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Ask the Doctor

13-March-2018
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Ask the Doctor

Dear Sir,
Every year, our agency sends out delegates to the Cannes Festival. In some years, as many as seven to eight creative people are selected and sent. There are no well laid-out norms on the selection and the management hands out these trips based on an informal system to encourage both performance and loyalty. This system over the years has however started to become one that is run more on favouritism than anything else. I have been with the agency for nine years now and I am a regular winner at various award shows. But every year, my name is missing from the Cannes delegates list. I have never protested but I get very agitated in private. Should I have a chat with my boss or will it be misunderstood and misinterpreted?

I really want to go this year. Help me make it happen.
Sandhya P.


Dear Sandhya,
Attending the Cannes Festival has always been a bone of contention amongst creative people. When I used to be in advertising and the President of one of the larger agencies, I got our creative chiefs and our HR guys to put in written guidelines on how the selection of delegates would be made. Initially, it was proposed to hold an annual contest internally wherein the winners would go to Cannes. That solved the problem for the younger creatives to be selected. But how to decide on how many or how few of the senior creative guys get to go and from which branch? Also if you had gone one year, were you to be automatically disqualified to go the next year? So, we introduced a rotation policy for the senior creative guys. There was a lot of heartburn because some of them had become habituated to going every year and thought it was a matter of right for them. Meanwhile, the annual creative contest for the junior guys started to have its own problems by year two and three with a lot of allegations of favouritism and nepotism! All of this that I am narrating to you goes back nearly 20 years. So nothing much has changed, my friend.

In your case, a good frank chat with your boss and perhaps your boss's boss may help. I do not know if HR is involved or you have a training manager. If so, do meet the relevant decision maker. Before having these chats, rehearse what you will say. Make out a good case for yourself. List out all the awards you have won in recent years. Make out a list of all who have attended and perhaps their list of achievements. Know how to compare and contrast. Do not get into comparisons though, but keep the lists handy. At the beginning of your discussions just focus on your seniority of nine years in the agency and that injustice has been done to you as those with lesser innings at the agency have been preferred for the Cannes trips over you. Try to keep the discussion more emotional than rational to start with. It should work. You may not need the list of awards or other Cannes beneficiaries if you handle the meetings well. Suffice it to say others have gone, you have been missed. It is a common problem your seniors must be dealing with reasonably often and a bit of sob-sob should solve the problem.

If these meetings do not work, then maybe your personal assumptions on being one of the better creative people around may not be true. Unlike 20 years ago, going to Cannes is important in an agency but not as scarce a reward as it once was. If there is resistance or refusal, then perhaps your self-assessment of your achievements within the agency and your standing as a creative person vis-à-vis your peer group, needs re-visiting.

Best of luck!

Dear Sir,

Our agency lost a big mandate earlier this year. It was a really big business. As a result, almost everyone working on the business was asked to leave. I was one of the lucky few to remain, though the agency itself had very little work left. The account we were all working on moved to another PR firm. Last week a senior partner from the new incumbent agency asked me to join them. But they are offering me a package far lesser than my current job. I would have straight away said no but my current agency looks like it is going to shut down operations soon as we really have no serious business left and I doubt whether they will have the capacity or willingness to pay me over time. There are not too many good options in PR in any case as most PR agencies are small and have a limited base of clients.

Do help me decide whether to move to a lesser paying job with more stability or to risk it at my current assignment and hope things will get better here.

Anup P.


Dear Anup,

This is not an easy decision.

Stability in a job is very important. Hence, moving to the new company may help. But a lower pay package is certainly a downer. I understand that well and sympathise with that. But the agency that has made you the new job offer knows the situation prevailing in the industry well. They are fully aware that their winning this large mandate has given them an indomitable position in the industry and they are today not only the largest employer, but the most sought-after one. So currently they hold all the cards. It is an unequal negotiation but then that is the reality. Try going back and pushing for a better package. One more round of meeting and negotiating may just get you some more monies. After all, the reason they themselves have reached out to you is that most likely, your name must have been either recommended by the client or must have been proposed by some former colleagues who may have joined them and felt you would add value to the team. Leverage that advantage, though it is a slim one.

Staying back with your current agency, especially if it does not look like they will be winning any large new mandates is really not recommended. With most of the earlier team having been fired, your current agency does not look in any shape to pursue any new wins. Sooner, rather than later, you could be looking for a job. Options like the current offer too may not exist then.

I recommend you take the new offer. Bide your time. Do a good job. Monies will come.

Good luck!
(Address your questions at ASK THE DOCTOR to interact@exchange4media.com or to sandeep@goyalmail.com)

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