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Would you choose advertising as a profession?

Monday, 17 February 2014 - 2:25pm IST | Agency: dna

Behind the dazzling facade, there is some serious work to be done. Rachel Pilaka describes the less glamorous side of the lives of advertising professionals

Would you choose advertising as a profession?

Before you jump five feet in the air with a loud yes! and develop a muscle cramp in the process, let me ask you to relax. This profession has attracted millions of young people over the years, of which at least a quarter are at this moment cursing the day they chose advertising as a career.

Many overenthusiastic youngsters I know are attracted to advertising because it comes garbed in a wonderful disguise. Most of our choices – the gadgets we yearn for, the cars we aspire to own, the androids we desire, the trendy clothes we wish to wear, or even that imported can of beer we delight in drinking – are largely influenced by the super-glam world of advertising.

The make is not always the sell.

This lucrative business of advertising, however, is much more than the glamour it spells and the fame it promises. An advertising job brings with it a lot of struggle, and in the battle of creativity versus effectiveness only the fittest and the shrewdest survive. 

When you think of advertising, you picture a bunch of superfluous creative people brainstorming (the process of “cracking an award-winning idea”) over several coffee/chai mugs and under a fog of cigarette smoke. There are notepads filled with doodles and persuasive voices trying to make themselves heard amidst the blaring music playing in the background. The truth, however, behind these passionate and fervent advertising professionals is uglier than you could imagine. It’s a truth that squeezes the entertainment out of the industry. 

The late nights are not always fun. The creativity in most cases is reserved for award entries because the clients have their own parameters of creativity, and in most cases prefer template-ised “effective” ads. And the profession, at least for the first 10 years, certainly can’t buy you a fancy home or a glamorous car. 

The advertising tree house
Despite being aware of these drawbacks, if you can still re-imagine a TV commercial running in your head or think a newspaper advertisement could have been less cluttered, then you most definitely belong in advertising. It’s important, however, to know what department of advertising is best suited to hone your talents. Let’s take a stroll and see if and which part of advertising you belong in.

The “Word Doc” copywriter
Typos in menus, lengthy headlines on hoardings, grammatical errors, careless attitude towards content, unnecessary jargon – do these annoy you? If yes, welcome to the copywriter’s world of advertising.

Copywriting does not merely involve penning down words or typing them (with reference to the holy “Microsoft Word”). It is actually an effective smart blend of ideas and words. In an ad agency, as a copywriter, you are required to crack the idea with the able support of your design partner.

So, if you can crack an idea as fast as you can make yourself a cup of coffee, and if you can concise the long-winding brief that comes from a client to just one line, then this is where you belong.

(Brief = A creative job brought to the table by client servicing, which may or may not have necessary insights in place)

The “doodle” design/art
If you doodle away to glory amid lectures; if you have the shortcut commands in Adobe Illustrator/Corel Draw/Adobe Photoshop at the tip of your fingers; if you truly dislike people fiddling with your PC; if you can spot minute details of design in a matter of seconds, then you most definitely belong to the art department.

The “haute” client servicing
Do you think you can entertain your clients by having long, pointless phone conversations that may or may not be related to their brand? Are you capable of convincing moody copywriters to write lines for a boring brochure by merely sweet-talking them and offering them a cheap cup of tea? Are you in possession of the first copies of best haute couture brands and a pair of killer (literally) hot stilettos (for the women) or sexy shirts (with cuff links), ties (with pins of course), belts, shoes, pens, diaries and card holders (for the men)? Do you have the inclination to spend time on make up at 8 am, a touch up at lunch and another before a cocktail session in the evening? Then, you’re welcome to the client-servicing department.

All of this is true, and not in an offensive way. A client servicing person is the link between the client and the creative (copy + art) department. It takes a balanced mix of communication skills, a pretty nasty insight into the client’s background, and decently attractive looks to keep the tantrum-throwing client satisfied. This job, mind you, is extremely strenuous and involves loads of patience, which isn’t particularly the forte of the creative department or the client.

Moving on to the final one on the list...

The “insightful” account planner
In your personal life, do you tackle problems with excessive reasoning? Did you take absolute pleasure in “research and analysis” in college? Do client presentation meetings give you an adrenaline rush? Have you internalized the words “qualitative”, “quantitative”, “market” and “competitor”?  Then, you should get into account planning.

An account planner is expected to address a client’s specific branding requirements and develop ideas and strategies to increase visibility and drive up sales. It’s not as simple as it sounds. It requires you to analyse in immense detail the socio-economics, demographics, psychographics of the target consumers and the market share of the client’s product. If this excites you rather than alienates you, then planning is where you belong.  

Also, media coordinators, researchers, production executives and other non-creatives are a part of this advertising gang too. These people don’t actually create ads but are equally crucial to an agency.

Can you survive the pressure?

Unreasonable deadlines, millions of iterations, consecutive late-night shifts, caffeine addiction, acidity, stinkers (negative mails), screaming sessions in the boss’s office, a dearth of social life, bad hair days and much more have caused people to change their careers. Advertising is no joke. Apart from the glam-sham and media hula hoop, serious work goes on the floor. 

On the bright side, the profession has also allowed hundreds of people to express themselves, to get rid of their mundane, enslaving 9 to 5 routines, and the opportunity to make millions smile, cry and dance.


A writer by profession and a copywriter by chance, Rachel Pilaka is a copywriter at Setu Advertising, and Content Lead at Underscore, a content development agency. She is in awe of the changing faces of the advertising world and is still experimenting with the medium. She tweets at @CuttingPilaka.

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