Friday, November 17, 2006

Patli Gali (Agencies' Accepted, Chosen Short Cut to Fame)

Click on image to see in a separate window to manipulate resolution and size.

An extremely insightful piece on how agencies chase awards...

Reproduced with grateful thanks to Euro RSCG...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

10 things to look for to hire winners

Like most industries, ours also is a talent-deficient industry. You do get people, but it is always a challenge to get just the right person for the right job.

Now, who's the right person for the right job? Besides the usual stuff like relevant experience, etc. there's a checklist I use for figuring this one:

1. Is the person really hungry for the job? How needy is he? Does he live with parents and hence has little need to retain the job? Or is he the 'just-married' variety, who has to ensure that the home fires continue to burn? Is the candidate's spouse also working? If the spouse is the wife, then this is a good sign, because, mostly, the husbands are unlikely to live off their wives, but if the spouse is the husband, then you need to explore further for other signs; though exceptions too have come my way. There's this young-ish copywriter who's worked in gulf, and had joined us. He came in one day, and didn't turn up the following morning. When explored, we figured that he's done this repeatedly, and subsequent to his not reporting for work, his poor wife makes the call to the husband's office making excuses for him. Other similar cases where the candidate is not hungry, they end up wasting your time by first accepting the offer and subsequently not joining.

2. Is the person ambitious? Is he considering change because he's not being given a clear understanding of which direction his career is headed? Is he leaving because he's doing the same job over and over again, and hence the learning has stopped? These are interesting signs to look for.

3. Has the person bothered to read up about the company he's wanting to join? What's his level of knowledge, and how clearly or vaguely does he articulate it?

4. Is he curious to find out what he will be expected to do/deliver in his new job role? Or is he just looking for a new job, for the sake of moving on from one place to other, as a means of increasing his remuneration?

5. How willing he's to learn, in case he doesn't know something? Is he the types who is more prone to remaining in his comfort zone, or is he open to taking on newer challenges - challenges which go beyond what he's already done till now? Does he have conviction to follow this through? What he's done in the past which reflects this trait? For such people, I sometimes make an exception of not even looking at relevant experience.

6. Ask him for a few things he's proud of during his entire professional stint. This is a sound reflection of the kind of things he will be good at. Some candidates are proud of doing some operational job well, while the others are proud of more cerebral stuff. Gives you a good fix of where you can slot him, or whether you can slot him.

7. Ask him for things he done during his professional stint, which he wish he'd done better. Beware of those who don't have anything to share. This is one disconcerting question which gets the candidate's true self to emerge - his candour, his nervousness, his confidence or conviction in himself. Of all the things mentioned above, this one probably reveals the most about the candidate.

8. Does he ask questions? You need to wary of those who don't.

9. Does he turn the interview into a chat, or does it remain an interview? How well does he pick up the conversation strings and builds on them to his advantage? Such articulate people will always remain an asset in our business.

10. And last but not the least, trust your gut-feel. There are enough seemingly-sound candidates I have rejected because the gut-feel told me to, and I have discovered later that they weren't as sound as they were coming across as. And similarly, there are enough candidates I have picked up on gut-feel, which some other would have rejected. And more often than not, such gamble has paid off. Reason - if such candidate's credentials don't seem right, and he knows it, just the faith you show in him makes him start to deliver at near-100% efficiency. This is near-100% fail-safe observation. Try it, and you won't regret it.

Happy hiring!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

These Images Represent the Industry Behaviour Today!

Paucity of Good People in our Industry

Click here to read about it... (You can also read it in The Brand Reporter of 16-30 Nov, 2006)

My dream's all a-shattering! (or in good ol' hindi - Sapna mera... toot gaya)

"Live Life King Size"..."Relax, Have a Charminar"..."Only Vimal"... "Gold Spot, the Zing Thing!". These are some of the lines I had heard while still in college.

The imagery was vivid. Cool dudes, with babes wrapped around them, or just a macho loner blowing smoke into nothingness, happy teenagers freaking out in amusement parks, or desirable looking men and women walking the ramp!

These were the images which came to mind when I first walked the aisles of an advertising agency. Mind was working overtime about how, very soon, yours truly will be hob-nobbing with all these desirable women. Further, it was thinking, once this hob-nobbing begins, who knows what may happen next (these were still the times when all you sought from friends was an intro to that girl with curls, with the cool airs of being able to handle the rest yourself with panache - all you felt you needed was a cool bike!).

Starry eyed, I walked into this industry. First few weeks were all about understanding how the industry functioned - inane things like creative, account management, production, studio, and even more inane things like how we make money here.

All this just didn't seem real. But then, I consoled myself that I am new. Surely, once you put in some years in the industry, all this will change, and magically all that I imagined will just appear in front of my eyes.

While all this was happening, some more cool dude imagery was making its way to the idiot box. And that was further reinforcing the belief, that surely the dream I had when I joined the industry, was lurking somewhere just around the corner.

The wait of weeks turned to months, and then to years. Every passing day was filled with increasingly drier stuff like customer insights for mosquito repellents and baby soaps. I came across all kinds of things - like the Capfarer model, the P-Snap, the ABC, and the NRS. What kept eluding me were the models, who were shapely. Not that I didn't go for shoots, or auditions, or events, or recordings; but then, all such visits to locations and studios were filled with extreme stress about deadlines, budgets, approvals, continuity, props, etc.

Though I can boast of a decent IQ, but the thought never crossed my mind that probably this industry is really all about such stuff, and not about glamour. I continued to wait for the next turn, where the scenery will change, and suddenly the cool climes which I had always associated with this industry, will sooth the otherwise stressed out default life one lives, being a part of this industry.

But while I was waiting, something strange started to happen. For some masochistic reason, I started to enjoy it all. The little dream hadn't died, but while it wasn't coming true, I started to enjoy just the wait, and all that was happening during the wait. I became an ad-world junky.

The next campaign, the next award, the next insight, became the things I started to wait for, and not the next comely lass! And believe you me, these became more fulfilling than the dream that brought me into the industry in the first place.

Now the dream seldom recurs. And the hope of that dream coming true has completely vanished. A new dream has replaced it. The dream of understanding the customers even better, creating even more single-minded, even more persuasive communication, a dream of creating a unique strategy for some unique problem some brand is facing. And strangely, I am a lot calmer, as a result.

Working hard at achieving this new dream has become extremely rewarding - both literally and figuratively. And now, when someone asks me that if I had a choice of making my choices all over again, my answer is - "My choice will be the same, albeit for different reasons."

I am telling this personal story for the benefit of all those young, starry-eyed people who possibly are wanting to enter, or have entered the industry for all the wrong reasons. Enter they must, but they should do so with their eyes wide open, and making their choice with an eye on the right reasons. And, most certainly, they will be rewarded!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Ad Agencies or Saree Shops?

"Bhaiyya, show me that yellow one with red border." Surely, we would have come across something like this at some point in our lives - be it while shopping with our mother, sister, wife, or in some cases with our girl friends. I am not being sexist, but typically women do this when they go out shopping. It is not uncommon for them to go out and spend an entire day rather fruitfully doing just window-shopping!

So what am I saying? I am saying that those in agencies have another set of women in their lives - their clients. A similar refrain happens while the agency blokes are interfacing with their clients. "Guys, can you pass me the option with larger logo and the woman in pink? the one with hammock, but the one with the traffic light."

Isn't there a rather uncanny similarity between the two situations?

Let's take the case of these women. The only thing they are clear about when they go shopping is that they may want to buy... say... a saree. They wouldn't know which shop they want it from. They are not clear about why do they want to buy it. Nor are they sure about the colour they want. Ask them whether they want a Kanchipuram (Kanjivaram), Chanderi, or a Banarasi, and they are likely to be mostly clueless. If you check the occasion for which they are wanting it, they just might know the answer to this one. And budget? Well... just forget it. They just might say Rs.1000, and end up spending Rs.10,000, or vice-versa.

Now let's check out the traits demonstrated by a typical client. They may brief all their agencies about some communication they wish to do. The objective of this communication may vary in vagueness from 'building awareness' to 'coutering some aggression of the competition'. Do they want a TVC or a press ad - well, go figure ("Whatever is likely to work the best, please suggest. We'll internally discuss and finalise!"). And the budget? The typical answer will be "Budget will be need-based."

So, what does this lead to?

In case of these women on a shopping spree, it might lead to a huge amount of frustration for the people manning the saree counter. Women might leave a trail of opened sarees of various hues in their wake. They may even critique the wares shown to them. And a common refrain you might hear is - "You don't have a lime green saree with olive green border. I was only looking for that combination."

And the clients...? More often than not, they are likely to be parroting similar sentiment - "Your approach doesn't address the issue;" "The competitive move is aggressive and we don't want to come across as reactionaries;" "Why haven't you shown us the option with waterfalls;". In short, agencies don't seem to be able to deliver to their 'brief'.

Frustrations galore!

Creative and servicing alike, get absolutely frustrated with such repeated window shopping sprees by these women in their lives called clients, and start to drift away to other, more attractive women, or get a sex-change done and become women (clients) themselves.

It is a fact that clients get the advertising they deserve. With every such shopping spree, they make their chances of getting a path-breaking communication solution even more remote. Not only do they end up doing disservice to their own company or brand, they also add to the brain drain in communication industry.

It is time they realised that ad agencies are not saree shops, and actually started to think before they ask their agencies to show them the wares. Or else, they will be the ones who will be left standing holding the lemon.

And as far as agencies are concerned, they also need to put their foot down and resist such exploitation which is continually leading to exodus of talented folks from the industry. They need to strongly raise their collective voice against such adhoc behaviour of their clients and stop any further erosion of their value. It is commonly known that no one can insult you till you choose to feel insulted. It is time the agencies chose the path of building self-respect by refusing to be treated as Saree shops!