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.