Career > Creative business
Advertising is all about a mélange of talents with an onus on creative unpredictability. If you have a streak of wild imagination and don’t mind putting in the crazy hours at work, consider advertising as a career.
Catchy slogans, vivid pictures, attractive videos and creative strategies all revolving around the sole objective of embedding the brand into the consumers mind. Advertising is all about creatively communicating the brand’s identity. Our illustrious panel of top notch executives from the advertising arena give you a sketch of the industry and a few tricks to make a mark in the creative trade.
Panelist: Krishnamohan Ramachandran, Former President and National Head of Talent and Training, Ogilvy and Mather, Chennai.
Claim to fame: A veteran in the industry, Krishnamohan has been in the creative business for 27 years. Starting off as planter in Harrisons & Crossfield, he has done three year stints at F.D.Stewart, JWT and Rediffusion. He had been with O&M for nearly 18 years before retiring as the President and National Head of Talent and Training at their Chennai office.
The creative twist: Taking over as the National Head of Talent and Training at Ogilvy, he was involved in providing training for over 800 employees across six offices. He has transformed the way orientation programs were carried out at Ogilvy and also conducted a senior level modular program called Mile Sur which was very successful. When he turned 50, Krishnamohan quit Ogilvy to start an NGO called EcoEarth. He also runs an advertising consultancy by the name, India/2.
Portfolio: During his illustrious career, Krishnamohan created successful campaigns for brands like Parryware, Cascade, Parry Sweets, TI Cycles, Funskool, Meera, Chik, Sundaram Finance, ANZ, Grindlays, Amex, Amrutanjan, Dollar Company, Medimix, ITC Welcome Group, Hutch/Vodafone, RPG Cellular, MRF, Best &Crompton and Arun Ice creams.
Panelist: Senthil Kumar, Chairman, JWT India Creative Council and Executive Creative Director across three JWT India offices – Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata.
Claim to fame: A mechanical engineer pursuing missile technology with a basketball, an artist interested in documenting real life, a writer in the visual language and the original idea junkie – meet Senthil Kumar, the man celebrated in India and recognized globally for his ability to amplify deep local insights into simple yet powerful ideas.
The creative twist: He took a parabolic leap (in his terms) from rocket science to common sense. Starting off as a trainee writer, he went on to become the only Indian to feature among the 2009 Top 10 Asian Creative Directors Media List and the first Indian to feature on the Home Page of YouTube. As Chairman of the JWT India Creative Council, Senthil ensured that JWT India won the Asia Pacific Agency Of The Year Award at Adfest 2010, beating all the agencies in Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
Portfolio: Senthil’s ideas have helped build several brands like Levi's, Nike, Ford, Pepsi, Kingfisher, The Times Of India, Murugappa Group, Sun TV Network, Sri Lanka Tourism, Pondicherry Tourism, The Diamond Trading Corporation, Smirnoff, Lipton, Hindustan Petroleum, Spice Telecom, Reynolds, TI Cycles, BSA Motors, Sulekha.com, UniverCell, Lifestyle Retail Stores and a host of Unilever brands for India and the Asia Pacific regional markets.
Accolades: He has won India’s first ever Cannes Gold Lions in Film and Film Craft Music for The Times Of India, Cannes Grand Prix - Runner Up and Campaign Gold Lion for Levi’s Slim Jeans, The Yahoo Big Idea Chair of 2009, India's first ever Young Gun with a Silver Bullet for the Spice Telecom Campaign, India’s first Lotus Roots Grand Prix in both film and film craft categories at the Asia Pacific Adfest 2009, One Show Cinema and Design Merits, D&AD Merits, Clio Festival Statues, New York Festival Gold World Medals, Several Abby & AAAI National Awards, Brand Building Awards, Copywriter Of The Year Medals and such other shining pieces of heavy metal. He has served on the prestigious Cannes Lions 2008 Festival Jury and Clio Las Vegas Festival Jury.
Panelist: Alexander Zacharias – Creative Director at Rubicon Advertising.
Claim to fame: Popularly known in the industry as Zach, this art aficionado was a regular at the Cholamandalam Art Village. Running an art club at Loyola College, he was the only non-professional artist whose paintings were displayed across the country at a national exhibition.
The creative twist: Dabbling in cartooning for Chandamama, Zach eventually started designing layouts and finally, was hooked into the creative business. After working in prestigious agencies like JWT, R.K Swamy, Gold wire, Grey and ULKA, Zach started Rubicon advertising agency in 1991.
Portfolio: Zach has worked with a wide spectrum of major brands including Colour Plus, Citibank, Hudson Group, Landmark, Taj Group and Cavin Kare among others.
Panelist: Mohanarangan Krishnan, Senior Creative Director and Branch Head at Dentsu Incorporated advertising agency.
Claim to fame: Nearly 18 years in the industry, Mohanarangan has worked with all the reputed agencies including Lintas, Fountainhead, R.K Swamy BBDO as a consultant.
Portfolio: Passionate about advertising, Mohan has handled clients like Aircell, Mercedes Benz, Panasonic, Indian Oil, Medimix, Nyle, Spinz and Fairever apart from other brands.
Panelist: Harish B, Brand Leader, McCann Erickson
Claim to fame: Having been in the industry for the past 15 years, Harish started off with a small agency called Mouli’s. He feels that a smaller agency can offer immense possibilities to learn a lot on the job. Moving on to McCann Erickson, he’s been with the agency for nearly a decade now.
Portfolio: Harish has worked with clients like Sun Direct DTH, TTK Group, Ashok TMT Steel Bars and Delphi TVS among others.
“In advertising, you meet new people, learn about new categories, learn to constantly think out of the box and not encounter even a single boring day”, says Krishnamohan, of Ogilvy. You can either be a creative person (Copy/Art) or a client servicing person (managing clients) apart from media planning or buying.
The Creative Side
“Advertising is the second oldest profession in the world, as the saying goes. But, at the core of it, great advertising is all about a simple "idea". What has changed is the way this idea is communicated or delivered to the consumer. At the end of it, Advertising is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration!” adds Krishnamohan. In the creative department, you can either be a part of the copy or art team based on your passion and talent.
“Copywriting isn’t just about words. It’s about translating your ideas into something that a large group of people will understand. You have to translate an idea into a proposition, be sensitive to yourself, the people around you and life in general”, describes , from Dentsu. Senthil agrees, “The skill to create something extraordinary out of nothing and the ability to think beyond the boundaries of convention and create an original style of communication is quite important. And yes, the energy to keep fighting for what you believe in and overcome every barricade that comes in the way of a good idea and more importantly, creative writing skills for a writer are the main criteria of selection.” A copywriter should possess superb language skills, a curious mind and the ability to be a story teller.
“Talking about advertising, especially the art department, there should be a complete burning passion. You start from the bottom and a complete ground up. There are no schedules and it’s a business which you have to live, breathe and drink all the time. Ideas can come from anywhere and you can never switch off”, says Zach of Rubicon. Art is all about creative expression. While a degree from a large institution is an added advantage, the creative streak and hands on experience can help those who don’t come from such a background.
“If you are a fresher, most advertising agencies look for originality, individuality, passion for ideas and creative expression. It would be good if you have a book with some of your proactive ideas scribbled or finished”, suggests Senthil. A good sense of aesthetics, the ability to think out-of-the-box and create meaningful work can help you in the art department.
“Account planners are the voice of the customer at the agency. They are responsible for brand planning and research based on the likes or dislikes of the consumer. An account management person needs fantastic communication skills, ability to gather information about the clients and the consumers and know more about the brand than the client itself”, says Harish, McCann Erickson. An MBA degree will be an additional advantage but an account executive should be absolutely outgoing, aggressive and street smart. “Apart from good communication skills, the account executive should have lots of patience and determination, the ability to prioritize and learn the meaning of being polite but firm and experience life in all its diversity”, adds Krishnamohan.
Media Planning and Buying
Media planning and buying is yet another aspect of advertising. Media planning is all about finding the most appropriate media products for a client’s brand or product. Many large agencies have hived off their media departments and formed separate companies that buy and plan media for a set of businesses. Media planning is a thinking job within the agency which brings the consumer perspective into the development of a brand’s creative materials.
If you are looking for a career where work is play, then look no further. “In advertising, you get to connect with a million people and persuade them to think the way you want them to and this, gives you a real high”, explains Mohanarangan . Highly creative, a day at the office is seldom boring. “Every day is different. And, if you really know your brand, then you can create work that actually makes a difference in the market place. On burning social issues, you have the power (with the right understanding and empathy) to change the way people look at life and these issues”, adds Krishnamohan.
In this arena, you can express your creative self in myriad ways. Senthil explains, “You will find that advertising is the only mainstream profession where guys sport ponytails and tattoos and walk into office in shorts or even underwear and girls sport crazy hairdo and hawai chappals and whatever suits their mood, because they are all ‘creative’ folk. Our Creative Departments are full of desk DJs who blast loud music and compete for attention, during work. There are no uniforms and no restrictions whatsoever and individuality in every form of expression is respected and encouraged.”
“In advertising, the lines are blurred. It is a creative business and everyone is a part of it. So, the more creative every person thinks, the better it is for the brand”, explains Zach. A day on the field can include constant trips of imagination as your create your script and develop the scenario while there’s enough travel during film and still shoots. “The ability to work out of anywhere, in the auto rickshaw, in the middle of a traffic jam, up in the sky, on a plane, wherever as long as the client's deadlines are met. Apart from the freedom to be creative and challenge convention every day, there are also the multiple highs of hitting an idea head on and crossing several barricades in the journey of bringing the ideas to life”, elaborates Senthil.
In a livewire profession like advertising where nothing is ever the same, the primary difficulty is getting your brand’s message across the target audience. “Not many people are as sensitive to their surroundings as they should be. And, lodging your brand or communication in the minds of so many people at the same time is quite a challenge”, muses Mohanarangan . It’s not just about ideas but also the persistence to get it across the senior levels of hierarchy. “Ideas are easy but big ideas that can move the entire nation are very difficult to crack and it takes a lot of hard work, insight mining, understanding the client's marketing issues and finding that simple solution which is creative and effective in the market place. But if you want to do it, you will go to any length to come up with a big idea. And, also resilience to never give up and keep coming back with a better idea each time your idea is shot down for various reasons. In fact, I believe that the best revenge is a better idea”, says Senthil, in mock seriousness.
Stress is an inevitable part of the profession. Krishnamohan agrees, “Very creative and challenging, advertising is often very stressful as well. Long hours are the norm and generally about 10 to 12 hours a day is quite normal. Most clients these days want everything yesterday! So, there are a lot of iterations. Everyone is an expert on advertising, so there are lots of points of view and opinions to wade through”.
The recession had a major impact on the industry. But then, things are changing with recruitments opening up in the big leagues. “There is a lot of talent pool but the opportunities are just opening up. As of now, recruitments happen mostly through references and networking as it saves time for the company on training the employees”, says Harish. “In advertising, you generally start around 8- 10 thousand and then it is commensurate with your performance and growth. Here, you don’t actually work. You contribute. And, never take up advertising if you’re looking for just another job. It requires passion to connect with people and to perform”, states Mohanarangan.
Contrary to popular belief, advertising has enough opportunities for women with a whacky sense of creativity to make a lasting impression. “If there is one Industry where you are respected because you are a woman and in which women at all levels are doing exceedingly well, it is advertising. No Glass ceiling here”, sums up Krishnamohan.