Dear MxM by Jaisurya Das: Is there role for an anthropology student in advertising?

19 Jan,2017

By Jaisurya Das


‘I want to break free!’This highly charged number from Queen echoed in our ears during our college years. Today, it seems to have returned and caught the fancy of a lot of senior media professionals across the country.

From Arnab to Barkha and many more have moved on from their comfort zones to don new roles as entrepreneurs. This bug has caught on across markets and most people have hit the glass ceiling at their present companies and are faced with imminent stagnation.

Media houses aren’t complaining either as all they seek now is lower costs and a stable bottom line, both of which are exceedingly difficult in the current times of competitive media.

But is there room for more in our already crowded media market?

This will be interesting to watch. Only the discerning few who can create a wining brand will survive. Its important for them to work towards consistency in brand message and back it with an organisational culture that befits the brand they are portraying.

Often this is ignored and even brand messages are not consistent. Branding isn’t just about getting the right logo there. There is a lot more and your people, culture and work ethics is a very significant part of the brand message that goes to the audience.

I am appalled often at the sheer depth of nonsense that is put out by some of our media brands.. Each message different from the other and most often completely unnecessary information taking centrestage.

The audience of today is flirtatious but know their basics well and brands that do not have meat in their brand imagery, will fall flat on their faces. It’s already happening…


Ladies and Gentleman, time to take our reader questions for this week. Interesting ones, so do read on!


A friend found that she had to quit her contractual job because she was found to have contracted TB. It was low-grade and would have to just take a 45-day break, but surely organisations need to be more considerate when a person takes ill. She had to resign finally, but all of us friends – within the organisation and outside of it – are so very ragged with our bosses. Sir, what is your view?

Thanks for writing in to us. I understand how all of you fell about this but its also important to understand this from a company perspective. Contract staff are not entitled to long periods of leave and any exception would mean setting a precedent for all.

The 45-day rest that your friend requires warrants a long break from her official duties and the organisation would need to fill this up with some other resource. This in turn means an increased staff cost and with the business climate what it is now, a fairly significant dent.

I am sure she would find suitable employment elsewhere or possibly in the same organisation once she is fit to resume her duties. As of now, the focus should be in containing this infection and regaining her strength with complete rest and medication.


Sir, you wrote about major retrenchment in some newspaper organisations. I saw one of the announcements/ internal letters, and was dismayed to see that demonetisation is being attributed as the cause for this. Any business that is not able to withstand sudden extraneous changes shouldn’t be in business. Am I not right?


I completely agree with you on this. Any solid business is meant to withstand market forces to a great extent and using the demonetisation as an excuse is certainly not acceptable.

Yes, it has further lowered advertising spends but the downturn had started well before the demonetisation.

There are various reasons that can be attributed to lower revenues and cost-cutting implementation and the cash economy is certainly not solely responsible for such retrenchment.

Publishers are seeing no or negligent growth in most markets now with audiences clearly verging towards digital news and information. To add to this, they are saddled with huge teams, often loaded with complacency and dead wood.  Radio and Digital have taken away large categories of advertisers from most mainline newspapers including the likes of retail etc.

In my opinion, publishers are just sensing the heat now and mass retrenchment and salary cuts are imminent across significant markets over the next 12 months.


I have read that Arnab Goswami’s proposed channel – Republic – has attracted investors who are linked with some political formations. How can the channel be truly independent then…. as it claims to be?


As I have said in my recent columns, there is no such thing as independent when you have to have an organisation to back you. The moment there is business interest, you have investors, principal shareholders and other constituents that are people you have to carry along.

Your fiercely independent thinking and approach can be reflected in the brand but the company that owns the brand has to to toe the line, be it with shareholders, authorities or advertisers.

Independence is relative I guess when it comes to doing business and more so in developing economies like ours. Having said, this I take this opportunity to wish Arnab and the Republic all the very best ahead. He is a fine journalist albeit the intentionally irritating noise levels.


My cousin is doing his anthropology in a leading liberal arts course. Is there a future for him in advertising?

Ah, this is interesting indeed! It would be interesting to check as to how many anthropologists exist in advertising today.

Yes, logically he should find a place in advertising. All of us in media and advertising are self taught anthropologists after all.

You can/t succeed in an audience-led business if you don’t understand how human beings and societies work. But its not going to be easy for him to get past the human resource departments and their million young recruiters who don’t see beyond the cv…

If he/she is able to access an interesting top management resource, his qualification may just get him an interesting break. I do hope your cousin gets a break!

The industry needs fresh minds who come equipped with qualifications such. Anthropology, Neuromarketing, Behavioural economics etc. It’s time our industry starts looking at their crop of people differently.


On the promise of a break, it’s time I take mine… Have a lovely weekend my friends and take good care of yourselves. Till we meet next week, do keep writing in to us at Sayonara and God Bless!


Jaisurya Das, maverick and media evangelist, eats, sleeps and makes love to brands. His consulting interventions are aimed at making brands powerful and sustainable. He is also the Contributing Editor of MxM India and Co-Founder of For more on his work visit The views expressed in this column are his own.


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