Executive Doodle – Issue 2, 2021

Executive Doodle – Issue 2, 2021

In my personal experience as an entrepreneur and a vocal activist of the advertising fraternity, I feel that there is a lot to be desired. This does not mean that we have not achieved anything worthwhile, but an honest introspection does make me feel disappointed at the present state.

Let me explain why. The advertising industry has been growing constantly in the past two decades or so, as I see more and more ads in traditional and digital media every day. Despite the overall growth in the industry in terms of advertising spend, addition of more advertising agencies and human resources, I still find the industry to be erratic and in disarray to a very high extent. Our creative, in most cases, is below par and our quality of work, highly inconsistent.

The world of digital has brought with it some challenges that we had not seen earlier. The advent of digital agencies and continuous struggle for the traditional agency structure to evolve along with changing media realities, has been daunting to say the least. The process of evolution tells us that no matter how much we fight to keep the status quo, change is the only constant. For us, the reality is in our face and it is telling us how much we need to re-configure and re-structure our working relationship, yet I don’t see the urgency in our actions.

I strongly believe that leadership, in an advertising agency, like any other business is the key to setting the direction for the future. When I look around, I see a lot of time being spent on getting business and initially on developing executional campaigns, but what I don’t see is the desired leadership or down the line communication of the purpose of the organization or its priorities towards business, people, the industry and community. Let me tell you from personal experience that these are not buzz words. These are life lines for an advertising business to create alignment, across the organization and create common and shared priorities.

In case you are thinking, ok so we do all the above then what? Well when we do these crucial actions, they must be further expanded upon. The organization must invest in plans and programs that lead to actions supporting their purpose. It involves investment in people, in HR policies and procedures, in accountability of action, in support to causes that align with the purpose and the list goes on. I don’t think that there are many advertising agencies that even have manuals containing HR policies, leave aside the other items listed above.

How can excellence be achieved when we are not committed to our business and ourselves? The way we ignore driving in lanes, we are also avoiding processes that are mandatory for developing campaigns. We need to rise above mediocrity and show character in building organizations that can compete at least regionally and then globally. It’s time that we take responsibility through actions that back our words.

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Executive Doodle Annual 2021

Executive Doodle Annual 2021

Life goes on amid all the chaos and external changes. COVID-19 still remains at the epicenter of the world with the kind of disruption that is difficult to fathom yet it continues to force itself on the human race at an unprecedented level. I am sure this is not the first time you would have heard someone say, “When are things going to get back to normal?”, as much as we are continuously questioning during this particular uncertainty, since it is so highly discomforting. The one thing that we all yearn for is stability which seems to be the least guaranteed in the present circumstances. It is so interesting that a quick reflection on the last 8 months or so and the massive changes that humans have adapted to is no less than a miracle. We were pushed, forced, challenged and cornered and each time we stood up and faced it with greater resolve. We don’t need to be told that we are resilient as time has proven through history that we have risen from the ashes and fought back each time our backs were against the wall.

I know we are now getting used to the new normal where a lot is quite different to what it was pre-COVID. Having said that, there are certain changes which may not revert back to how it was in the earlier days. An exceptionally large part of these changes are digitally-influenced, which we can expect to keep building on our behavior and as a response to our paranoia and fear of the pandemic. I cannot imagine that we will discontinue our newly acquired habit of excessive hand-washing or using hand sanitizer when we have control over the pandemic. Similarly, there are many other new habits that we will carry forward even when our fears subside in the near future.

I also find it interesting that our changed priorities have led to new consumption habits. According to a recent research report by J.P. Morgan, COVID-19 has transformed consumer spending habits. There is a surge in sales of household cleaners, soap, vitamins and supplements, hair color and coffee. There is also a double-digit decline in sales of cosmetics and sun-care products. There is also a major increase in demand for hi-speed internet, streaming and cable services, video games and online gaming, food delivery services etc. All these changes demonstrate that we are highly influenced by our environment and our habits can shift instantaneously.

I want to leave you with one more thought. With the COVID-19 vaccinations rolling out, there will be a huge cost that governments as well as individuals will pay for. To give you an idea, the cost of one vaccine will average from $25 to $35, hence the total cost of vaccinating a whole population will run into billions. Don’t you think this cost will be at the expense of another priority on the government’s agenda; such as education, health, infrastructure or human development? We are in unusual times where disruptions like these may continue in the next decade. Though I cannot predict the future, I can say that we have entered a new spiral of evolution, where we will be faced with multiple conflicts. Our biggest challenge will be to maintain a balance within, despite the continuous changes in the environment.

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