Babita Baruah
Feb 02, 2011

Babita’s Blog: Where have all the Young Men (and Women) Gone?

In which Babita Baruah, vice president and client services director, JWT Delhi wonders where the bright young sparks in advertising go, some years into an advertising career.

Babita’s Blog: Where have all the Young  Men (and Women) Gone?

I met a bright young lady at an agency do the other day.
Immediately came up to me and said she was looking for an opportunity to join us.
Always on the lookout for young sparks, I was about to fish out my visiting card when she said, " Who can I meet in Planning?"
"Planning?? I thought you were in Account Management?"
"That's why I want a change. Either planning or marketing." 

Putting back my unused visiting card, I realised the reality facing us today.The exodus is real. Whether to planning or to marketing, there is a new void in account management.  

Not necessarily of numbers. But maybe of quality. Of stars.  

So, where are the good guys and girls going? 

Some are doing the rounds in agencies, flitting from one to another, trying to find that elusive nest of position and recognition.
Most are moving out of the industry. To the other side. Wearing the mantle of marketing.  

Fifteen years ago… 

I would look starry eyed at my bosses , who practically ruled the roost.
At the client's office, they were partners.
In the agency, they were the centre of gravity. 

Briefings, ideations, presenting creative with equal passion… it was a co-creation. They were great presenters, managed business wins and portfolios, went to stage with creative and clients to  hold up the awards of great work. Everyone owned ideas and work with equal pride and a sense of creation. 

And then the divide happened.  

The umbilical cord with media was dissected. Planners emerged as a new breed. Creative people proved to be equally good managers and presenters.
Leaving the good account managers somewhat confused and lost. 

Some common coffee and corridor cribbings: 

  • We are part of the team. But do we own a winning creative or idea? Not really. The only Account Management, if they fall into this category now, present in the global awards scene are the Heads of Offices.
  • Do we have an equivalent of Young Turks, or Young Guns or any such award for young minds in Account Management?
  • Do we have an equivalent of Effies which have become the spotlight arena for planners?
  • Do we really co-create - briefs, creative, ideas- or is the role now truncated to setting up meetings, managing crisis and fire fighting?
  • What or where is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? 
  • There is no point in a coronation without a crown. 

It is time for some spring cleaning of perceptions. 

Specially at the junior and mid-management ranks. This is where most of the disillusionment lies. The going gets good again at the top. With management responsibilties.  

  • Whether it means role redefinitions
  • Or, recognition on the awards stage
  • Or, armouring the young minds with new ideating tools,  presentation skills, new media innovations, digitalization.
  • Or, having Fast Tracks for the bright sparks
  • Or, remuneration at par with the other disciplines ( it is so in most agencies but the perception is that it is not)
  • Or, Training. New media, rural marketing, mobile marketing, new media mixes, channel mixes, Integrated Marketing Tools. The canvas is changing and we need to gear up the account management team so that these learnings can be internalised. Only then can good ideas germinate.
  • Or,  Fun at Work like Role Change- where creative, account management and planning changes hats for a week. After all, we do this at workshops and it works very well.
  • Or, maybe just start with simple things like sit together at work and not in walled silos that almost scream of invisible signs like “Stay Out!!”. 

Basically, let's make account management equally  responsible for the creative product and not just the relationship and deliveries. With responsibility comes empowerment which is passionate and not enforced. 

These are some simple  back of the envelope ideas. 

Most leading agencies  who do all and much more than what I have written , have a good pool of talent, who are inspired by their roles and truly contribute.
The rest become a big churn pot. 

While the overall organisation plays a big role in structures  and responsibilities, the critical role is also in changing perceptions.
This rests in our hands.
As Account Management seniors, the change begins with us. Me included. 

It's time we make the young men ( and women) stay. 

The views expressed are the author's independent views as an ad professional and does not reflect the organisation's viewpoint.

Campaign India

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