Thursday, August 26, 2010

I don't need a crown to rule
I don't need a gun to duel
It may get tougher to earn my daily bread
But my words will be around long after I'm dead.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Advertising Professionals or Adrenaline Junkies?

Have you ever wondered what drives people to take part in reality shows such as Fear Factor (and its 101 Indianised versions, except of course Roadies on MTV, which really should have been named Wannabes instead)?
Do you honestly believe its only the money? The fame? The beautiful opportunity to eat worms and feel snakes slithering on their bodies?
We all know there is a little something over and above these reasons that sends men and women knocking on the doors of auditions for these shows every year. It's the inexplicable thrill of doing something they've never done before. Of facing a fear that's so deep rooted, it spreads its tentacles like a persistent octopus.
There is a need to face those challenges that actualises itself into a want and takes form of an act that's bone-chilling and often disgusting and gruesome to some viewers.
Sure, people who audition for these shows are required to be physically fit, mentally strong, often abusive to their challengers and a treat to the eyes.
But what of those who don't make the mark and still feel the need to put themselves into death-defying, character abrasive and uncomfortable situations? What becomes of those who can create such situations and get out of them too, all with the conviction of one who requires no provocation to do so.
These people make a career decision that puts them into difficult situations on a daily basis.
They decide to join the Advertising Industry in India.
It starts just the same way that the show works.
We first go for auditions, which the HR people insist on calling interviews to give a more professional feel to the process. Have you noticed that the anchors and judges who sit in on auditions are usually past winners of a similar show? Well, that's the way it works with us too. Our interviewer is usually a more experienced entity of the organization who at one point of time in his or her life was a mere struggler too and was auditioned (or interviewed) by someone senior to him/her. In all probability, he/she has lost sight of how tough it is to get your foot inside the door. And (s)he makes the audition uncomfortable, sneers at your experience/portfolio and yet, makes you an offer (which is probably a fraction of your worth) because (s)he knows just how important it is to the incumbent to get into the Industry. At any level. At any salary. Exactly the same way you see contestants in reality shows who really aspire to be actors/actresses/models and have taken up a B-grade show just to show the producers that they are capable of much more. You'd be surprised at how similar the practise of hiring is. You'd be shocked at how shallow both the Media and Advertising industries are. You'd be disgusted at how couch casting is moulded to fit into a pattern that suits both the industries. You'd be amazed at how joyous an occasion it is when a talented candidate meets an interviewer with a credible reputation and the result is fruitful for both.

Next, comes the moment of truth. The performance pressures are high with people trying to outshine each other and whether you are working in servicing, creative, planning or studio, you feel the ardor, the frustration, the zeal and the frenzy in everyone's disposition.
There is an overpowering urge to rid the system of mediocrity and protocol. And again, that is similar to the shows in which the not-so-competitive candidates, who rely on their contestants' poor performance to sustain themselves, are shunted out first.
Winning a pitch is not very dissimilar to climbing a mountain in record time. While the latter has deadlines of a few seconds in a reality show, the former requires similar team effort to make the correct strategy and creatives and has not very different time frames if you think about it.

We are all walking the tightrope here. And all of us fear the fall. While the channels air such reality shows for higher TRPs, the clients hire the advertsing agencies for better communication which leads to higher revenues.

So the next time you catch someone gushing about the daredevil stunts performed on these shows, tell them you know someone who does it for a living. And if their first guess is that I work in a circus, well, an ad agency is not very different from that either.
Where I belong, we are all going at a breakneck speed towards a bottleneck foyer.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Impulsively Devilish

Have you ever noticed how confusing people can get when they quote something that's been handed down from one generation to the next?
"Think before you speak." I doubt if its humanly possible to do otherwise. Even the most drunk, impetuous, insensitive and careless soul would have to unknowingly perform via the thinking function of the brain before blurting out random words.
Why the presence of a deliberate thought process is required before speaking remains a mystery for me.
In a world that has been poisoned by bitter lies and deceit, would it not make sense if everyone would speak on an impulse?
Sure, it may cause hearts to break and feuds to start much before their time, but wouldn't the realization of truth be a liberating experience?

The Mars-Venus equation would be much simpler to understand. Men keep complaining about how they don't understand women, every chance they get. No woman would ever tell a man every little thought that crosses her mind. I don't think she can and I don't think men would be able to seperate the chaff.
In the span of 2 minutes, women can think of 20 things, I kid you not. And they don't require any provocation to think. But they won't talk about it. If they did, the men would know exactly what not to say to a woman. A man who says just what we want to hear is not welcome either. Who would want to talk to a brain-dead I-live-to-please-you mass of pulchritude? The element of chase that makes an interaction exciting is lost on people like that.
Now, I'm not advocating baring all your cards for everyone to see.
But I am talking about afflicting every passerby with the good old chronic Foot-in-the-Mouth syndrome I've never been able to shake off.
Let's start an epidemic!
Live one day of your life when all that you say is impetuous without caring for the consequences.
The devil must be an impulsive man. And that is probably why he is so misunderstood.
It's the most innocent feeling ever.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mend the Way?

I travel from point A to point B everyday taking the same route. The road never changes. It never complains. Sometimes, the number of people taking the bottleneck left turn are too many, causing a traffic nightmare. At other times, the turn is sprinkled with speed-o-monsters who make you want to mutter a silent prayer for their safety or a slew of abuses (depending on your mood and the time).
The road bends, breaks, gets flooded, gets dirty, trampled on and spat on. Yet, it never complains. But you and I do. We complain about everything from the potholes to the trash accumulating at the corners. We blame everyone from the government to the illiterate man we see clearing his nose on the road.
Just as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, the road will be there to take us back home. And that's when we begin taking it for granted.
I haven't lived enough to philosophize yet. But I can't help thinking how similar the road is to our journey of life.
I have had to come home due to ill health. And all I've been doing since then is complain about how the town I work in is responsible for my sickness. The truth is, anyone who tries to survive on toast for 2 straight weeks is bound to get ill.
I complain about how abusive people are at work. The truth is, someone must have done something to provoke the abuse. And even if the provocation was not there, maybe thats how people are. And I cannot be judgemental about them.

There is a possibility that I may not go back to work if I don't get physically fit soon enough.
But I cannot imagine myself working in any other industry. And my town has no scope for advertising.
It may not pay my bills. But it is a lot like a cup of hot coffee on a cold December morning. Because it makes me happy.

So you see, I complain about things that are trivial and those that are not.
But what I forget is that I am responsible for everything that goes wrong or right in my life.
I can eat a proper diet and get stronger. No-one would stop me.
I can go back to work, grow a thicker skin, hurl a few abusive words and get going. No-one would object.
I can take the same road as always from point A to point B, help reduce the debris from the roadside, honk the car horn a little less, stop scowling at the people over-taking me from the wrong direction and reach work in a good mood and on time.
But I will not do any of the above. Just like you won't.

I'll give myself excuses such as "I can't change my life. Or the way people drive."
Or maybe, " Life is unfair. Why does everything happen to me?" (which by the way, is the most common complaint which leads you to conclude that everything happens to everybody).
It's easier being a slob. Isn't it?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Advertising My Mind

I'm definitely way too young to consider mid-life crisis as an option to help untangle the muddled labyrinth of my mind.
But I have to admit that it's got me feeling sad. Sad because I feel lost. I'm trying my best to understand people around me but I've never ever given myself a good reason to trust my instincts.
I like people and I trust them. And that is indubitably my curse.

The world of advertising is full of people who are exciting, new, passionate, intelligent, creative, abusive, predatory, misleading, critical, helpful, admirable and calculative. It's hard to balance the beam and they are suddenly vicious and instantly affectionate within the same conversation. But they are easy to relate to because they are so close to reality that at the end of the day, I end up giving excuses for the nasty man who was rude to me at work while rationalizing the help from a complete stranger.

It has people who feed on humiliating me to get back at me for making a comment that established them as brainless and gutless pieces of office furniture.
It also has people who are celebrities and are yet humble enough to grant me 2 hour long meetings just to get to know what a newcomer in the industry goes through.

I like this world. There are no "Sir"s and "Ma'am"s, save a few who still require their egos to be stoked every now and then. The client servicing people abuse each other and a few minutes later share a plate of Maggi noodles. The planners argue over the best strategy over endless cups of coffee and then trash it after a meeting with the client. The copywriters and art directors fight over layouts and then play chess and step out for a smoke only to come back and resume the fight from scratch again. The studio professionals make faces and roll their eyes when they see the client servicing guys approaching but then sit with them through the night to get artworks released on time.
Like I said, I like this world.
And I know I belong here. I just don't know where I fit in.
My interviewers said they saw great "potential" in me and a spark that was burning bright and they took me on the Client Servicing team.
A gentleman of great repute on the Creative side saw through me and said I'm not cut out for servicing and should consider copywriting instead.
Planners with years of experience to their name said I have a keen analytical mind and should shape my career in a way that would land me in the Planning division.

What I WANT to do is write. But I don't believe I'm good enough. There are a lot more talented people out there.
What I DON'T want to do is stay stuck doing meaningless errands like fetching printouts and scans and making a repository of historical advertisements and stand over people's shoulders chasing deadlines. That's not who I am.
I can sense my brain rotting away. I can feel that "spark" in me fizzling out. I'm fighting to keep it burning. But I'm burning my hands in the process.