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Wednesday, December 20

Why Now, Santosh?

By now, its highly probable that you would have read Santosh's Rant on agencyfaqs! In an industry already troubled by dropping intellectual capital, a major voice leaves. In fact, in the pre-blog/ net/ e-mail days, his was the lone planner voice that one heard in India...Sad, unfortunate...

My only question to Santosh is why now?

Of course, as a planner and as an ad guy who has himself been in the Indian ad business for about 13 years, I can identify with each of the points that Santosh has raised. They resonate. The frustrations, the angst. The smallness of people all around us. But isn't the worst behind us...

In the morning, I read an optimistic post on the state of media by FINK at ThotBlurb. And then I read this slightly bitter farewell note from a guy who most young Indian planners look upto!

Frankly, in the interview, Santosh doesn't tell anything new( rare for him)!
His rants are the familiar ones. What surprises me is that he was the CEO of a fairly influential agency. He was in charge. So, he could have initiated much of the changes he so desires a Pied Piper to champion! At least at McCann...

1.I feel the Pied Piper won't come from other industries. They are playing a much larger game. Having more fun than us in a gung-ho economy! House-cleaning is best done by the inmates!

2. Santosh also commented on the mediocre talent that the industry has and the problem of talent retention. Again I don't think McCann had a better scorecard against the industry standard.

Of the few bright, smart kids that we hire, many work in Vietnam type sweat-shop conditions and salaries(with a little dollop of exaggeration, it's true)...AE salaries in many agencies are only marginally more than the salaries of the drivers( with over-time) of the CEO in the same agency!

Many of the agencies today generate substantial profits for the big holding companies. If that's the case why is attracting talent so difficult. Of course, I have never run a business unit. So, I may be a little naive on the business and growth compulsions. Do forgive me for that...

3. On his specific comment that -"Admen get disproportionate media coverage, leading them into believing they’re 'big, hot and happening' and that “Advertising is too self-obsessed, judging by the number of awards we flank ourselves with..."

Well, I feel we should be grateful that with the small market capitalisation of our industry we still manage to dominate many col cm of space in media! We can't wish away the glamourous( at least the image/ perception) of our business. Bollywood gets disproportionate share of attention too! And they are the poster boys of the economy!

If our blown-up image adds to our influence as an industry, I think its a good thing. If the reference is specific to Prasoon Joshi, then it's a personal matter:-)

3. “Who knows? Someday, my love for advertising may pull me back!” .
And that's the point. Santosh's move appears to me more triggered by the ego clash with Prasoon and the new power equation at McCann than the accumulated frustrations from the advertising industry.

Each of the points raised by Santosh is undeniably true! But the fact remains when most of the World's biggest brands are making a bee-line for India. When the 800 pound gorilla called Omnicom and muscle flexing Publicis are gunning for India.
When the economy is Talking 10, it can't be the worst phase of advertising!

The worst I believe is behind us. Santosh, when the industry most needed guys like you, you have chosen to leave! Why's that?


meraj said...

adding to your points manish...

the interview came across as a bitching session by a man who is bitter because he feels that he is wronged. highly juvenile and absolutely unexpected from a person of his stature. okay...one quits on the grounds of ego, but a gentleman doesnt go about it in this fashion...no sir!

whatever he has said is true, but coming from him and at this juncture, its petty

Manish said...

so i am not the only one who feels that way:-) clears my conscienceLOL

in a highly accelerated media world, it is now that most of his skills would have been put to extreme test and use.

anyway, moving onto another industry is a personal choice. But why lament advertising that made him what he is today!

Kapil said...

You make it sound like a perfect "sour grapes" scenario.

My question is the same: Why is he raising these issues about the industry now. And yet wants to keep his options open to return back to advertising someday.

Dharmendra said...

I know you guys are feeling hurt. The issue is not to analyse him. It is about the point he is making. And why should he not say it now? These are micro issues. Look at the bigger picture. If he is feeling so frustrated inspite of the laurels that have come his way, can you imagine the state of the ordinary advertising man. Hey guys if this man is speaking, it will be heard. And perhaps the leaders of the industry will take note. He is speaking for the rest.It is a dying man who speaks the truth.And I am sure the industry must have sucked his life out. Getting more col cm coverage only helps a few individuals. Create larger than life perceptions for all. Perceptions are bigger than reality and create the perfect cover to conceal the dark side of the induscry. For most working in advertisng is akin to living in a slum with the only consolation that the outside world belives otherwise ( due to this dis proportionate media hype, page 3 coverage where you see PP, JP etc day in and day out). It is exactly like the muslim that Javed Akhtar spoke about the other day who basks in the glory that other people believe that he lives in a palance ( Kothi ), he is a nawab and the women of his clan are beautiful.

I think it takes a lot of courage from a person of the stature of Santosh Desai who could have easily kep mum and gone on with life to have publicly acknowledged the rot that has set in.

I would urge you guys to look at his rant from a slightly different perspective.

I belive he has lived upto his agency's ( ex )slogan - Truth well told.

Think about it, Manish.

Manish said...

i never denied the truth of what he said...i have ranted on all those issues myself several times on this blog.

it's just the timing and the tone.
And as the Chinese proverb says succintly - Talk doesn't cook rice!

Hate something, Change something...
Joining retail is not the answer to solving advertsing woes! That too after being an intrinsic part of it for over two decades!

Manish said...

oh BTW dharam, I am not feeling hurt at all( mostly likely none of us) LOL

Tanaya said...

Hey manish :) have a bigggggggg smile on my face..a topic i think we have relished since the past 8 months of our entry into this industry..About Santosh Desai..dnt know much bout his greatness as an advertising man but his interview did not quiet set the tone either...i was rather laughing wen i read the comments posted on agency faqs on his article..most of the people barring a few agreed completely to him and few seemed like quiet a senior lot.. was surprised..the others who reacted with agression also seemed to do so more because of a defence mechanism thing rather than actually feeling otherwise..

Ok! i have had really badddddd days and u would know that best.. been times wen i have actually given up and that too so early on but then gotten up again like an injured soldier and tried again.. the only thought that reteirates everytime in my mind wen i am down is "Try try till u succeed".

Don't know how much of wat u think i agree with, first of all because i do not know enough to comment at this stage but i doubt the fact that the worst is over.. i have never met a larger number of unsatisfied people being a part of this industry than i have met in the last few months and believe me am not even counting our agency in this.. surprised me everytime.. It makes me question - am i a lone soldier or its my young blood all charged up at this stage and that even i shall become like that someday..Dont know time will tell but all i can say right now is that i am not giving up..
We can all sit and complain till we die but to make that one change or atleast even trying to make that one change in the system which we do not like is what should keep us going..frankly dont think at our levels we can really make much of a change but i think that we can question a lot more instead of taking things as it is..that would be a beginning.. don't u think.. yes we may be put down everytime by our seniors and we are most of the times but atleast we tried and i think in the process our grounding becomes really strong.. understanding our brand and knowing a lot more bout the world and watz happening.. understanding our clients business, all of it would be a start towards that change cuz most of us spend our lives in the studio doing artworks and yes that is a lot of learning as well but a balance is what we must try and seek.. as musch as we can.. don't have to be perfectionists but atleast 5% if not 50%.

Santosh seemed to me to be a disappointing senior because of the fact that he is not willing to be the pied piper.. bravooo for having spoken out the truth but wats the point wen u yourself inspite of being at an ifluential position do not want to try and do something about that truth..its easy to run away from the battlefield but to actually be there inspite of knowing u r a one man army is a different ball game all together..Its like a tree.. out here in our homes in digboi people dnt want to plant a tree cuz inevitably every three years or so you have to change your house because u have been transferred or promoted or have got a better house.. you wont reep the benefits of wat u plant now.. and i think this syndrome is wat drives no change in advertising as well.. leave advertising in any field for that matter..i know that one of the ways i feell probably i would be able to even make a bigger change is await the time wen i shal reach such a position where i can influence..maybe i'll find other ways on the course but as of now that seems the only bleak possibility..

regarding the mediocre talent.. hmmm.. think most of us are talented.. but everyone requires that guidance and that push towards doing, understanding learning and producing..Thats the job of a manager and a planner at a very basic level and we all are one.. training and guidance i feel is a very imp aspect which is missing in this industry..you are left like a fish in the sea to learn on your own..yes you do survive but u dnt know wat u learnt is rite or wrong.. u become more like crisis managers like i always say..I think from the very basic level of studio introduction to the do's and dont's for starters will give a lot more confidence and understanding in the first place.. but be it our agency rather small, inspite of umpteen suggestions and requests nothing ever seems to happen.. nor does a big agency sitting right upstairs does have anything of the same as we have many studio friends who are again left to swim like us in the sea..
I feel instead of treating your own employees as clients and giving them round about answers atleast be honest to them and say things as it is.. (and yes i am talking bout our agency where there is quiet an age gap between our experience and the seniors experiences and no one pretty much lies in between) there couldn't be anyone better than our seniors to guide us but other than a Manish :)who is always pretty much available for us to bug him eveyone else seems to give a very gassy picture of the industry.. dnt know wat to think but i guess we have to just hang in there and try and bring about a change in wat we do not like..:)

Also ha ha! bout the money who knows it better than us..1.we are at the lowest wrung and 2.we are working for one of lowest paying agency.. ha ha..yes i do feel that a lot of talent or people for that matter do not join advertising because of the peanuts cuz they rather earn money and not badam..until and unless you are passionate nowadays you would rarely find a set who would join the place cuz at the end of the day with the Retail boom.. ha ha .. material world seems to attract us all the more..:)

Manish said...

hey tanaya...that was quite a frank speak! Loved every word of it...and the streak of optimism lacing the underlying gloom( on the state of advertising:-)

ok few clarifictaions. when I said the worst is behind us, i meant at the macro, business level. There are more clients, larger marketing budgets, media is booming...

But yes, low salaries, lack of adequate training, and the essential apartheid and lip-service continue( across agencies)...

On your comment - 'I have never met a larger number of unsatisfied people being a part of this industry than i have met in the last few months';

This time around I will put the blame on the youngsters as well for putting up with shit. You take shit, you get more! Welcome to the real world beyond college...It's not black and white...It's a rich shade of grey:-)

Today there are avenues available outside advertsing! So, repeating myself again, Hate Something, Change Something or get out of it...Advertsing can do without a few moaners...It won't drastically affect the quality of talent LOL

No glory for 24X7 bitchers, moaners and cribbers...Just enough space for soldiers and warriors...

Loved your Digboi example...And agree the Pied Piper is all of us...

Nobody is going to come and change things for us. And I dont think you are ever too small or too junior to make a point, ask questions( like you said), argue like hell, put your foot down, not take shit, call a spade a spade...

We have to invent the future...And it will be as bright or dark as we try! Once again I love the optimism...We are not alone!

Maybe all youngsters should brainstorm on How to make advertising young,sexy and desirable again!

In another 20 years, Santosh will definitely not be there. Most of us will retire as well! You guys will be the future CEOs and senior management.

So please own advertsing with warts and all. Shake it. Revamp it. Polish It . Shine it. Love it . Hate it. Or quit now...

To everyone including myself - Don''t spend 20 years of your life before you quit...You will be doing disservice to both yourself and advertsing!

Pooja Nair said...

Great discussion there!
Great work Tanaya. just like manish said, I love your honesty and your optimism.

I know a lot of freshers today who have decided against joining advertising. They prefer brand management or whatever else. This is because of the feedback they get from existing advertising professionals!

Also like Tanaya rightly pointed out, youngsters are very clear about their materialistic priorities. In today's economy, you can't really help that!

harshalg said...

Sorry for not being able to post as frequently. Am just trying to sort out my RL issues, as opposed to my online avatar! :)

Two things - Advertising as a profession isn't neccesarily about the money. Having said that, yes there might need to be structural corrections, which hopefully will happen over a period of time.

Money is not neccesarily the desired end goal, but a by-product. If you're good, it will come.

At the end of the day, the folks who really want to be in communications will choose a career on this side of the marketing divide rather than on the client end of things. (This works both ways, with some agencies allowing for secondments - but that's another topic altogether)

I don't really think Santosh moving on is suggestive of larger portents. It's a consequence of natural business happen-stance. The very fact that a fair number of people commented on his interview is reason enough to note that his opinion is well respected (within and outside the community). There's an observation here. Advertising as a fraternity is built around heroes, and the work associated with them.

Maybe, blind hero worship sometimes belies the true sanctity of the work or output (creative, planning or business). A personal favourite maxim is the BBDO credo = "The Work, the work, the work". We seek out heroes and so we beget.

Having said this, he's raised the bar on planning as a discipline, and we can only hope that he comes back. As the adage goes, once an adman, always an adman.

The other interesting aspect that came up during a discussion yesterday was how we tend to look at leadership and progression, perhaps as a race or as a community. Is a functional leader lesser than a business head? And why must, say an engineer, aspire to be a management type, as a natural progression?

I'm not convinced that we neccesarily value true specialist roles as much as we ought to.

FiNK said...

aaah.. v interesting post manish.. n u know.. as one of the optimistic young planners.. i belv in india, in advertising, in us..in what we're doing. and I've only been at it for 6 yrs but even I feel sometimes that the fun and belief is going, perhaps coz we've all got lots more options.. it takes a lot to stay at something when it isnt easy, when it isnt working out. And i'm all for adventures, but also for trying to make a difference. the necessary thing is to choose your battles wisely. and perhaps that's what santosh desai is doing too.. he does sound bitter and pissed off, but I don't blame him. Man, I had a really bad day and part of me is like.. screw this. I'm going to work in an orphanage in vietnam instead. but the bigger part of me will be charged up again tomorrow morning.. oh well. i like the idea of young people redefining what this should be. but we've gotta believe in it completely and put ego and greed and impatience aside just for a bit. v hard.