Thursday, November 22, 2007

“Why does Recruitment advertising suck?”

4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri wonders why this “genre” regularly produces ad’s that stink!

Advertising has been defined by the big daddies’ as salesmanship in print & the only business solely engaged in the business of ideas. New-age hi-flyers have added their numbers by labeling it (stylishly) as the persuasion industry and (cynically) as a conniving smooth, hydra-headed seductress obsessed in the manufacture of needs & creation of wants – mostly of an unnecessary nature! While a zillion other definitions can scream into focus, there is one simple definition agreed upon: Advertising is essentially about ideas, products or services to a pre-determined target base to attract/garner, a required, pre-determined result.

While huge strides have taken place in the creation, crafting and delivery modes straddling various categories & segments, why is it that similar progress has nowhere near touched the terrain of recruitment advertising? Why are most ads so achingly dull, boring and one-dimensional without the faintest trace of energy, excitement or engagement? Are they perceived as a get-it-over-and-done-with exercise, a mandatory statuary need-based function that does not need any imagination or creativity? Why does one get the feeling that most of these listless ads are done with clenched fists & gritted teeth by their creators who believe it’s “crap” that they are doing, away from the exciting, award-winning world of FMCGs?

Grey’s brand new NCD, Priti Nair, blasts off in style. “Time was when kids fresh into the copy arena, used to celebrate when they got a recruitment ad! They believed it represented a huge creative opportunity & pulled out the stops to make it rock. Why? Because, they feared, it could well be the only chance they got to showcase their potential as imaginative animals. In those days you really had to prove your worth & earn your spurs to catch the Creative Director’s eye…nothing came easy.” Today, Nair laments, times have changed. Everything is “democratised & everyone gets a chance to do everything.” There is no pecking order or heirachy any more. The result is the value & worth of opportunities is slowly disappearing; learning is no longer a big deal & now with technology, anyone can produce a decent ad quickly. The ideation process has really taken a big hit! “I also blame clients for the lack of importance they attach to this category of communication. Right from the brief downwards; the process is most shabby and un-focused. No wonder most ads look like cheap pamphlets distributed outside railway stations!”
Equs Red Cell’s Swapan Seth offers his own take. “In the entire scam scenario, recruitment advertising is a low-hanging fruit. How often can you get away with a smart visual & logo? Besides this category requires listing of jobs which is generally perceived as a data-processors job.” Seth believes that despite all the road blocks, recruitment advertising can be interesting & cites the example of the legendary Neil French’s stuff for the Ball partnership. “We did some good stuff for Equs Red Cell a few years ago too. They can be interesting provided one is interested & has interest in them.”

Mumbai’s creative queen Elsie Nanji is totally bewildered by the complete lack of freshness (dull as hell) in this segment. She confesses that she’s always loved doing recruitment ads & remembers the first one she did for Lakme over two decades ago. “They were swamped with applications, tore their hair while trying to deal with it & immediately signed us – a small fledging agency in those days – as one of their agencies. Soon we became their only agency & the relationship endures, strong as ever, even today. Same with another client, Water Kingdom, looking for life guards. We received heaps of awards, at home & abroad.” Nanji genuinely believes that companies are letting go of a great opportunity to “romance the brand” in a simple yet profound manner.

Sumanto Chattopadhya, O&M’s ECD (South Asia) with his rock-star looks concludes the debate in his own special way. He believes that when demand is greater than supply, all an ad needs to do is announce availability of whatever is being advertised. “No matter how tackily this is done, it will find target. So it is with jobs. People are so desperate to find them, they will devour them, no matter how badly they are done. Further the fact that there are dedicated recruitment pages & supplements completely decimates the initiative of imaginatively, interestingly crafting these ads. Pity, because these are ads that offer astonishing creative opportunities to go out-of-the-box & fly… Mohammed Khan’s 10th anniversary ad for Enterprise remains a masterpiece in this genre. It’s so sad that it’s an ‘endangered species’ today…”

At the end of the day, admittedly, there is no ideal recruitment ad, but it is astonishing that even top class advertising agencies – who fancy themselves to be professional custodians of the art of branding and masters of creativity that works in the market place – remain totally oblivious to the simple fact that this genre can offer huge brand equity to the product (organisation).

After all one is selling the companies corporate image to prospects with the sole intention of attracting the best talents. Doesn’t creativity and imagination – like in other categories – have a part to play? It must be remembered that in today’s image conscious world, vision, mission, strengths, achievements, environment and most importantly what it has to offer in terms of growth and development, is the key. A strategic fusion of how an exciting ad today can take the prospect to a rewarding tomorrow is what good recruitment advertising is all about. Finally, recruitment advertising should be understated (no tom-tomming & boasting, please!), warm and projecting a people friendly space allowing the respondent to feel good about the place… even before being a part of it! Ready for a change?