Thursday, April 07, 2011

Too Much, Too Soon for New-age AD Kids?

Why Are today’s Youngistan in Adville Losing the Wow Factor? 4PS B&M‘s Monojit Lahiri Investigates

It’s always been there, but in recent times the whisper seems to have amplified into a veritable roar with guys who are recruiting or looking for talent. The problem, they say, is two-fold. One, chronic shortage of appropriate talent in a booming business scenario – with more seats than right bums, available – has forced them to kick ‘existing talent upstairs’, irrespective of maturity or experience, with out-of-whack remuneration packages; and then pray like hell that miracles (read: grinning, satisfied clients!) happen. Two, frequently sit back and helplessly watch some of the really gifted kids enjoying hyper-designations at hyper-speed have a blast... and then job-hop! So, whatever happened to good ol’ loyalty, dedication, experience and maturity and the Guru-Shishya thingamajig?

Subhash Kamat, head honcho, BBH, is first off the block & cuts to the chase in a flash. He believes the trend has largely to do with policies relating to recruitment, training and retaining talent with the appropriate appreciation-reward factor. “As economies head north, it is critical for industries to scale-up & keep pace with this growth in terms of vision and values. This has not happened with our Adbiz. Recruitment & Training – at most agencies – continue to be given short shrift, a cosmetic, line-job thing, dumped the moment there are budget constraints. Same with rewards. Mentoring too seems to have taken a hit. How many Piyush Pandeys do we have as inspirational leaders?” Kamat tells 4Ps B&M. He adds to this the prevailing disease (impatience) of today’s generation & their mad hurry to step-on-the-gas & move to the next stop – account, task, career, whatever! “Tough to fight that, my friend,” ruminates Kamat.

The National Creative Director (NCD) of Bates 141 appears to be more circumspect. Sagar Mahabaleshwar reckons that that was then, this is now, and since change is the only thing that is constant, this churn is inevitable. “Not only in Adland, the world is changing rapidly across the board and so adaptability with speed and quality is the ruling mantra. In this scenario, unfortunately, traits like loyalty, solidity and steadfastness – admirable traits as they are, revered and cherished back then – have taken a hit. That’s where the youth score. No wonder there are tonnes of under 35 guys and gals rocking big designations with confidence and effectiveness,” Mahabaleshwar tells 4Ps B&M. However, he concedes that the exact opposite also happens and magnanimously takes a part of the blame. “We were lucky in getting someone like Piyush to mentor us, as friend, philosopher and guide. Have we been able to provide that kind of personalised leadership to our kids? I guess it cuts both ways,” adds Mahabaleshwar.

Ogilvy’s hot-shot creative ‘dude’ Sumanto Chattopadhyay is up next and brings his own special spin. “Right at the outset I have to say that we in Ogilvy have been extremely lucky in this area. The reason is that, unlike most other agencies, we have a definite process and our Creative Directors (CDs) are trained, ready and in-the-groove professionals, fully aware of the implication of what a CD stands for in a holistic way, when they hit that slot,” says Chattopadhyay. In fact, his observation is that in many agencies, talented creative kids who, however, still have to gain maturity and are at least “four levels away from the designation are scooped up and made CDs, which would never happen here. The result is that the “too much, too soon” factor kicks off, big time. A CD is not just about doing great creative work. It has a much larger canvas and has to deal with motivation and leadership as also managing clients, colleagues, bosses, juniors and of course creativity that entertains and empowers. I think, as our record shows, we have been able to hold up this model pretty decently. No major hiccups – ever!”

What better way to wrap up this debate than invite the brilliant creator of the ‘Youngistan’ campaign, Soumitra Karnik, to share his perspective on this issue. Passionate and articulate, JWT (North) ECD shoots from the hip, fast n’ furious: “I started out two decades ago and really went through the grind – and I thank god for that! Today what is happening is bizarre! On the one hand, while the agencies are doing exceedingly well, they have become very stingy with money and are hiring hordes of people to serve as foot-soldiers to do the client’s work. Quantity is clearly over-powering quality and the effect is bound to show, at some point. On the other hand (mostly in urban centres) the kids come from well-to-do families, so money is not an issue; ‘Designations’ are and they consider it the real sexy tags and that’s what they get freely and delight in showing-off! Their work style is crazy too. They roll in at around 11 a.m., do the Facebook stuff most of the time, rustle up some headlines and ads before planning their evening programme – what do you expect? Sure, many of them are very bright, but the focus, dedication, commitment and desire to persevere and learn the craft, seems to be mostly missing. It’s a shame, because many of them are very brilliant and definitely have it in them to make a solid contribution, but too much attitude and too little seriousness of purpose appears to be the problem. Could be because of the promiscuous times we live in, or an embarrassment of riches in terms of alternative career avenues… whatever… but the loss is as much theirs as ours.”

So, at the end of the day, is youngistan – from whom “wows” were expected – eyeing dil maange more territory? Do they find advertising frivolous and engaging only as a time-pass activity to move on to something more substantial? Guess what, we never asked them!


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