Bad-Old Boss Joins Your New Office? Commute To Office Stressing You? Ask The Doctor!

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e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: May 29, 2018 8:53 AM

Q. While working on a client project, I figured that what the client is wanting to get us to do in advertising is actually an over claim. The claims we are being asked to make in the advertising are far from the truth. I am far too junior in the agency hierarchy to challenge the client though I did warn the person I deal with that we could get into trouble. But I was ignored and the higher-ups in my own agency have chosen not to confront the client or ask for clarifications. What do I do? Just keep my eyes and ears shut? Write an internal memo to my boss? Write to the client?
Priya J.

Dear Priya,

I understand your concerns. I do not want to condone either the behavior of your client or your superiors. But I want you to sit down and introspect on whether you are actually reacting to a real issue or are you overreacting to a client brief. Is there an intention, a real intention, to cheat? Deceive? To mislead? Or is the client trying to turn and twist facts, squeeze out some very minor data advantage or feature or functionality, to somehow create a product differentiation and therefore claim product superiority?

Having been in advertising for well over 30 years, I have seen hundreds of situations such as this. The concept of ‘unique selling proposition’ (USP) is long dead. With over a dozen brands crowding every category, there is very little to differentiate between brands and almost none has a competitive advantage to communicate. Given that scenario, brands have no choice but to rely on either me-too claims or sometimes resort to a little deception. It happens in advertising every day. I am no one to get into the ethicality of it but most clients will take a chance on the tiniest advantage that they can claim and then tom-tom. Most such cases end up with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), dragged there by competitors. Most such advertising gets pulled up, sometimes withdrawn. Clients are fully aware of the trajectory of such claims in the market and 99 per cent of them will still choose to follow that path. They will run the campaign for whatever time they can till it is asked to be taken off-air. But in that short run of the campaign they will try to achieve some advantage over competitors in the market place. By the way this is true of even big clients like HUL or P&G or Colgate who are under ASCI purview all the time in a constant game of claims, counter-claims and over-claims. Even Airtel and Jio are contesting each other these days, in fact in court. This is part of everyday work.

At the ad agency, working on client briefs requires a mature out-look and understanding. You are neither required to stand in judgment on client ethics, nor is it your job to be complicit in cheating the customer. Client briefs have to be taken at face value and the job of the agency is to deliver communication to those briefs. Unless there is a serious case of defrauding the customer, some amount of hype and puffery are part of the game, and do not merit extreme reactions.

I suggest you take it easy for a while. Watch how it all proceeds. It will be a good learning for now and for later. You will surely emerge wiser and better informed, if nothing else.

Q. My ex-boss with whom I never got along in my previous agency, and left to join here, has come in as my new boss in my current job. I cannot believe my bad luck. He is of course behaving as if we are old friends and nothing ever happened between us. In fact in the six weeks he has been around, he has been awfully nice to me and has even taken me out for a drink twice. So far I have just played along. But from past experience I know that he is quite nasty and cunning. Most importantly he does not ever back you up in any client matter. Sooner or later he will be back to his good old self (or bad old self) and that is what I fear. Should I start looking for another job?
Swapan S.

Dear Swapan,

It’s alright, things happen. That is life. My only piece of advice to you is not to hold your past experience with the boss as a mirror to the future.

People change. They mature. They become nicer to work with sometimes. And I say that sincerely. I have seen that happen umpteen number of times. The boss you worked with earlier was younger, perhaps lacked maturity, perhaps lacked experience, and perhaps also lacked conviction. The passage of a few years could have added that maturity, that experience and that conviction. So do not pre-judge the guy. Give him a chance. He may actually have changed for the better. Since he is not referring to any negative experiences of the past, in fact making you out to be a good colleague from the past, there is no reason for you to try and change that script.

I think you need to put past prejudices to rest. Be natural. Be calm. Just flow with the tide. If any precipitate action is needed, wait for any negative signals before starting to react. Also, don’t go looking for negative signals. Proceed with the premise that this time around things will be better than before. And hopefully, they will be.

Q. My office used to be in South Bombay. Our agency has now shifted into the suburbs. This has suddenly added at least 60-90 minutes each way to my commute. Also the travel is very difficult. If I take the train, it is very crowded and uncomfortable. If I take my car, it is very tiring and also very expensive. I have been in this agency for 15 years now. I love the work. I love the environment. I have been well settled for a long time. But this change of office location is really wearing me down. There are others too in the office who are complaining but we all know that there is no alternative. Should I quit my job?
Donna W.

Dear Donna,

There is no easy answer to your situation. Offices do shift. It is part of life. Nothing any one of us can do about that. Check with your management if you can work flexi-hours. May be start early and finish early. That way you can beat the rush. Or work some days from home. Or see if you can use a chartered bus. Or join a car pool.

You seem well set in your job. It would be a pity to give it up because of the inconvenience of the new office location. As they say in India, ‘adjust please’.

Our columnist, Sandeep Goyal is an author, media entrepreneur, ad man, and the owner of Mogae Group. He has over 30 years experience in the advertising and media industry.

Address your questions at ASK THE DOCTOR to or to

The ‘Ask the Doctor’ column will be taking a break for some time and will be back again in a few months.

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