I know the smartest guy in advertising. No, really. I don’t know his I.Q. score, don’t know if he does Fuchsian equations in his spare time or reads up on aerodynamics for a lark. But man, the boy is smart. And he is a boy, years my junior, both in age and experience.
He is the smartest guy in advertising for one simple reason: he realised much before the rest of us that designations mean diddly-squat.
What is a job-title anyway? Just another rung on the corporate ladder. And in advertising, the ladder is long and the higher you go, the closer the rungs get. (This is partly because for a lot of people, our profession is like Hotel California – they check in, but they just don’t check out. Don’t lynch me just yet - I’m not saying they should, I’m just saying they don’t.) So we have creative directors and senior creative directors, group creative directors and executive creative directors and national creative directors and creative heads (Asia) and whatnot. Lower down the pecking order, we have junior writers and writers and senior writers and copy sups and creative sups and group heads and associate creative directors. And if that’s not tedious enough, there’s creative partner or ideas associate or whatever the hell else.
The question I have is this: what difference does a designation make? What is so attractive about a fancy title?
It can’t be the fact that it looks good on a visiting card. Nobody in advertising uses visiting cards, except at pitches. In fact, the last time I gave someone my visiting card was after I quit my last job. I gave my box of cards, nearly intact, to a junior, who used them to roll joints. Point made.
What else? Is it the fact that once you hit creative director level, you’ve got an army of minions to delegate menial jobs to, while you put your feet up and think film? Um, no, not so much. Because increasingly, there’s been an epidemic of creative directors who have no teams of their own. That’s right. Teamless creative directors, who write leaflets, copy-check danglers and do every job that a junior writer would otherwise do. Oh, they get film briefs too, but like we all know, there’s many a missed sip between a briefing and a shoot. I know what you’re going to say, dignity of labour and all that. No job too small et cetera. And everyone doesn’t have the luxury of saying, “Sorry, I have eight years experience, I’m overqualified to write standee copy.” But still – a creative director copy-checking a tent-card? That just feels... wrong, somehow.
So if a title doesn’t change your job description, then is it the money? Is it the fact that a senior someone someone earns more than a junior someone someone? You’d think so, wouldn’t you? Enter the smartest guy in advertising. He was offered a choice: fancy designation with slight raise, or no designation change but massive raise. You’ll still be a junior in everyone’s eyes, they told him, but we’ll give you a team of your own and you’ll make more money.
Guess what he took.
Vedashree Khambete is an associate creative director with Mudra, a writer at heart and a total grammar Nazi at times.