Idea people: Career in advertising


This is what constitutes the humdrum of a regular day for most of us: You wake up. Brush your teeth with toothpaste, which the banner at the supermarket claimed had ‘a revolutionary whitening technology’. You sip a cup of tea, you saw recommended by a fresh-faced, comely housewife on national television, as you scan the busy pages of a newspaper stacked with brick-like advertisements. You then head to work in a car that you bought at an affordable EMI, which you learnt about from the billboard, standing stark against the skyline near your workplace. If you aren’t using a car, you’re probably making your daily commute to work in a train or bus, reading posters plastered on the compartment walls, selling anything from heart-friendly cooking oils, to herbal healing. You can probably see where this is going. And we didn’t even have to get through the rest of the day.

Advertising in India is a $5 billion business. It’s ubiquitous, in your face, and is believed to be one of the most creative seen anywhere in the world. An average consumer is presumably exposed to about 3000 advertising messages in a day. For creative professionals in advertising, this means creating campaigns that will break through the clutter, and make a permanent, positive impact on a consumer, generating brand recognition and recall.


The creative process in advertising essentially involves communicating an idea to the consumer. As R Balakrishnan ‘Balki’, chairman and chief creative officer, Lowe India, succinctly puts it, “Advertising is about solving marketing problems, but in an interesting, and different manner. It is a question of being responsible and irresponsible at the same time, kind of like having a schizophrenic personality. Prasoon Joshi, executive creative director, South and South-East Asia, McCann Erickson, asserts, “We are in the communication business. Clients come to advertising agencies, because although they can give us a technical brief about their product, communicating this in a consumer-friendly manner is the job of a creative person. The crux of advertising is effective communication. People who cannot communicate, should not get into this business.”

However, he also highlights the changes in client attitudes, saying, “Clients have become more receptive to offbeat creative ideas, because there is no choice but to look at more unconventional ideas, if one has to find new original ways to break through the clutter.”

For aspiring creative professionals, this spells freedom and scope for creative expression, as clients are increasingly expanding their perspectives. Piyush Pandey, executive chairman and national creative director, Ogilvy India, explains, “Clients, who are real partners, get the best out of you, when you give them the best that you have. Any creative project cannot happen unless there is a very creative client out there, who may not know how to do it but appreciates art, and is aware enough to know that there is a big chance that it will impact his business in a positive fashion. If he can understand that if he were not a client, he’d be a consumer, he’d love it. That is the beauty of a smart communications client.”


Creativity in advertising is all about the search for the ‘Big Idea’. Visualisation is the process of conceptualising, wherein a creative team will come up with the basic concept or idea for an ad or a campaign. Shirin Johari, art director, Ogilvy & Mather, who already has a few international awards to her credit, explains, “Both art and copy professionals ideate together, working in pairs and bouncing ideas off each other. The idea could essentially come from either one of them, but the copywriter will take the responsibility of writing and fine-tuning the copy. Similarly, an art director takes responsibility for the visualising and designing.”

Pandey corroborates this view, saying, “I may have an idea, but I may not know how to put it together. That’s when I need an art director, because I may not be aware of all the possibilities through which it can be executed. The entire communications business, particularly advertising is a lot of teamwork.”

Although visualisation has traditionally been an art director’s stronghold, the line between the role of a copywriter and that of an art director is fast blurring. Joshi states, “Visualisation, is mostly associated with an art team, but that distinction is gradually dying. Whether you want to be part of a copy team or the art one, you have to have the power of visualisation.”


There are no specific academic qualifications that will ensure a place in an ad agency, at least with respect to a copywriting profile. Creativity is inherent, and most people in the business may have left behind their core competencies to pursue a more fulfilling career in advertising.


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