Campaign India Team
Dec 23, 2010

The Big Debate: The good, bad and ugly of Indian Advertising: M G Parameswaran

As part of our year-end special, we reproduce the thoughts shared by industry captains on the good, the bad and the ugly of Indian advertising in conversations with Campaign India. Read what M G Parameswaran, executive director and CEO, Draftfcb Ulka had to say.

The Big Debate: The good, bad and ugly of Indian Advertising: M G Parameswaran

Bad About Indian Advertising : The Super Silo Syndrome    

Can you show me someone who understands advertising? Not just how to create a 30 second television commercial? 

Aleading business journal recently quoted Brain Perkins, Corporate VP at Johnson & Johnson saying that he was sorely missing the days of the ‘Bundled Agency Services’. We are today in the era of Super Silo Specialization and some Indian clients tell us they want to cherry pick from among the best, so it was rather reassuring for an old war horse like me to read about this quote from a leading global marketer.Can you show me someone who understands advertising? Not just how to create a 30 second television commercial? Not just the best CPRP rate on Indian Hindi GECs? Not just the number of consumers on Facebook? 

The challenge is quite herculean if we are to think of the future generation advertising  leaders, who will have to work in a silo but still understand, or at least appreciate, what happens in the other silos.

At our agency we hope to handle this challenge by recruiting the brightest from the better management, art, communication schools and making them go through an eight week orientation. Of the eight weeks, four  weeks are spent in class room sessions on all the aspects of advertising, Advertising 101, if you can give it a name. Over the years we have grown immune to hearing complaints from aspiring copy trainees and account executives, about the ‘very very quantitatively brain numbing’ sessions on media planning; or the boring sessions of market share analysis by account planning. Similarly the young trainees who have chosen to be in planning or media, are made to go through sessions on ideation, film making, printing and even attend a film/photo shoot session.

The Star One programme, now in its 20th year, run now by our VP HR, Savita Mathai, a product of the Star  One process herself, helps our agency group produce young executives who can answer the question, ‘What is advertising’ a little more elaborately than any trainee in any other agency, we believe. The Programme costs us a lot, both in terms of facilities as well as time cost of all the senior managers who take serious time out to lecture, interact and conduct workshops for the trainees.

But as all stories, there is a big twist in this one too. Though we do have almost 50% of the agency staffed with Star One trainees, we do need to recruit at lateral levels often. And here we run into a road block. It is today rare to find a client servicing executive to speak with some confidence about GRPs. Let alone speaking about the minimum GRP threshold level you need on a per week basis to deliver impact in the market, they may not be able to even define what is Reach, OTS and TRP. I am sure the same problem exists in media, where media planners are clueless about the creative process, the Holy Grail we call the Creative Brief, the ideation process, the production process and so on. 

We are all aware that there is a 1000 pound gorilla called digital who is sitting in the room, none of us really understand that one too well. This adds to the depression and highlights the perils of siloed thinking.

I do believe that we are in the age of super specialization. That is the way the world of marketing communication will evolve and we cannot fight that wave. But is there a possible solution?

In the healthcare industry we do have super specialists, but the court of first call is the family doctor, the MBBS doctor who knows the family, knows your history, knows what was the last problem we went to him/her about.  Can there be an equivalent position in advertising? Not sure if that is achievable,  but there can be a possible solution.I think the critical place where we need a fix is in the person who is in some position of team leadership. If we were to assume that this is a person with about five years of experience, be it servicing, creative, media or planning, can they be trained to be non-siloed in their thinking?

The thought is tempting. Why not take all the people in advertising who have completed five years, pull them out for 10 days, make them go through a crash course on briefing, ideation, market analysis, media planning, activation, digital, etc. 

In some sense this will be a course broadly titled ‘General Advertising for the Advertising Specialists’ could be conceived of.

We do have some lessons to be learnt from the wider corporate world and the big bad world of finance. About three decades ago, when Wall Street became the ruling deity, and many corporate senior management had only a smattering of finance  knowledge [ since they had come from the engineering or technical or marketing fields], business schools started offering a one week to one month course called ‘Finance for Non-Finance Executives’. We may be well advised to pick a leaf from that fable, create a course that is about ‘Complete Advertising or General Advertising  for the Advertising Specialists’. I am sure it will be a tough course to sell, people will enrol and drop out. Many may want to quit after the session on media planning. Those left may want their money back after the session on RSS fees and social media analysis, Google Analytics.

But if they last the five or ten days we may have found a solution to the first question we were trying to answer, ‘What is advertising’.Amen.

Campaign India