Some years ago, when I was at TBWA\ Anthem, I was part of the team on the CNBC-TV18 account. The first communication task we managed to sell was an outdoor campaign. Very purist, with a minimum copy. One of the creatives read, “CEOs are more insecure than management trainees.”
The last month has been horrific if one goes by the headlines in all newspapers, all news channels, whether business or otherwise. The Sensex is tanking, jobs are at stake, the economy is collapsing, banks are in a mess, your savings are worth nothing. The doomsday prophecies go on and on. Why is it then that Totos (and all the decent watering holes in town, whatever the town) is packed to the rafters every evening, all restaurants have ‘waiting lists’ on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, bookshops and coffee shops are still full, the traditional Diwali markets such as Dadar had painful traffic jams all of last week?
Perhaps it’s because the gloom has not hit most of the youngsters (read 18-35). They’re doing okay, they’re high on confidence, they’re not overcommitted to the stock market, they’re not earning salaries that would make a difference to the balance sheet and consequently put their jobs at risk. It’s the guys at the top of the pyramid who are at risk – and they are the guys making all the negative noises. They’re earning in a minimum of seven digits, often in eight digits; they’re the guys who’re exposed to the vagaries of the stock market, they’re the guys with EMIs in six digits.
They’re the CXOs, and they ARE more insecure than the management trainees and the mid-level managers in their organizations. In the last issue, we interviewed 15 young adlanders to get a sense of what they thought of the future. Read it. There’s a clear understanding that there is, indeed, a tough time ahead of us, but all their responses (yes, all) have a strong undertone of optimism. They see less cloud, more silver lining.
What is it that they see and others don’t? Do they have a view of the situation that is less depressing – because they are less involved? Are the CXOs’ views on the downturn negatively influenced by their own personal losses and problems, and, are they, therefore, more negative than need be? More significantly, are the decisions at their workplace dictated (or heavily influenced) by the performance of their personal finance portfolio? That’s when it starts to worry.
So you have a company that’s not doing too badly, and a CEO who’s in personal deep s**t. And he starts cost-cutting and downsizing . Would he have walked the same path if he had no exposure to the stock market? Cost-cutting and downsizing have become buzz words — and, often, neither of the phrases needs to be used. Certainly not in the smaller agencies where everyone is overworked and underpaid. Adland is, by dint of fortune and by the nature of the business that we are in, protected from the worst that the downturn can throw.
A topline manager will, at times such as this, look for opportunities to grow the business and get a larger share of the pie. A bottom-line manager has little role to play now. Every single manager knows how to cut costs, and your doing it better will earn you no brownie points.
All discussions now focus on the bottom-line, as if the top-line will look after itself, or as if nothing can be done on the top-line.
As we emerge from the depths, the managers one will notice – and recognize as superior managers – will be those who grew the top-line, kept the flock together and managed to maintain morale. Not those who whittled down the staff, shrank the bottom line and destroyed the brand that employed them. Chew on that before you spread the gloom around.