‘Papa, should I join advertising?’ – Part 1

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My daughter, all of 4.5 years old seems to have artistic tendencies. She and I squabble over who gets to use the iPad (she wins invariably) and more often than not, she ends up drawing or colouring in the various drawing apps (Color & Draw for Kids, Drawing Pad) I have installed. She has also taken to crayons, water colors and clay models. It got me wondering about the kind of career she will pursue when grown up. Yes, I know, we are talking 15 years from now – who knows what will happen then? But just in case she considers Advertising as a career, what kind of advice am I likely to give her? Of course, it is wonky to base it on perceptions of the industry as we know it today, but I thought it’d be fun to put down the pros & cons.


Get paid for what you enjoy doing: Movie stars are prone to say that theirs is a profession where one gets paid for doing what they enjoy, for having fun. Advertising too is a bit like that – unless you are passionate about the business you are not likely to enjoy it. And those who have made it to the A-List in advertising joined the profession simply because they loved the profession. I don’t know of other professions which call for passion as a pre-requisite (are Accountants passionate about Accounting?) but this truly can be about having fun and getting paid for it. The operative word being, can.

Personally speaking, advertising was & is a passion. I remember my days in Loyola College, Chennai studying Zoology but having little or no interest in that subject. I was obsessed about advertising as a profession. I seemed to have had a fair idea of the role & demands of an Account Executive (through books, mainly) and had no hang ups about a glamourous profession. After college, I made the rounds of all the agencies, collecting their print ads, dividing them by folder. I even maintained a register of TV ads jotting down the ads prior to a program – including the client name, the agency (if I had that information) and duration of – a TV AD Index of sorts. I used to take a bus to Mount Road, Chennai to buy the Mumbai edition of TOI just so that I could see the ‘national’ ads (one couldn’t see those ads in The Hindu – the local paper). That first-day enthusiasm for a job – big or small, is common among those who’ve stayed on in advertising for decades. The satisfaction of a job well done – be it creating a leaflet, cracking an idea for a multi-media campaign or writing a good document and getting paid for it is a great feeling.

Learn & un-learn every day: it doesn’t matter if you are 3-days old in the advertising business or 30-days old – there is scope to learn something new every day. Since the industry has to keep pace with changing media consumption habits and technologies what you learnt about printing technologies or Direct Mail 20 years ago is of no use today. The challenge to keep pace with new media & technology is that much more for those who joined advertising in the era of block printing, bromides, art pulls and 35-mm slides. But that’s the fun part.

Wear many hats: you could be discussing a business problem on a television brand in the morning and a milk powder brand a little later and maybe a two-wheeler brand after that. Each category poses a unique problem, different target audience mindsets in operation and maybe call for different solutions. Skill sets you need to polish? Here’s the laundry list: presentation, communication, people, negotiation and administration. Depending on the office culture and your boss’s working style there could be no restrictions on where creative ideas come from. So anyone can be creative, not just those in the creative department.

Talent & team work: the industry is filled with bright talent across functions. And because there is scope to interact with specialists in Media, Film & Radio production, Script writing, Interactive and so on, the chances of coming across talented folk and being influenced by them is great.

Like with movies when just a germ of an idea takes shape into a script and magically comes alive on the screen with a little help from artists & technicians, advertising too has its share of team work & magic. After its been long forgotten where the idea came from the elements of an advertising campaign come together seamlessly.

Business meets art: debate about whether advertising is a Science or Art aside, the profession presents a unique opportunity to solve a business problem through the Arts – the creative process, Film Craft, photography…after the marketing minds have done their job. So unlike movies it is not pure art, not a form of personal expression. The business problem need to be solved – so there is an accountability to the art.

Any other pros of the advertising business from a career point-of view? The cons coming up in Part 2 of this post. Comments welcome.

PS: This post has been selected by BlogAdda as one of the top posts of this week’s Spicy Saturday Picks. Thank You, BlogAdda!

Update: Read Part 2 of the post here.

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  1. Hi there, just came across your blog and read this post. The Pros you have listed are exactly how I feel and is exactly why I want to work in Advertising. I studied Geography at University and also had little to no interest in it (I did it because it looked fairly interesting at college and I didn't have the right A levels to do an art related degree) and I am very passionate about Advertising.

    One thing I need to ask you is, how did you first get into advertising? Did you aim at top agencies or did you aim at smaller less well known agencies? After much perseverance and emailing I managed to get work experience at McCann Erickson but not too hopeful on getting a job at an advertising agency due to my lack of qualifications and experience. If, however, you got in via contacts, then I guess I should start making some new friends.



  2. Very true. It's also a spring board for many interesting careers. For example: Writers/novelists in the last century. Film makers, now.

    Advertising is a perfect place for story tellers. If there's one things that's common among people in the industry is the ability to say stories, in different ways.

    So that guy in school who was always telling tales (reel in B'lore lingo), he probably heading an ad agency now.

  3. from an industry instead of individual point of view, ads can be a medium of change. Didn't Raymonds man redefine masculinity . But the reverse also occurs when ads promote a product with the idea its okay to cheat because the product is worth stealing lying etc

    I don't think I agree with the term accountability to art. most movies are made from a commercial point of view. and most ads are not about art just cold calculations and formula.

  4. pros could be.. meeting really interesting people, being surrounded with great books and music… and, and, no dress code.. 😀

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