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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Generation Text!

I had enough (considerate) people taking me for a ride, and since change, as they say is the only constant, decided to take myself for a ride.I thought it would be appropriately urban of me to add to the ridership of the Metro.

The train was crowded but I was lucky to get a seat. It didn’t take me too long to realise that I was the only person in the compartment reading a book rather than starting at a device and a small screen- a striking singularity that should have provided enough material evidence about where I fit in demographically these days..but then, I have always tempted fate!

The teenager sitting opposite me was texting away furiously with blinding speed(now I know the typos and the passionate need for being grammatically incorrect).Probably he had a train to catch??

Autumn had made its seasonal fall but with an unusual warmth- so a lot of people in the compartment wore half sleeves- and it didn’t take too long for me to realise that most of them didn’t wear a wristwatch. In a digitell (or digital) era, I suppose, analogue watches and clocks are no longer part of the dialogue. So the next time you instruct your millennial kid ‘ turn it clockwise or anti clockwise ‘, you will know exactly why wiser counsel may have to prevail. So watch it!

As I disembarked on reaching downtown, what I was not up for was to think ‘ Are we riders of the lost arc? ‘ Time will tell..

ENDS

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Technology and Wisdom: In marketing, the twain can’t seem to meet!

Technology and Wisdom: In marketing, the twain can’t seem to meet!

To say that we are at the very forefront of cutting edge technology would be an understatement. Considering all the spectacular advances we see today in space travel, driverless cars, artificial intelligence, IOT, robotics, digital health, augmented reality, laser guided missiles etc, technology surely has motored along at more than a furious clip. Technology is ubiquitous, omni present, in the face and as they say, ‘ always on ‘.

Wisdom on the other hand is very much under the radar not because it cannot be droned up into the spotlight but there seems to be a tangible scarcity of it around. Most definitely in marketing.

In marketingtechnology and wisdom are at two opposite ends of the spectrum. And, unlike magnetic forces, these opposites don’t attract. On the contrary, they repel. Technology is always moving in linear progression. Wisdom, on the other hand, with all the associated ammunition of insights, experience, maturity, just does not. Cannot.

Not all technology is the domain of the young and not all wisdom comes with age. But, as a general rule, tech is the territory of youth, wisdom the territory of maturity. Though there is strong perception that technology equates wisdom, nothing that we see today in the world of marketing or advertising at least backs the argument even remotely. We are in an era of ‘ technology overload ‘ that causes ad frauds(US$16 Billion), intrusion of customer privacy, manipulation of public opinion, colossal wastage etc etc. And there is no wisdom in that.

We seem to have moved on from what the very wise advertising greats of the past including William Bernbach, Howard Gossage etc preached and practiced. With a great degree of success. Without any technology at their disposal.

Technology digs into collective bias. What is called for is a balance of technology with the scaffolding of wisdom, without which, sauce for the goose is not exactly sauce for the gander!

As T.S Eliot said ‘ Where is the wisdom we have lost in all the knowledge? Where is the knowledge that we have lost in all the information? And where is the life that we have lost in living? ”

ENDS

Image: ISD Global

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