Hard Knocks: Why does the ad world lose talent?

26 Sep,2011

During my interview with O&M’s chief Piyush Pandey for MxMIndia, he mentioned that the biggest challenge the industry faces today is one of hiring and retaining talented people. That some of the most interesting people don’t want in. His theory is that it has mainly to do with remuneration, and the problem of agencies not being able to pay people properly. Surely he’s right, he must know being an industry leader. But I think there’s more to it than money. Here are two other reasons why I believe the ad world does not attract as much talent as it should, and why many of its stars defect to other industries.


One, there is killer competition amongst ad agencies, and the pressure and anxiety to win and retain accounts is intense. Now while business rivalry is healthy, when it borders on desperation, something’s gotta give. So not only do clients suck the agencies dry, some also tend to treat agency personnel with disdain and disrespect. This leads to loss of morale within an ad agency office, and the inevitable happens. One is always looking around for better career options. We must remember not all ad agencies are led by heavyweights like Piyush and Balki. Who can stand up to an unreasonable client. For most agencies, putting up with all sorts of demands from clients becomes a way of life. There’s the sword of losing a client perpetually hanging on the head. And frankly, I really can’t see a way out of this mess. It was like this decades ago, and it’s pretty much the same now.


The other thing ad agencies have done is to give up the strategic planning function to the clients. Sure, large agencies have the so-called planning department, but these guys often do a cosmetic job for the brands. And are more like an extension of the market research agency. There was a time when client servicing people would offer major strategic insights. Now no one expects any from them. Either the creative directors figure out their own strategies, or the brand managers inflict one on the agency. It’s no longer cool being a suit in the agency business, it’s become more of a maintenance job. How can we then blame the officers for leaping over to brand management?


And that’s also the case with media specialists, post the disbanding. I wonder if there are any media planners left. I only hear of media buyers being in demand purely for their abilities to cut sweet deals with media owners.


It can’t be only about money. It never is.





PS: With Twitter on a roll, every Seeta, Geeta and Reeta thinks she can be a journalist. Guys and gals, while I appreciate your enthu, do give us journos some credit, we must be in possession of at least a few skills, if not many! Ghazal master Jagjit Singh (who’s very much alive at the time of writing this, and all the best to him) was declared dead by some over-excited tweeters. Clearly, the khujli to “break news” is not restricted to the media.

The lesson: Dear tweeters, leave news to us. And stick to sharing your lunch menu.

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One response to “Hard Knocks: Why does the ad world lose talent?”

  1. Vinay says:

    thank you. It was an excellent read.

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