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Guest Column: Advertising – Is it worth it?

Bodhisatwa Dasgupta, Associate Creative Director, Grey Worldwide, takes a philosophical look at what makes advertising worthwhile for those practise it

November 21, 2012

Bodhisatwa Dasgupta

I chanced upon something rather interesting the other day. It was an article called “A short lesson in perspective”. Written by Linds Redding, a British born graphic designer, it questions if advertising is worth the sacrifices we make for it.

He’s of the opinion that it’s not. That advertising people are in a little make-believe world of their own, that their days are spent gleefully masturbating each other’s ego. That outside their little circles, no one gives a flying fagarati about a One Show Pencil or a golden Lion.

He’s of the opinion that there’s more to life. Things like spending time with the family. Building something for the kid. Having an affair.

Is Linds right? Wrong? I haven’t a clue, but this is what I think.

I think we’re in advertising for a reason. And yes, I know it’s very, very cool to say “I’m in advertising because there was little else I could do.” But the truth is that we’re in advertising because, well, we’re good at it.

Each of us has a set of skills that advertising needs. Some of us know how to gently urge someone through the power of words. Some of us know how to mesmerise a person through art and graphics. Some of us know how to catch on to human behaviour, and through communication, influence it.

We’re here because we jolly well want to be here. We like what we do. Just like an accountant likes the work he does. Just like a car mechanic likes tinkering with cars.

Like Linds said, it can be argued that we live in a bubble. That a Pencil doesn’t really mean anything in the outside world. But the same can be said about the car mechanic’s wall of spare parts collected from various cars. It’s a wall of pride – it reminds him of all the cars he’s worked on. It’s a feel good thing.

Just like an award is, in advertising. It’s an adrenalin rush, a sense of superiority. You gaze at the piece of metal sitting pretty on your desk – it’s what you’ve been working so hard for. The years of gastritis, the fights with the wife, the dark circles and the working weekends all boil down to this.

Of course, in a few months’ time all will be forgotten. Nobody will remember you, or what you won. You’ll just be another faceless, nameless dot in the unforgiving advertising world.

And if you take advertising seriously, you’ll end up feeling like shit. And then you’ll write another short lesson in perspective.

The trick is, I think, to have a few laughs along the way. Don’t take things to heart. Sure, be passionate, bleed when you write, give invaluable advice to your client – but breathe along the way.

Smell the roses.

As Linds pointed out, there are more important things in life other than advertising. Family, kids, picnics with friends, a dinner with an old love. The best part is, you don’t have to denounce one for the other. Strike a balance.

It takes practice, but it’s do-able.

(Bodhisatwa Dasgupta, better known in his circles as Bodhi, works as a writer in advertising. Designations aren’t important because he’s realised no matter how up, how low or high middle he is, he just keeps doing the same kind of work. Bodhi has an opinion about almost everything in life, some of which he documents in his blog www.lookslikeabodhi.com. He also has a charming daughter, and when she’s asleep, he writes at whilemimisleeps.blogspot.com.)

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