Is true talent shying away from advertising?

It’s episode one of the cult classic Mad Men series and ad-man Don Draper in the climax reveals the campaign idea for Lucky Strike cigarettes ” It’s toasted “. A scene that captured attention and sparked the show’s runaway success. It’s toasted was also a real tagline for Lucky Strike cigarettes, adopted by the brand way back in 1917.

Those were the heady days of advertising– an eclectic mix of craziness, Machiavellian egos, cult personalities, big ideas, mind numbing creative campaigns, wild parties, rock and roll, high profit margins(15% commission days)….it goes on. Little wonder it was the industry that a lot of talent aspired to get into. Made for good conversation piece.

The times they have a changed. Advertising as an industry is no longer the flavour of the season when it comes to attracting top talent. This inspite of being a 560Billion US$ industry worldwide in 2019 and growing over 4% compared to the previous year with N America and Asia Pacific reflecting the maximum growth.

What could have happened especially over the last decade and a half? Let’s examine a few factors:

  • the risk appetite for taking up and executing ‘ big ideas ‘ within the agency set up seems to be on the wane. The increasing role of the CFO in marketing and advertising decisions and thereby ROI first always could be a strong influencing factor..
  • the big shift has happened from ‘ gut instinct ‘ to ‘ data precinct ‘ when it comes to execution of campaigns. Freewheeling thinking seem to have taken a backseat
  • young talent do not get a ‘ sense of self ‘- seniority still upends merit when it comes to prized, exciting projects- if you don’t want us, we don’t want you seems to be the thinking
  • with profit margins in the advertising industry shrinking, remuneration and salaries have taken a beating. Talent is seeking alternate, better paying professions
  • the average tenure of the CMO & Brand Manager has come down drastically. Why stick your neck out when going through the motions will do nicely. The Domino effect is reflected in the freedom(or the lack of it) given to the agency- legacy thinking dominates, not exactly a motivation for talent craving to find their own expression
  • start ups with sizeable venture capital funding have mushroomed all over. They are dabbling in hitherto unexplored territories and using cutting edge technology to harness market potential and become game changers. The natural tendency for talent is to move to areas that are changing, future ready and dynamic
  • alternate,fast growing and better paying professions like entertainment, stand up, v logging, blogging, music etc seems to have taken the sheen away from advertising for the wannabes
  • Digital proliferation and the quest for entrepreneurship are driving many to find their feet and make their own dents in the universe
  • The Big 5 of Consulting are not thinking like the Big 6 of Advertising while clearly trespassing into the domain. New entrants are bringing in new thinking, new possibilities- talent will have to realign

Clearly the advertising industry of the future(if it remains to be called that) and the talent that moves there will certainly not be a thing of the past. When change is the only constant, an industry remaining constant without change is not an attraction. As an US$560billion industry, it has enough muscle to bounce back(as long it does not rely on muscle memory). All the die harders(Bruce included) are willing and waiting!

ENDS

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Decibel V/S Gospel

We have all done our bit of time management drills. Segregate the routine from the urgent from the important. What is urgent need not be important and even the other way around.

Distill the wheat from the chaff. The signal from the noise. Indulge in ‘ Essentialism ‘- separate the trivial many from the vital few.

Hearing and listening are not synonymous.

Given the surfeit of digital and social media options today, the noises that you hear can be overwhelming. It’s easy for anyone to be loud and consistently at that. The Big Bold all uppercase attention seeking subject line for example. Falling innocent prey to these high decibel badgering is a strong possibility.

What would be vital to understand is who are these loudest noise makers to whom you are lending your ears to ? And are you overlooking the more important constituents in your customer universe as you do that? Well worth an introspection.

The once in a blue moon random customer with Cartier expectations and Naif Road budgets might be the noisiest for sure but do not confuse them with the silent, committed, long term customer who delivers you over 90% of your business.

It’s not about the Paleto Principle. Neither is it about profitability and revenues but identifying, respecting and understanding whom we have set out to serve. And serving them the way they ought to be.

A loud noise will not be important and an important voice need not be loud. If they are well heard, they can be well healed. And leave you well heeled! And then it’s business as usual.

Distinguish the decibel from the gospel. Then all would be well.

ENDS

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