One name that has transformed into an icon for the Indian media industry and holds immense respect in professionals of today is Helen Anchan. In talking sheer numbers, Anchan has fifty media years to her credit. With Lintas being her ultimate playground, she retreated from the industry on December 31, 2003. In all these years she has contributed to the media in various ways and EMVIES 2004 paid tribute to her contributions by honouring her with Lifetime Achievement Award.
In a candid conversation with Noor Fathima Warsia, Anchan speaks about what this recognition means to her and the transition in the Indian media industry that she witnessed.
To begin with, tell us how does it feel to hold this award?
Honestly, this came to me right out of the blue. At first I was quite taken aback and quite frankly, embarrassed. I was never the kind to talk about what I have done. When I saw the letter and spoke to the Ad Club people, I told them exactly that. But right now, when I hold the award, I feel happy and very proud.
Fifty years is a highly respectable period. Tell us how much has the industry changed in this much time?
Massively. I have seen it change and kept up with that change. Earlier, there were days when there was no data, no technological breakthroughs and media tools. All decisions depended on assumptions and gut feels. We would try different things then – carry out surveys and experiments and then use those results for some of our decisions. Of course, now we know that that wasn’t the right way of looking at things but then that was how things were.
How did the scene change? What were the first changes that started coming in?
The calculator. That was the first, yes. It was fantastic indeed. The coming in of technology – computers, complicated yet fascinating ways of working, there was a thrill to it all. The high gut-feel dependency went down. There were more reliable ways of getting information that just began coming in and still keep coming.
But do you think that this transition has led to a state in the industry where people are relying too much on tools and intuition or strategic thinking is taking a backseat?
That has happened, yes. But I think that is where the good media professionals stand out today. Data and information play the role of a guide, not the solution itself. A media professional should take the data, analyse it and then use it as a leading light. He needs to look at the situation in totality from all the sides and then draw out his plans and take relevant decisions. I believe that even today, that is what a good media professional does.
What are the other kinds of changes that have crept in the industry today?
It has also become much too competitive. I have seen how people have this urge to outdo the others. It’s not just the question of improving yourself or winning in a situation. Today, it is more like beating the other and it is a feeling that seems to be there everywhere.
But can this be called a kind of defence mechanism, outdoing the other to survive?
To an extent yes. May be that is the way most people are looking at it. But that is definitely not the best way of looking at things. There are various instances when this won’t result in any good. Take poaching for instance.
Was that very different earlier?
Yes, earlier, just a decade ago, we had a quiet understanding – you don’t poach mine and I won’t poach yours. And the understanding was respected. What is the idea behind people moving out of agencies in no time at all? You can’t get the flavour of the agency by then, you can’t give your best to the brand in that much time. What is the healthy aspect here?
You feel people movement today has become rampant?
Yes. I have seen the era of low remuneration. Money was important but it was not all encompassing. Today, however, it seems to have become quite a driving force. Also, there isn’t much trained talent in the industry today. All of it put together, on that front, the way the media industry is shaping needs to be changed.
What is your advice to the industry today?
Motivate your people. People have to grow and they will branch out. But as long as they are with the agency, group heads need to give their people interesting things to do. They have to tap on the potential that is available and then churn out talent that will deliver and show results.
Is there something about the industry that hasn’t changed?
Yes, the commitment to excellence and to come up with innovative and effective solution for clients, that hasn't changed.