Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What's stopping you from a career in advertising?

Imagine you are sitting at home with your family and friends watching a T20 match and just at that time a commercial comes on air. The people around you love it and spontaneously say 'This ad is just great'. Imagine how delighted you would be feeling if you were to be actually involved in the making of the ad.

Such a scenario is not only plausible but possible if you enter the arena of advertising, which leads one to ask what the possible career options in advertising are.

But before I get into that let me quickly tell you that advertising, while it may not currently be “top of the pops” in the career sweepstakes, is certainly not an option to be sneezed at. Before I go into the specifics of career opportunities in advertising I need to talk about some basic skill sets that equip people not only for entry into the profession but also for success in it. The first is the ability to get along with people and that skill is perhaps much more important here than in other industries. The second most important skill is the ability to communicate well particularly for those who get into client management or client servicing as it is often referred to and that is the first area we will be talking about.

Manage clients

This is an important department of the agency. It has men and women who manage relationships with clients. Very simply put they meet the clients of the agency, understand their requirements, come back to the agency, brief the creative team and are responsible for releasing the ads, maintaining the relationship, getting new business in, collecting money. The job involves coordination, management and ability to handle stress. In fact client service is the key to an agency’s success and growth and many successful client service people have grown from management trainees to the level of heading large agency operations.

To enter the client service area, you need a degree definitely and it is preferable to have an MBA from one of the second line management schools at least, though in the eighties we had people from the IIMs joining the agency business. Today two year post-graduate courses in communication are also on offer and these too offer an opportunity to enter the profession to youngsters who pass out of these institutions.

Creative, the core competence

What sets apart one agency from the other is its creative ability. Advertising, it would help us to remember is the business of producing ads and TV commercials. To produce ads and TV commercials the agency needs copy writers and visualisers. Agencies have teams of copywriters and visualisers who come together to create advertising. Just like fast bowlers in cricket good creative people hunt in pairs.The copywriter is the one who writes the print ads and thinks up the script for those television commercials that we see on air. Many young copywriters have basic degrees in English or communication. Some of them have prior experience in writing and may have written for their school or college magazine.Of course it is important to remember that writing to sell products is very different from the literary writing that some of us have done in our youth. Copywriters are not writing to impress readers but actually persuading them to buy products, which they may not even need. This calls for a different set of skills and the usage of words and phrases that people can remember , like the Nike’s ‘Just do it’ campaign that was one of the most memorable advertising campaigns of all time.

Designing the ads

‘A picture paints a thousand words’ is perhaps a statement depicting the importance of the visual in communication. People remember strong, eye catching visuals and even more so today as people are getting busier and spending lesser time reading.

People want to get to the point faster and do not want to spend too much time thinking about what you are trying to say. Visualisers usually do courses in art for 5 years from reputed institutions like Sophias in Mumbai or Chitra Kala Parishad in Bangalore.

The difference over the years to today is that today’s aspiring young visualisers need to be more than merely computer literate but actually experts at creating on the computer. Both visualisers and copy writers must have a strong desire to think differently and stand out from the crowd so that their work is noticed.

It is also pertinent to remember that creative people are paid extremely well and at times are the highest paid within the agency's structure. So, if you think you are creative, maybe the agency business is the place for you to get into.

Media, the other unit

There was a time when the media department of the agency was known as the ‘back room boys’ as it was the creative and the servicing types that were hogging the limelight. Not any longer. Because of the emergence of stand alone media buying houses and their increasing importance, agencies are realising the value of media personnel.

Within media the less glamourous role is that of the buyer who is in charge of negotiating with media houses and television channels on rates. They work out special deals, preferred positions and bulk discounts for their clients. The more exalted role is that of the media planner who very simply decides how much to put in where, which newspapers to advertise in, which serials to buy.All of this is through analysis of various data that is available with the agency, monitoring of television rating points of popular programs, using sophisticated computer programming models to help optimize the client’s budget so that he/she gets the maximum “bang for the media buck”. Media planning too is becoming increasingly important as a career option and most media planners have management degrees with a strong liking for numbers and have the capability to understand and interpret research.

The greatest perk

One of the greatest perks of working in the advertising business is not money or incentives but the challenge of working on so many diverse products and services so that one never gets bored. If you are a salesman you are selling only one product or groups of products. If you are in marketing you are a specialist in only one category soaps or detergents. But in advertising you have to know about soaps, shampoos, clothes, shoes, computers… you name it. So there’s never a dull moment if you are in advertising. In fact it has been described as the industry where you have the maximum fun with your clothes on! Get ready to have fun!

Ramanujam Sridhar is the CEO of brand-comm and the author of “One land, one billion minds”.


Kalidas said...

A nice piece; the author writes with equal felicity on advertising as he does on cricket! One's teenage thoughts go back to Sir Neville Cardus who wrote with as much passion on cricket as he did on music in the Manchester Guardian.

Contrary to popular misconceptions about advertising, it is more sweat and hard work than glitz and glamour. However, it is worth the satisfaction gained at the end of the day when, for the creators, the Nokia tune becomes universal and the Airtel melody permeates every aspect of our lives down to providing the background score to the reversing of our car! On the other hand, so much effort can go to waste when the housewife decides to leave the drawing-room to switch on the pressure-cooker giving the slip to the expensive commercial on a prime time soap.

Ah, the vagaries of the advertising industry! The back-room Media boys of yesteryears are now ruling the roost hobnobbing with CEOs as they work on huge budgets and fanciful plans. A far cry from the halycyon days when senior Account Executives and Agency heads drew up the main Agenda over a gin-and-tonic lunch.

Creative hot shops and entrepreneural ambition have resulted in the burgeoning of smaller specialist units like Lemon, Chlorophyll and Salt offering excellent service much to the discomfort of the top guns.

And the purveyors of the Media? The competition - intermedia and intramedia - is getting hotter and hotter while the advertising pie is getting sliced beyond recognition. Today's great performance is just history for tomorrow is another day for the daily! Every day is a test of character and strength.

The advertisng industry was never so buoyant as it is today. Its role in fuelling the economy cannot be questioned. One can recall in this connection the famous tag-line from a campaign run in the USA several years ago. It read :


Ramanujam Sridhar said...

You are absolutely right about the increasing importance of media in today’s scheme of things. Yes small creative shops are making their presence felt and making the larger agencies sweat. Advertising is presently on a roll , but the current meltdown could be a cause for concern.

citirus said...

A real insight on advertising industry. It gives us a feel of the advertising pitch and various career options available in it.

Few questions:

Q1. Does as a fresher joining a small advertising firm like Adverto a reasonable take?

Q2. What is the scope for a graduate in psychology and masters in MBA Marketing in advertising?

Q3. How does the slowdown of economy affects the bowling rate of advertising?