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Client confidentiality goes for a toss as ad professionals hop from one job to another

23-March-2005
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Client confidentiality goes for a toss as ad professionals hop from one job to another

The advertising and media industry, with its long working hours, numerous teams, processes and tight deadlines, has undoubtedly one of the most stressful atmospheres among all industries. There is no doubt that these high levels of stress can adversely affect any employee, more so his personal life. Due to this problem either the employees leave this stress-filled atmosphere after a few years for better pastures or those whose stay back become so drained that their productivity declines.

This explains why advertising professionals hop from pillar to post in search of better prospects. While one problem is of sustaining and developing talent, the other aspect of it is client confidentiality. While brands go paranoid about revealing their ad spends and devise all their energy towards preserving watertight compartments, there is the one employee layer that behaves like the chequered men in a black and white pawn game. What more, they carry all the watertight information with them, in not so watertight compartments. Doesn't the whole concept of client confidentiality go for a toss then?

Said Vikram Sakhuja, Managing Director, Mindshare Fulcrum South Asia, "To build loyalty, an organisation has to live out an employment contract as well as a psychological contract with its employees. While the employment contract deals with nature of the job, pay and career progression; the psychological contract deals with motivating, mentoring and investing in the development of our people. The unfortunate part is that despite being a peoples' industry we are not doing a very good job of fulfilling both elements of the contract. Our working style is highly chaotic, partly due to shifts at the marketers end. In fact, I would go on to say that marketing as an industry operates very chaotically. Plans and executions are changed all the time. The media folk face the brunt of previous inefficiencies. There is a disregard towards following system protocols and data mining and analysis remains highly labour intensive. Net impact is a lot of late last minute working which takes the joy out of creating and achieving great things for brands."

How is Mindshare seeking to better the situation? Sakhuja said, "We have our people sign off on client confidentiality agreements for a certain period post their leaving. However, I admit that it is not easy to administer. We have put in a huge investment in back office system infrastructure that will ease the grunt work in a big way. In addition, there is an integrated HR strategy wherein appraisals, rewards, development plan, goal setting and career management are all dovetailed into one another."

Ali Merchant, Head, Triton Communications, said that there is indeed a problem of retaining talent within the advertising Industry. He said, "It is imperative that the advertising industry develops good enough HRD policies to make the life of the employee more comfortable not only in the office but also at home. But sadly, HRD practices in many advertising agencies are primitive in comparison to HRD practices in other service industries like software and financial services. In the 70's and the 80's, advertising was at its peak. The five-star lifestyles, the proverbial poodle and huge pay packets were all there for the taking. But now when the revenues for the advertising industry are taking a dip, and things are not quite like the yesteryears, the professionals employed still continue to expect that kind of remuneration. And when they don't get it, they move out in search of something better."

Piyush Pandey, Chairman, O&M, believed that at the employee churn-out is still not commensurate to the rate at which brands swap agencies. Pandey said, "What client confidentiality are we talking about? Brands swap agencies so often that it's difficult to keep tabs on which account disappeared where and at what point of time. But yes, the advertising industry has been slowly but steadily losing good talent. Adding to the problem is the fact that the industry has not been able to replace the good talent with equally good talent. The time has come for the advertising industry to realise that it has no alternative but to take immediate steps to make the industry attractive to good talent. How do you make people stick on to your organisation, that's a question which most ad agencies are still deciphering."

The advertising guy is no longer the carefree yuppie that he used to be. Flashback and you arrive in the good old days, when everybody left the office at 5.30 pm and advertising professionals were blessed with five-star salaries and the proverbial poodle. Today, life is slightly more difficult for anyone who's ever walked through the glass doors of an advertising agency. What 's really there, is long working hours, tired employees, tight deadlines and clients who expect to unleash creativity like ketchup from a bottle.

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