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Talent drain: Why is the ad industry losing its CEOs and top guns? – Pt 2

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Talent drain: Why is the ad industry losing its CEOs and top guns? – Pt 2

Is the scenario as bleak or uninspiring as CVL Srinivas who has quit the agency business makes it sound? He goes to the extent of saying, “When I decided to quit, I never felt any fear for my future. On the contrary, I feared for the people I was leaving behind.”

If that’s the case, there must be some way to combat these issues that we discussed yesterday -- be it compensation or lack of challenge for those who have been in an agency setup for a long period.

Skewed business model:

According to Srinivas, the media agency business has certain peculiarities, especially the fact that “the amount of effort required and the investment put in is not commensurate with the revenues one derives from the client”.

He elaborates, “I think that the business model is faulty. The clients look at agencies as mere vendors. Most clients are not mature enough to see the big picture. For this the media agencies themselves have to be blamed. The remuneration that clients pay is not usually in line with the agency’s requirement and this needs to change. It is the onus of the agency to add value to the client and it’s the onus of the client to make full use of the skills and talent of an agency and not depend on it merely to release advertisements.”

He added, “Media agencies need to adapt faster to the technological changes happening around which would help the business. These are signs of things to come where the media agencies have to reinvent themselves. Having said that, what I want to reiterate is that there is nothing wrong with the advertising profession but the issue is with the business model.”

Santosh Sood, a veteran of the advertising business who quit Rediffusion DY&R late last year as Chief Strategy Officer, too feels that things would turn for the better if the agency structure of agency is re-looked. He said, “I believe that the agency setup can be structured differently to bring more value to people in the industry as well as the clients. The agency business as it is today is stressful where different people have different agendas, which adds to the stress. Also, agencies need to come out of the time wrap and stop playing by the FMCG rule, which is not a relevant model now. ”

Sood added, “While one does not profess excessive creative regimentation but the agencies also need to look at process driven creative which would work for the brand. A sudden brainwave in terms of ideas might not work every time.”

Reality check:

Ajay Ahluwalia offers his suggestions from a creative’s point of view. He said, “We're too divorced from reality and too caught up doing nice lines and cute stuff that sometimes click, and sometimes don't. There is a need for interaction with the world outside which is not adequate now. This will help in what we write or design and will really tickle the guys outside.”

He also added, “Account management by and large has reduced itself to being on the fringes: just driving the revenues or rushing to bow to the client as fast as they can, the minute the client cracks the money whip. The instances of where an agency has a point of view that's actually meaningful and not just whim and is willing to stick to it, is becoming rarer.”

In a candid moment he said, “And you have a bunch of people on the client side who should actually not be involved with advertising and make matters worse.”


Debraj Tripathy, CEO of Sieger Solutions, the ad sales arm of Deccan Chronicle, gives his take on how to deal with exodus. He said, “Training is important for upgrading one’s skills and this has to be at three levels: improving job skill, career skill and life skill. While to some extent we do focus on addressing issues of career and job skill, the issue of life skill has never been addressed which is important in retaining people.”

He added, “There is a need to come up with platforms where the industry as one unit can address issues of compensation, attracting talent and retaining them.”

So is advertising just for the young?

Srinivas is categorical that youngsters have identified the issues bedeviling the agency setup and are no longer attracted to the industry. “The testimony to this is the talent crunch that the industry is facing today.”

Though Ahluwalia does not agree. “Not at all. People like Piyush Pandey, Prasoon Joshi, Freddy Birdy, Balki are anything but young, and they're the guys who're running the creative business. Age is incidental to how well you do in advertising. The freshness of your ideas and the youthfulness of your mind have everything to do with it. Youth has energy and, of course, fresh perspectives. If you're creative and like being creative; if you keep thinking fresh and be innovative, the ideas won't dry up. And as long as they don't, you're what advertising needs and wants.”

In complete contrast, Sood gives an interesting take on senior people quitting advertising. He said, “This also shows that the advertising people are much in demand, hence the move is happening outside the industry. There are a lot of new industries that require in-house branding and communication expertise and for them an advertising professional is the best bet.”

So, is it that the while the ad industry is yet to figure out how to reinvent itself, there are smart clients who are ready to pick up the seasoned talents? The jury is out, though the portends are not too encouraging for the agency business.


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Prior to joining Madison PR in 2012 Chaudhary was Group President Corporate Communications at Reliance Industries Limited.