How many journalists get the opportunity to start their careers tracking an ever-changing and evolving industry along with its leaders? I have experienced just that in the last few years chronicling the world of advertising and marketing. And I feel I have been extremely fortunate. It’s a lot the like those people who witnessed the brouhaha around the dotcom boom, saw it come crashing down and its resurrection to where it is today. They witnessed huge shifts. Though arguably nothing as dramatic has happened in Indian advertising, there’s no dearth of drama.
In 2005, when I started writing on advertising, segregation was the order of the day. Agencies were busy separating verticals: creative, media, rural marketing, digital, healthcare and so on. It seemed every agency was trying its hands at everything possible. I felt the pull towards this restlessness of the sector. Today the lines between various verticals are clearly blurring and a lot of rationale is demanded before a new vertical is launched. The excitement around the beat continues, albeit a tad differently.
But not everyone shares this excitement. Having worked in television, print and online covering the business of advertising and media, and its maverick constituents, I’ve felt it’s a beat that’s not as respected as others in a mainline or financial news media. But that doesn’t make it any less joyful as a sector to cover or demean its significance. However, it is disheartening to see media that are still earning their bread and butter through space and time selling, not giving the exciting beat of advertising its due.
Advertising is a sector that thrives on training. And it shows. Industry veterans take the time out to even teach outsiders, including a bumbling journalist. Trust me, it’s not the same with many other sectors, where access is controlled by corporate communications. Access to agency leadership, insights into their work processes never seemed a challenge even in my early days. Perhaps I haven’t worked with too many other beats for long, but I do know that I owe my modest learnings to a number of senior people in the industry. It is veterans like Shashi Sinha, R Gowthaman, CD Mitra, Ajit Varghese, Uday Shankar and Rohit Gupta who have taught me over many interactions the basics of media planning. They literally handheld me during the initial years of IPL. I know for sure now that our industry leaders are more than ready to bring not just journalists, but also new entrants to the industry, to speed.
And then there’s the inimitable joy of watching creatives from the sidelines. They say, typically journalists get more excited about bad news. However, whether it is good or bad news, whether it is the recent Ford Figo scam ad or Indian agency wins at Cannes Lions or a tear jerking, award-winning social awareness campaign, it’s equally exciting to watch a bunch of excited people create great work.
Also, entrepreneurs are exciting to watch - creative ones more so. As it is, the advertising sector has been forever debating if creative people can lead an agency better. It has been an exhilarating experience to see so many creative people including Agnello Dias, SajanRaj Kurup, Manish Bhatt and Raghu Bhat, Priti Nair and many others launch their own ventures. Similarly, one’s faith in the sector remains intact with international boutique agencies like BBH, BMB, Naked Communications, and Strawberry Frog venture into the country.
It is a dog-eat-dog industry. It fights tooth and nail for awards, accounts, talent, et al. But isn’t it heartening to see so many leaders come out and speak in favour of Bobby Pawar following his exit from JWT? It’s a great example for future leaders as to how the industry can maintain its sanctity for the right reasons.
There’s no beat more exciting than advertising, media and marketing and no people more delightful to know. So what if they have an occasional bout or two?
Pritha Mitra Dasgupta, assistant editor, Campaign India