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Under pressure, ad land tightens its belt on hirings

23-August-2013
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Under pressure, ad land tightens its belt on hirings

The hiring sentiment in the broadcast and radio industry is subdued at the moment due to economic slowdown, regulatory changes and rupee depreciation. The print industry too is facing its own share of woes with the recent announcement by the Outlook Group to shut down local editions of international magazines ‘Geo’, ‘Marie Claire’ and ‘People’ as well as The Times of India discontinuing with its Crest publication – these developments mirror the state of affairs within the media industry.

Coming to the advertising industry, when we asked creative leaders about the hiring sentiments within the creative fraternity, what emerged is that hiring is tight and is being done out of necessity, and as in the case of other domains, optimisation of existing resources is at its peak.

There are now also higher chances of leadership positions being given to internal employees as opposed to an outside talent.

“Hiring is very tight, we are getting people on board only if it is absolutely necessary, till then we try to work with what we have. We are thinking not twice but thrice before making a hire, for new business wins we have enough fire power within the agency to handle them,” shared Arun Iyer, National Creative Director, Lowe Lintas and Partners.

Whilst hiring patterns and needs differ from agency to agency, a smaller and leaner agency like Taproot India hires on a need basis, primarily driven by new business wins.

For a bigger agency like Leo Burnett India, there has been a significant shift as well. “Earlier, I would hire good people as an investment for the future when I met them, today I don’t have that luxury. Hiring is done only out of sheer necessity,” said KV Sridhar, Chief Creative Officer, Leo Burnett India & Sub-Continent.

With clients cutting down their budgets, agencies are beginning to feel the heat in the midst of conversations around revisiting of ‘financials’ and delivering more within a lesser budget.

At the same time, creative agencies also have the sword of 10+2 ad cap hanging over their heads, with industry leaders predicting that the creative side too may come under pressure as advertisers may reduce ad duration, adding further pressure on agencies to be effective within limited resources.

Sagar Mahableshwarkar, Chief Creative Officer, Bates CHI & Partners remarked, “We operate in an already very tight mid-sized agency. We are very specific about the kind of talent we have. Our hiring is directly proportionate to the number of people who are leaving and that hasn’t changed drastically this year, it is the same as last year. It is also depends from business to business, sometimes we need local talent as per local business needs, there is now added emphasis on talent, expertise and skill-set.”

The ‘bench strength’ that larger and mid-sized agencies enjoyed earlier is no longer available. Agencies today need people who are just right for the job, and are extremely careful about attrition.

Emergence of leadership within agencies
Given this scenario, what also emerges is that there are now higher chances of senior leadership positions being handed to internal employees as opposed to an outside resource to keep cost of new hirings down.

“The existing practice of giving internal resources first preference for leadership has further increased as well. Internal elevations will happen sooner than planned in the current scenario,” felt Iyer.

“Unless a drastically different skill-set is needed, we give the existing employees an opportunity when a leadership position presents itself. They are part of the family and already entrenched in the agency culture,” said Mahableshwarkar.

Making the leadership cut
Sp, what goes into making the leadership cut? Over and above being someone who can handle a team, understand and interact with clients, and provide solutions, agency heads look for other qualities such as talent, ambition and passion as well.

“If you don’t have talent, nothing can happen. Having said that, there are so many talented people who have not made it, you must have passion and ambition to be a success. A leader must have a point of view on everything, a varied interest in life, ability to provide thought leadership; it is not about how many people are reporting to you, it doesn’t matter if you are alone, because you are leading a thought,” opined Sridhar.

In a business that is all about human insights, a child like curiosity, enthusiasm and passion is a definite advantage as well as infectious, which is passed on to the entire team.

Mahableshwarkar further said, “The ability of a leader to think of media neutral ideas is also an important aspect. Also, one needs to be resilient in this business as it is easy to get demoralised, and retain the curiosity of being hungry and curious.”

Whilst the creative fraternity is definitely feeling the heat when it comes to hiring, there is still place for great talent, as they say, ‘Advertising can never be a one man show, it is a team effort’. Till the situation improves, optimisation of existing resources and necessity based hiring would continue to dominate.

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