Over the last several years of teaching hundreds of management students, I have heard one common statement from students. “I love advertising, but I am not sure if I will be successful in it because I am not creative.” Do you think on those lines? Does advertising as a career interest you? What options are there in advertising? What are the career prospects? And who should come into advertising? Let me try to address some of these questions in this column. So hang in there.
Those were the days
Way back in the Eighties, I came into advertising from IIM (Bangalore) like several others of my time. Do the names Sam Balsara, Madhukar Dev, Santosh Desai, Ambi Parameswaran and Arvind Sharma mean anything to you?
Well they should if you want to get into advertising, because these are the doyens of the advertising industry who hold office in some of the largest advertising agencies and branding companies in India and lead the destiny of thousands. Why did we come into advertising after an MBA? We all came into advertising because the industry fascinated us. We were turned on by the creative ads we saw. All of us came from the major management institutes in the country like Jamnalal Bajaj, XLRI or IIM. Today, I can say with certainty that no one from a top flight management institute will come to advertising and the industry is poorer for it. A person from the lesser known management schools is all the industry can afford today it seems which is certainly hurting the industry.
But why advertising?
MBAs are unlikely to be the creators of advertising but they can certainly manage the advertising for brands and the relationships which come with it. Today after over three decades, I realise why I love this profession. In so many years I have done campaigns for motorcycles, tyres, shampoos, apparel, corporations, whiskey, beer and God knows how many more categories. And that is the greatest challenge of advertising. Every day you learn and unlearn about a new product, their competitors and keep researching different consumers — a housewife one day to someone buying health insurance the next. To sum it up there is never a dull moment in advertising. So do you want different things and never be bored at work, advertising is the business for you.
But advertising does not pay well does it?
You are absolutely right. Advertising despite all its glamour has not kept pace with the others. Today, sectors like ecommerce, banking, software, financial services and several others pay more than advertising which means that most MBAs tend to look elsewhere and who is to blame them? While the salary in advertising in those days was certainly not as low as it is now comparatively, I must say in the same breath that the growth prospects are much better. One’s career growth path also can be much quicker.
And a thought for the advertising barons of today; you too need to remember that if you pay peanuts as you are currently doing, you will end up only with monkeys. And though it will upset the people in the industry I must tell you that the quality of people overall in advertising is pretty sad. So if you are good, you will end up way ahead of the competition and that is certainly one of the reasons why you should look at advertising as a career.
But I am not creative
Yes let’s take the bull by the horns. What is being creative? It probably means you write poetry, write skits, paint or compose music. I can do none of these things but I owe what little success in life I have achieved to advertising. And why is that? That’s simply because more than being creative, what is required is an understanding of what will work and what won’t. We need an appreciation of creative and the process rather than merely being creative; remember MBAs don’t write the ads. They are catalysts to the creative process working with the creative people and the clients; they can decide the strategy of brands and the tone of voice of the brands that they handle.
And, finally, I remember what Bob Dylan said “If you get up in the morning and go to sleep at night and in between do what you like consider yourself a successful man.”
And believe me you, I am a successful man because over the last decades I have enjoyed every moment of my working life. So here is my invitation to you. Welcome to the madhouse! You won’t regret it!
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