Monday, November 16, 2009

How it all Ads Up

A Beginner’s Insight into the Advertising World

After finishing my MBA, I had a break of a few months before I formally started working. Wondering what to do, I did what any MBA student is well-drilled in. I analyzed my current situation and evaluated my goals in life. My aims were moderate - I wanted to do something fun, hopefully involving extremely hot women. After ruling out the modeling industry for obvious reasons, I plumped for an internship in an advertising agency. I had figured that advertising was all about a 4S Framework – “Sexy Supermodels Selling Stuff”. This promised to extremely fun, with the first 2S’s adding the necessary spice to life.

On entering an ad agency, I was suitably impressed by its funky atmosphere. Having prior experience in the staid world of software and consulting, being greeted by a billiards table and beanbags was a refreshing change. I met the manager to whom I stuck to the tried and tested goal of ‘Wanting to experience the industry, check out my creative side, blah blah blah’. He asked me whether I was experienced enough to work in copy. Taking this as a grave affront, I looked him in the eye, and told him sternly that as a true blue South Indian, I considered myself a connoisseur of good, filter kaapi and would challenge anyone anyone in a ‘Guess-Which-Plantation-This-Coffee-Came-From-Contest’. I agreed to this role, imagining that I would be taking cups of coffee to Sultry Supermodels. That’s when I got my first insight about the ad industry.
Copy is the (yawn) text of the print ad/script of the commercial. Nothing to do with coffee. Or with Sizzling Supermodels. Bigger Sigh.

Beginning the next day, the first article I was asked to read was on How to Write a Good Print Ad. This informed me that A Good Print Ad has  items in lists (preferably of 5 or 10). So without any further ado, I present –

5 things I learnt in Advertising.

The thing I realized on day one itself was that the-

1. Sensual Supermodels Seldom Seen.
This was an earth-shattering discovery. Most of the ads hardly used supermodels! I was shocked to the core – apparently, people often bought products based on their merits, or based on other factors. What was the world coming to these days? Most of` my product purchases were done on the basis of the hotness of the babe in the ad, and I was stunned to find this didn’t apply, by and large, to the rest of humanity. My earlier theory shattered to bits, I then discovered advertising was really –

2. Passionate People Peddling Products.
Seriously! A lot of customer research goes into paan masala, papads and pickles before people develop ads for them. If you are developing an ad for a safety pin brand, you should clearly know what motivates the consumer in buying Safety Pin Brand A, and not Safety Pin Brand B. Market shares are sliced and diced, focus groups are done to death, and category information is thoroughly analyzed. And once you’ve spent over a week reading on the Safety Pin Using Habits of the SEC B residents of Inner JhumriThalaiya, you feel you know the subject like a favourite brother. This information is lovingly imparted to the creative guy, whose job is to generate -

3. Ideas, Ideas, and More Ideas.
The creative aspect of advertising involves generating plenty of ideas for the campaign. Ideas can range from the absolutely mundane (Film star selling Safety Pin Brand) to the extremely creative (A giant safety pin fastening two pieces of a torn billboard, showing the brand can be used for the tying up anything) Once you’ve done that, the next hurdle is to convince people that No, That Idea Was Not Rubbish, It was Actually Pretty Good. This is a lot of fun, especially if people have really whacky ideas, which they defend passionately. Once the Grand Idea has been shortlisted by the account guy in conjunction with the creative guy, the manager, the art guy, the client and the friendly neighborhood Spiderman, the focus shifts to the–

4. Innovative Illustrator Implementing Idea.
The art guy works hand-on-mouse with the creative guy to realize the Grand Idea. Each of them has his own Grand Vision to match the Grand Idea, and a Grand Ego to match his Grand Visions. A Grand Argument occurs with each person trying to Grandstand. Finally, they settle on some common graund, the ad is produced, and then given to the client for approval. It is then aired or printed in the appropriate media outlet for the public to view, shortly after which they rush to the store to buy the product being advertised for. In theory, atleast.

Given that the ad industry has everything going for it, namely occasional supermodels; fascinating market research; opportunities for great ideas; and a chance to make aam aadmi view your work, you could be expected to pose the logical question – Why are people not desperate to join this industry? That leads directly to my fifth, and mercifully last, learning, which is –

5. Pathetic Pay Puts off Prospects.
Given that most people choose their next job by the amount of money it will bring, it makes sound economic sense to not touch this industry, even with a bottom end of a beanbag. After all, when you can be making your millions in the Lehmanns and Merrills Mckinseys of the World, why work here?

As I review the internship, I find that I have partly achieved my goals. The creative process of coming up with grand ideas has been an intellectually stimulating and enjoyable exercise. My alliterative articulation has advanced to an amazing achievement which has more than matched the adworse consequences of not working with supermodels. With those bad jokes words of wisdom, I bid ad ieu!