Monday, October 4, 2010

Cocktail of Sour Grapes & Sweet Dreams

I remember I was in school when I first realized how much the world of advertising fascinated me. The advertisements always interested me more than the daily soaps they were interspersed with (and not the other way around).
I was born and brought up in Chandigarh and while my parents gave me full liberty to choose an academic course after school, my town offered only 4 choices – Medicine, Engineering, Commerce and Arts. I opted for Engineering because it was the “in” thing for students who were considered half-intelligent.
I opted for Electrical Engineering and failed miserably in the third year, after which I started all over again with Computer Science Engineering. I was too stupid to understand that the problem was not with the branch of engineering I had chosen. The problem was engineering itself. But by then, I had taken the failure to heart and in a silly do-or-die mode that surfaces all too often, I decided I would become an engineer even if it took me the rest of my life. Of course, it did take me three plus four, which makes a total of seven years to get a graduation degree.
After a little bit of soul-searching and several days of Google-searching, I realized what I wanted to do was get into Advertising somehow or the other.
To make a long story short, I was disillusioned by a long list of irrelevant trash posted on Google which implied that to make it big in the Advertising industry, one must understand the marketing practices and so I invested a few years to be called an MBA.
When I finally found myself in the midst of Advertising Professionals, I realized I was just an over-qualified idiot in the organization who could have easily started her career 5 years ago.
Six months, countless conversations and three meaningful meetings later, I realized that I was a bigger idiot than I was giving myself credit for - because I was right where I always wanted to be but on the wrong side of the bridge.
Do you know what it feels like when your mind is painting rainbows and your hands are working on statistics that nobody really needs (or reads)?
Well, that is exactly what I felt when I took up a job in Client Servicing. And maybe it is time that I stop being so harsh on myself. Because the advertising industry may be fascinating, glorious and the most under-rated of all, but it is also horribly structured.
It’s like a nest that has been weaved over the years by some very hard working birds, who managed to decorate it with brilliant layouts and commendable content, but who forgot how to pass the art over to their next generation. Now don’t get me wrong. The next generation had ambitious plans and a hitherto unmatched creative spark and it worked harder and better than the birds who laid the foundation of the nest. But they worked so hard, they turned the cozy little nest into a cocoon with a narrow entry.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people like me who would gladly chuck their MBA and Engineering degrees into a dustbin to work for peanuts as a copywriter enter the market. Every year, we fight to get a chance to get our foot into the door. We take whatever is offered to us. We don’t argue over the remuneration or the job profile. Why? Because it’s hard to get a job in a good ad agency. You have to be recommended. You have to do a course that the students and mentors alike say is pretty useless.  And if you’ve made one wrong turn in your life, you are an overqualified idiot who does not deserve to be in advertising. So what if writing is your passion? So what if you can point out typographical errors to the senior copy writer? So what if you have half a million better ideas than the people who are paid to think of ideas? You are in account management. Your job is to be the mediator between the agency and the client. And if you have any creative urges, you can shove it up or leave.
And so I left.
And then it dawned on me. Maybe I was never going to be taken back in the industry. I cannot prove my creative urges in an interview when the interviewer is more interested in the neckline of my shirt than my words.
It’s been a month since I’ve been unemployed. And some would say that I am over-reacting.
But if you have ever had a burning ambition that turns into water and falls from your eyes, you would understand. And you would agree.