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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A New Thought for School; a New School of Thought?

A New Thought for School; a New School of Thought?

In a world that demands continuous re imagination for a creative and self reliant age, here could be a clarion call to transform the present day school system. The rant(brilliantly put out by the mercurial Tom Peters) goes thus:-

From Teach-to-Test TO Teach to Quest

From Developing Facts TO Developing Talent

From SAT Prep(Think ‘multiple choice’) TO WOW Project(Think ‘individual choice’)

From Fetishing Generic ‘ standards ‘ TO Honoring Individual Creativity

From Quiet classrooms TO Noisy classrooms

From School as Factory with focus on ‘units ‘ TO School as Studio with focus on Uniqueness

From turning out Docile workers TO Building up Creative ‘ talent ‘

From Obedience as key virtue TO Initiative as key virtue

From Teaching to a Standard ‘norm'(Lowest Common Denominator) TO Teaching to a Standard of ‘excellence'(Highest Possible Achievement)

From a Focus on Similarities TO Focus on Differences

From Testing for ‘Intelligence'(singular) TO Teaching for ‘Intelligences'(multiple)- Mr Howard Gardner, there you have your say!

From Math & English domination TO Art and Music thriving

ENDS

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Our core shouldn’t be about being mediocre!

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left,  and could say, “I used everything you gave me.”
Erma Louise Bombeck

Todd Henry’s brilliant book ‘ Die Empty ‘ is a wake up call surely. A guide to reclaiming your passion, finding your voice and unleashing your brilliance every day. We always seem to find solace in the fact there will always be tomorrow. But sooner or later all of our tomorrows will run out. That is time which is limited inventory. Each day that you postpone the hard work and succumb to the clutter that chokes creativity, discipline, and innovation will result in a net deficit to the world, to your company, and equally importantly to yourself. Ready to introspect?

I understand average might be both the old and new normal but a honest hand over your heart would have you admit that you were not meant to be average, nor am I. Average might be normal – I get that. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s not for me and it shouldn’t certainly be for you!

When you day dream, do you see yourself as the average Jane or average Joe or as being grander than life? I suspect the latter. Way to go! Being mediocre maybe a safe place at first and you are in this trap of thinking that things can’t get any worse. But, we have to know that the flip side is that things won’t get any better either.

“Most humans, in varying degrees, are already dead. In one way or another they have lost their dreams, their ambitions, their desire for a better life. They have surrendered their fight for self-esteem and they have compromised their great potential. They have settled for a life of mediocrity, days of despair and nights of tears. They are no more than living deaths confined to cemeteries of their choice. Yet they need not remain in that state. They can be resurrected from their sorry condition. They can each perform the greatest miracle in the world. They can each come back from the dead…”
― Og MandinoThe Greatest Miracle in World

It’s time to start an intelligent and provocative conversation with yourself. Be content in being discontent. Set yourself lofty goals without letting them intimidate you or scare you away. The very nature of our brain is such that it cleaves to the familiar. But the brain also remembers what it least expects. So, deliver the unexpected. Let familiarity breed contempt.

When the preferable is not available, the available becomes preferable. Beware of that. And all of it’s always been done that way syndrome.

So what does this mean for creative and marketing professionals. We understand that top lines and bottom lines are necessary compulsions in our corporate life. Stakeholder greed is de rigueur. Marketers will understand that the absolute worst place for a brand is to be “middle of the road, in no man’s land.” Average, adequate, middling are all meaningless. If you are in marketing and find yourself even remotely close to any of these trio, get away, fast. There is far more life beyond ” 25 to 70% off ‘ that you have been running as campaigns religiously for over the last 7 years. You are far better than that. Stop belittling your talent and capability. Especially with all the resources(financial & human) and standing that you have in the market as a brand. And above all, your individual ability, that is far far above the mediocre.

Time to raise the bar.

ENDS

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