that today the burnout is happening much faster than 15 years ago, "With digital, although we have big canvas communication, the attention is short-lived. The joy of rolling out a big brand campaign is missing,"

Speaking about the missing ad-crazy brains, Nair says, "I think we are not allowed to be crazy anymore. Today, one has to be responsible with the client, with the brand, with the advertising. Everything has to go through channels of research and approvals.

"Agencies should encourage people to get on to digital platforms; do things not related to everyday business. In creative advertising, the creative juices need to be flowing. The question of - 'woh khareedega nahi to kyun karoon?' has to stop. This 'baggage' needs to be dropped. We need more ways to make the creative joy happen," Nair states.

Speaking about creative minds moving towards alternative lines like stand-up comedy, vlogging etc., Nair says, "It is unrestricted creativity. It is as simple as why TV film directors and producers started making feature films. The canvas is bigger."

Nair also thinks that the situation is not going to tide over any time soon, given the high cost of traditional advertising, competition and shaky markets.

Raj Kamble, founder and CCO, Famous Innovations, states that talent goes where the money is.

How can agencies attract the right talent?

Raj Kamble

"The perception of advertising has changed. Clients today ask for content instead of TVCs and a film worth one crore decreases in worth to 20 lakhs. They want long-format content and then cut a 30 seconder out of it, then get the TV rights and then make it viral. It's a weird task," Kamble says.

Kamble also agrees with the others that creative people have multiple options today and says, "If a copy writer's copy doesn't work there is a dot-com idea, then there is a film, stand-up comedy, a product, and if these still don't work, there is always advertising. There is another, more significant shift - I grew up as a fan of Lee Clow the leader of TBWA Worldwide, the cool surfer who did the creative jobs for Apple. My young son now asks me why I want to sell Apple's idea instead of working on one of my own.

"There was a time when people from IIMs would join advertising. It doesn't happen anymore as there is no money in advertising. Real talent is expensive; ideas are expensive. There was a time when the creative people were the brand's custodians, shared ideas and were equally responsible," Kamble adds.

Kamble further explains that brands have now cut down on mainstream advertising and push alternatives on various digital platforms. However, he maintains that digital isn't enough for a brand. "There is much confusion around the word 'digital' and it's just another wave that will tide over. If brands need someone to think about them thoroughly, the money needs to be paid," Kamble signs off.

Rajdeepak Das, CCO, Leo Burnett, asserts the idea that the situation has always been the same with the advertising industry and it is more about making up with the changing times and its demands.

How can agencies attract the right talent?

Rajdeepak Das

Das points out that term 'agency' is passé and maintains that it's a whole advertising industry now. "We are now in the business of communication, media and content. Advertising is content. If there is a demand for long format content it means that client's demands have changed," he says.

However, Das also outlines that the future is going to be a combination of three things - storytelling, technology and design, "... Content for story-telling, technology for changing a client's business and design for products. Innovation is at the core of all three and they keep people in the centre. We don't watch ads anymore, we watch content.

"If we are losing people, it is because there is something new to look out for. People will move out of places or companies which are not changing. When agencies manage to retain people it's because they are doing those things. No one wants to be outdated," Das adds.