Here come the dream merchants

Ramanujam Sridhar

On my first day at work in an advertising firm, the opening words from my boss were, “Welcome to the mad house!” Though that lingering statement had me confused for a while, a month into the job explained everything to me.

And this was it — the diversity of the job. While one week, you’re scratching your head for ideas on how to sell shampoo to women, in another you are trying to understand why children have noodles for a snack.

Core departments

The three main departments in an agency are:

* Client servicing or account management
* Creative

Client servicing is basically for anyone who can manage people and relationships. Key to success in the job is the ability to communicate effectively. People in client service usually speak very well and write clearly. They also need to handle the pressure of deadlines.  While the basic requirement is a university degree to start out as a trainee, it is not uncommon to find people with management degrees coming into the profession.
Scratch for creativity

You often see entertaining ads on television and wonder who does them. Well, the creative people in ad agencies are behind some of the most creative ads that we get to see.

Creative people are either copy writers or visualisers. Copy writers are those who come up with clever headlines that one sees in newspaper and magazine ads. They are the ones who come up with television scripts too for all those ads that we see on television. Copy writers have the capability to write well and come up with original ideas.

Copy writers should have a degree in arts or humanities with some writing experience. Visualisers typically hold a degree in visual commu-nications or arts before joining advertising.

Creative artists are hunted for in pairs. It makes sense for a copy writer to team up with a visualiser in the early stages of his/ her career. Initial salaries may be low, but work and talent quickly get recognised and rewarded by good salary raises.

The third leg of advertising is media. Twenty five years ago,  media was part of the agency itself  — those were the days of full-service advertising. Today, media houses are stand-alone agencies.

There are two main areas in media — buying and planning. Media buying is about procuring space in newspapers and magazines and air time on TV channels. The ability to negotiate and an understanding of the market and its dynamics is critical.

The more glamorous and challenging part of media is planning. A media planner determines how a client’s publicity revenue is spent. They study the ratings of various programmes on TV, circulation/ readership rates of magazines and newspapers and allocate money. Media planners are usually management graduates with a flair for numbers and an ability to understand research reports.

To sum up, though advertising is no longer the hot profession it used to be a couple of decades ago, it is still a serious option for anyone who has a creative streak in them.
Having said that, I need to clarify that client service aspirants need not be creative but only need to understand and appreciate creativity. It is suited for people who can get bored with predictable jobs.

Advertising poses new challenges every day. It is one of the few professions that values youth and a fresh perspective. Some of the best advertising that you see on TV today is created by young people. The reason for this is simple. The Indian consumer is young and advertising needs young people who think and understand youth, speak their language and create ads that appeal to the youth. So, are you ready?

Career ladder
For client servicing:

* Management Trainee
* Client Relation/ Servicing Executive
* Client Relationship Manager
* Account Manager/ Account Head
* AVP - Client Relations/ Branch Head/ VP/ Marketing & Operation
* Sr VP / Business Head / SBU Head/ National Head/ COO
* CEO / MD

Students from premier management institutes start at Rs 4 lakh to Rs 8 lakh per annum. MBA graduates from non-premium institutes start from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 4 lakh per annum. For middle management level, salaries range from Rs 6 lakh to Rs 25 lakh per annum.
For the creative thinker:

* Junior Copywriter
* Senior Copywriter
* Creative Manager/ Associate Creative Head
* Creative Head/ Creative Director
* VP-Creative

Salary starts anywhere between Rs 2.5 lakh and Rs 3 lakh per annum. For middle management professionals, the starting salary is typically between Rs 4 lakh and Rs 20 lakh. Senior management professionals can expect a figure of Rs 20 lakh or above per annum.  

For visualisers:

* Associate Art Director
* Art Director  
* Creative Head

Salary at a junior level is from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 4 lakh, at middle level it is from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 20 lakh per annum and for senior level it is Rs 20 lakh and above.

(The writer is principal consultant and chairman, Brand-comm)

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