How often do we pause and ponder about industry issues that have a bearing beyond just our rigmaroles? Share insights that can further the common understanding? Or, at the very least, point at things that need to be set right.
View Point - an exchange4media platform, will fill this void and become a source of understanding, action and perhaps some inspiration.
Sorry, Cannes Save You.
G S Shridhar, CEO, Purple Blaze Advertising Consultancy
The following mock conversation between a creative director and a job aspirant would be funny if it weren't so plausible.
Mr CD: "Did you win a Lion this year or the previous year?"
Candidate: "No, but…"
Mr CD: "Not even a bronze?"
Candidate: "Well, ah…"
Mr CD: "Did you at least get into the shortlist?"
Candidate: "Let me…"
Mr CD: "How about the New York Festivals, do you win something there?"
Candidate: "May I…"
Mr CD: "The One Show, then?"
Candidate: "You know, I…"
Mr CD: "Come on man, you must have won something at the Asian AdFest?"
Candidate: "Look, if you'll just…"
Mr CD: "Don't tell me you drew a blank at the ABBYs as well? How can I hire you?"
Candidate: "Ok, now that I don't have the job, let me ask you - did you win any of those awards yourself?"
Mr CD: "My job is to hire winners."
As much as our recent international successes have buoyed the general spirit of Indian advertising, they have created an enormous and totally undesirable pressure on creative people. Suddenly, it's not enough that you have a robust brand and a happy client; it's insignificant that you won at the Kolkatta, New Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and Cochin Ad Clubs - don't even talk about it; no-one cares if you've been working for an agency which might mis-spell the word 'awards' thrice before getting it right; and who really cares if you have enough talent and passion to put half a dozen CDs out of work. As long as you haven't won a Big One, for whatever reason, the message is clear: Please Keep Safe Distance.
The sad reality is that, for every award-enabling client an agency might have, it has dozens of clients who just don't give a damn. And they happen to be big spenders. Need proof? Look at the general quality of advertising in just three high-spend categories chosen at random: Telecom (the press ads for one of India's most-hyped brands should make its creators cringe), Cosmetics (execution and message overlaps combine with an obvious lack of ideas to kill consumer desire), Automobiles (slick shooting, and stale editing gimmicks, fail to disguise a total absence of originality)… well, you get the picture don't you.
Now, the question is: while you can charm an exotic wellness clinic, a bookshop, an NGO, or the rare, adventurous mainstream client into releasing a couple of your award-winning ideas, what will you do with those immovable, big-bucks clients on whom your agency is cripplingly dependent? Clients who take up the bulk of your energy and working time. Who give you so much visibility, there's nowhere to hide.
Of course it would be great if you could conjure up a potential Lion, but the pursuit of Lions cannot become an obsession or a work ethic. (An agency which is doing some fabulous work succumbed to this madness a few years ago and printed a T-shirt which said, "Cannes saaf karo varna naak kat jayegi." That the agency hasn't won a Lion does not detract from its achievements.) Fact is, wrestling with real competition, real clients and real daily odds, is at least as difficult as creating a Cannes winner, if not more. I also believe that we have a far greater number of superb communicators than the list of awardees might suggest. The unsung heroes and heroines, if you will. But these talented people are trapped in a hole not of their making. They did not come into advertising to figure out the most aesthetic way to accommodate a big product picture, eight icons and three logos in one layout. Or to write headlines like "Free! One toothbrush worth Rs.25 with every purchase!" Or to design a promo poster where, the client will tell you, the "pack should be the hero."
So what do you do, hire two sets of creative people - one, whose mandate is to lure home the Lion, and another, whose lot it is to churn and burn? Will they both be paid differently? Will they sit in different offices? Will they travel differently? Will they go to different pubs? Will they have different work timings? If that sounds ridiculous, check this out: I knew a writer who produced stunning press work for India's only sports magazine worth its name, but who consistently failed to repeat the magic for demanding, advertising-dependent brands. But he was treated like royalty, because his brand got the awards.
Let me say this without fear of contradiction: the Next Great Divide has already begun.
Come on, let's be fair. Let's start with the assumption that every creative person we have hired can win us a Big One (or we shouldn't have hired him in the first place). Then, let's help him prove us right.
In fact, it may be a good idea to recruit talented trainees - or enlist freelancers, depending on the nature of your routine work - for one month every year. Then, while they handle the day-to-day stuff, the regular guys can devote themselves to Lions, Pencils or whatever they crave for. If in that one month - freed from daily bondage to mediocrity and worse - your guys cannot produce the goods, then you can turn round and say, "I gave you the chance." But it is important for agency managers to create that chance. They are, after all, the ones who will evaluate the performance of their teams.
So who will evaluate them? The candidate up there. Forgotten him already?