I’ve always thought of advertising as a big waiting room of sorts. All kinds of people spend a few years in our wonderful profession, often on their way someplace else. Investment bankers, science graduates, engineers, architects, MBAs, marketing interns – you find every kind of professional here, a lot of them chilling in the creative department, making paper planes out of client briefs. They’re attracted to this industry, one may assume, for its creativity. The opportunity it gives you to do something exciting and awesome and stupid, which no other business in the world would let you.
But as amazing as it is to work in a creative profession, just being here comes with a risk of burning out someday. It doesn’t happen to everyone. One only has to throw a stone at Goafest to hit twenty people who’ve been in the business for twenty years and who STILL have a passion and love for advertising that the rest of us can only hope to have when we’ve been around that long. In an industry where people hop jobs faster than you can say ‘appraisal’, this kind of ‘lambi race ka ghoda’ should be a shining example, but somehow isn’t.
Why do creative people burn out? I think cynicism might have something to do with it. When getting a decent ad out becomes a daily battle, sometimes you just get tired. You fight the temptation lesser and lesser every day. You start churning out drivel, KNOWING it’s drivel, KNOWING you hate it, KNOWING that the only reasons you’re sending it out are a deadline and a paycheck. And slowly, over months, maybe years, a part of you dies. The day comes when you look at an ad that falls below every standard you’ve ever had and don’t even consider improving it because honestly, what’s the point, right? Servicing is okay with it, the client will be okay with it, let’s just send it, yaar.
Look over your shoulder. There’s a younger version of you looking back at you, aghast.
Every single one of us creative types entered this industry as a fresh-faced intern. We had big dreams back then, and not necessarily of winning awards or pitches or getting fatter paychecks or another promotion. No, we wanted one thing more than all that nonsense: we wanted to make a good ad. That’s it. Period. A good ad. That’s what we tried to achieve every single morning we walked into office. A good ad. Not a full page, front page ad, not a billboard on Marine Drive, not a multimedia campaign. We wanted to make an ad. That we could put into our books and say, “That’s mine. I did that.”
We loved advertising back then. We didn’t bitch about our jobs, our paychecks, the hours or the deadlines. We loved the good parts, despite the bad parts. The rest of the world looked at us like we were idiots, not realising that we had what so few do: a job we loved. Where’s the love now? Buried under stacks of rejected campaigns, under piles of unreleased work, in the graveyard of cynicism.
And that’s a damn shame. Because I think the only way we can escape death-by-burnout is by bringing back the love. The buzz, the kick, the joy of coming up with something you’re proud of. Regardless of whether it sees the light of day, whether it wins an award, whether it gets you a promotion or wins you a pitch. Love your work, refuse to settle for something that doesn’t put a spring in your step, come to work itching to make a good ad and that’s exactly what you’ll end up with. A good ad. That you can look at and say, “That’s mine. I did that.”
That way, twenty years down the line if a stone hits someone at Goafest, that someone could just be you.
Vedashree Khambete is an ACD with Mudra, a writer at heart and a coffee-addict by vocation.