The decade in advertising: then and now

On the occasion of completing 10 years, Storyboard ran a programme outlining the landmark advertising campaigns of the decade. The show also asked leading industry professionals about the big changes in advertising today as compared to 10 years ago. At the turn of the last decade I was working in neighbouring countries and wasn’t witness to the goings on in the Indian advertising scenario. Nevertheless herewith a few observations on the changes since then:

1. Yesterday is the new deadline: there was a time when AEs would brief creative on a press ad and expect a minimum of a week’s lead time for the revert. It wasn’t unusual to take 2-3 weeks for a TV commercial to be scripted out.  Most brands would depend on one single TVC to be the lead mass media activity for the year. All of it changed (actually in the mid-90s and not in the early 2000s) with the advent of telecom wars. Remember the days of BPL Mobile and Orange in Mumbai? Every competitive move of one operator had to be matched by the other within days. It meant quick turnarounds – often within a day. Competition in several other categories has increased and quick-footedness across media is the new mantra. As a result there are multiple campaings in a year, covering diverse media. Lead times for producing creative ideas has considerably reduced and creatives have also realized that a quick turnaround is imperative. Is this a good thing? Yes and no. As partners, its great if agencies understand the ground realities of a client’s business and ensure that there is no delay in creative output. And it is possible to produce good quality work in double quick time. But not always. Sometimes since you don’t have the advantage of weighing in options, the first idea off the block is taken forward.

On  a related note, in my view the creative folk of the past decade used to sweat over the details a lot more. Many an hour would be spent on spell checking, alignment of a letter (bromides pasted on the art work) and so on. That kind of craftsmanship (be it in copy writing or plain simple spell check) is perhaps missing in today’s creatives.

2. Power shift: specialist agencies – media to start off with,  were created about 10 years ago. As a result, the client has become the new co-ordinator and gate keeper of brand activities. It is not uncommon to see a Brand Manager oversee advertising, media planning & buying, Digital, Events, Research and so on. The Account Manager who used to play this role is now only involved in one aspect of the brand – managing the mass media advertising process. As a result, the Account Management has lost an advantage, as it were, to the client. The client is now better placed to be a well-rounded ad professional.

3. The role of the client CEO: advertising is increasingly the domain of the CMO and the brand managers. CEO’s have virtually stopped getting involved in advertising decisions.

4. The ‘360’ buzzword: this one’s an obvious one. Campaigns for mobile phones to toilet cleaners now with the ‘surround’ list. It’s a good thing as long as its not treated like some laundry list and new media is force fitted in categories or campaigns where there is no need for them.

5. Dishing out designations: Quick. How many different types of Creative Directors are there? There is the NCD. The ECD. Sometimes even a GCD. Maybe a Senior CD. And it’s not uncommon to become any of these within 7 years of entering the business after 5 job switches. I guess competitive pressure (both for people and awards) has created this syndrome. I am no match to Pseudo Kramer who writes superbly about this practice: see here and here.

Any other changes that come to mind? Do comment in. Maybe there could be a Part 2 of this post.

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