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Why Advertising?

Rashmi Bansal tells you what to expect, if you join the industry.

Advertising is all around us. And it’s a career option that fascinates many, and for diverse reasons.

The most common one being, I’m the kind who is ‘full of ideas’ and every time I switch on the telly I feel, “Hey, I can make better ads than that!”

Well, that’s not a bad reason. To take up a career out of fascination for a subject is always a good thing. But, the thing is, advertising is not about unfettered creativity. It’s about creativity within a context.

Secondly, creativity is just one aspect of advertising. There’s a lot of thought and planning which goes behind an ad campaign, a slogan, a film. Some of it is necessary – ‘coz there are principles of marketing and branding one must pay heed to. But a lot of it is bullshit.

And many a great idea, or path breaking campaign is suffocated in endless, senseless meetings. By spineless clients, superiors and inferiors.

The bottom line is advertising, like any other profession, is hard, hard work. Yes, it offers more avenues for creativity than other professions. If you have the discipline, the temperament and a stick-with-it attitude.

One of the difficult things about joining advertising, is the entry point. Unlike other industries, advertising has not done much to attract and to nurture talent.

The Art side has a slightly better defined path. You graduate from a reputed commercial art school and you have a small chance of directly joining a large agency. Art directors visit the annual exhibitions at select colleges and offer jobs to the winners and a few others who catch their eye.

The rest must take their portfolio around and generally start at a small agency. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as you get to work on bigger things in a smaller place. That is, you may actually work on campaigns while in a large agency you may spend the entire first year working only on brochures. Of course, the chance to learn by observing your seniors are better in a larger place.

In either case, a lot depends on you. And on your luck in terms of getting a good boss. The system, as such, is not geared towards training and upgrading you. You have to shape a career for yourself.

As far as the Copy side is concerned, well here, it’s confused and disorganised. Although ‘copy’ is an outdated term since much of today’s advertising is film-based, most agencies still stick to the ‘Copy Test’ method.

There are no courses which you can do which will get you a job. And no common entry exam. You must flit from agency to agency, filling out a ‘copy test’. If your ideas/style appeal to a particular creative director, you get an entry level job.

This job pays very little for say, a year. If you can survive that period, and show some signs of talent, your growth is pretty good after that.

The other entry route into advertising is into Client servicing or Media planning – these are the Business end of the industry. Hence, quite obviously, you would do well to get yourself an MBA.

The good news is that IIM graduates do not clamour for jobs in advertising anymore. They are too busy chasing jobs with investment banks.

The bad news is, not that many MBAs from other institutes are chasing advertising jobs either. That’s because every other industry, from insurance to retail, is offering better entry level packages. What’s more, ‘client servicing’ as a role has diminished in stature. You thought you would play an important part when it came to strategy but in reality, end up ferrying CDs and artworks.

Media buying and planning, on the other hand, has gained importance. It’s both an art and a science. And takes better advantage of the skills MBAs possess. Such as number crunching and powerpoint presentations. Unlike client servicing, media gets more respect from clients. And a lot of maska from media houses.

The best place to study the business of advertising is MICA, Ahmedabad. An MBA in marketing from any other decent institute will also do.

Another option is to do a BMM or a BMS, work for a year in a small/ medium size ad agency. And then do an MBA so as to move up the value chain. At least you know what you’re getting into and are sure that you want it!

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