AdClub Madras’ PG Diploma course completes 25 years
Jagannath Ramaswamy, the brain behind the advertising management course, recounts how the course continues to be the only one created and run by and for the advertising industry
25 years ago, things were a bit different in the advertising industry. Full service agencies were the norm. Business was pretty good, and every agency was growing. There was one problem however, which was a perennial shortage of people especially in client servicing function. There were schools and colleges of art, there were courses on mass communication and journalism, which produced a steady supply of aspirants in art and copy. But there was no specific course which taught advertising management as such. Of course, advertising was a subject in marketing management syllabus in MBA courses, but dealt with rather superficially. So substantial time and efforts were required to train entrants in client servicing.
And as the advertising industry was doing well, the Advertising Club Madras saw active participation from all the top agencies. In many cases the heads of these agencies too were quite involved. Then it struck them. Why not get the seniors in various agencies, who spend time and effort in training their employees, to train a group of youngsters aspiring to be client servicing executives? That’s how the idea of starting a Post Graduate Diploma in Advertising Management course struck the key members of the AdClub.
“And then, when these youngsters joined an agency, they would be at least 80 per cent trained and would only need orientation specific to that agency. So, the AdClub Madras decided to start a course which will equip the students with fundamentals of advertising management,” says Jagannath Ramaswamy, the brain behind starting the course.
How it all began
“A small committee of four was formed with RV Rajan, the then President of AdClub Madras, S Muthiah, the famous Madras historian, Nagarajan, heading a research agency and myself,” recalls Ramaswamy.
As the objective was clear that they wanted a syllabus, which will make the student job ready, the committee decided to offer a diploma and not try for any affiliation with any university. The fees for the nine-month course was less than the monthly fees in an affordable college. It also included a six-week internship in a leading advertising agency.
“We put together a faculty list which had eminent practitioners in advertising and allied fields. The compensation was nominal (many of us taught pro bono) as all the faculty members were passionate about teaching and were sincerely interested in producing good advertising professionals,” says Ramaswamy.
“It was not altogether altruistic, as we all needed good trained entrants and that is exactly what this course created. And the best part was the teaching resources were from agencies, so we got candidates just tailor made for the job. No wonder, almost all students got placed even before completing the course."
“The number of students was limited by the size of the class room we had in the AdClub premises – (those days we were in Carex Centre, just off Anna Salai). So, we had an entrance test and an interview. It is to the credit of Nagarajan that the entrance test content remains essentially the same even after 25 years – it was so well crafted,” adds Ramaswamy.
“We had a huge number of applicants. We hired the Bertram Hall in Loyola College for the entrance test. The first batch of students came in without knowing what they were going to be taught, but they knew, they were interacting with recognised advertising professionals and they were also sure of getting a job in an agency. Similarly, in the first batch, the ‘teachers’ too did not know what they were going to teach. But they knew they were supposed to train these students, just like what they were doing in their own agencies with smaller numbers,” says Ramaswamy.
Talking about the challenges faced, Ramaswamy says, “The basic challenge was, none of us was an academician, and whether we could run an educational course on our own. Fortunately, the professional resources were plenty.”
Moving with the times
With every passing year, they kept modifying the syllabus to take into account the changes in the ways that advertising was created and delivered. Meanwhile, several colleges and institutes started offering degrees in advertising; these had the advantage of university recognition. And advertising too was undergoing major changes leading to specialisations in sub functions being sought by youngsters.
But the unique advantage of the AdClub’s PG Diploma in Advertising Management remains as being the only course created and run by and for the advertising industry. Even after 25 years, the selection procedure has not changed. Written test, where they essentially look for familiarity with English language and creative thinking ability. This is followed by personal interviews of shortlisted candidates.
Commenting on the major changes that happened in the advertising industry and equipping the students with the change, Ramaswamy says, “Quite a bit has changed in the industry and we have tried our best to modify the syllabus based on this. For example, media buying, and digital advertising were not there in the initial years.”
“We are taking steps to exploit this advantage in the silver jubilee year and offer a ‘new improved’ product. We are looking at short term specific function courses in addition to this PGDAM course,” concludes Ramaswamy.
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