The entire cricket-loving universe is in a frenzy over the IPL auctions held recently and this leads me to a rather provocative thought. What if the hiring patterns of the super-talented Media and Advertising industry were to follow a similar demand-led pattern, thus busting the tyranny of the incremental CTC and the cult of timeless superheroes?
One of the greatest learnings of the current IPL rigmarole is the triumph of meritocracy over stature, and that is the popular press narrative in the present period. Some outstandingly successful global players have been rendered unsold or at least under-monetised, while even superannuated or unchartered characters have earned Gold Rush moneys, and this is a lesson that is rather educative. In society at large, whether corporate or collaborative, there is today a premium for performance, which means that reputation is no longer the sterling currency, however established may be the pedigree.
So now if we quickly move to the industry that is our very own, media and advertising, and try to forge a sustainable pattern. Here too, especially in the creative business, talent is the key differentiator and the reason for success of both agency and client. It does seem sensible to suggest that if brighter folks are engaged in the creation of communication the results should be sharper, but the challenge remains in identifying the cadre of relevance. Unhappily, in this business, provenance of past accolade seems to linger way beyond its shelf life, unlike Cricket, in spite of sharing a culture of non-negotiable performance.
So, most simply expressed, this is what I must say. Unfortunately, and dangerously, unlike say the film industry, the media and advertising business is still infested by relics, obsolete symbols of one-time dominance. This has nothing to do with physical age but with instead with mental prolificity, as we know by now that the demographic scorecard is an insignificant variable. Bollywood or OTT are even more valuable benchmarks than IPL, as the customer of their crafts is ruthless about impact, empathy towards past achievement rather insignificant. While the decadent monoliths of the communications business continue to flatter and deceive, claiming a territorial integrity that is largely impotent.
So, here is the story that I must suggest, as a disruptive initiative by a suitable industry body, like say the AAAI. Creative talent across the spectrum, up to a medium level, must be put up on an auction perhaps in the scintillating arena of Goafest, where every network vies for the erudite talent. So, this eliminates the barrier of traditional employment, wherein a human being is enslaved to a corporation, purely by dint of precedence. Imagine therefore the pool of a hundred creative exponents, exposed to a public auction by only accredited players, wherein their true talent worth is monetised and a certain sense of competitiveness is permanently established.
It is this aspect of competitiveness that I must further dwell on, as a key learning for the industry closest to our livelihood and emotions. We must instil a culture of compelling currency as opposed to unending reputation, as the businesses we serve aim to serve the people of the nation. So, quite naturally, the 'legendary' creative director who earned her spurs in Madison Avenue must equally be exceptional in the many MG Roads across the nation, as the balance of power shifts to the customer most organically. If the secret sauce of the current period is a rookie like Venkatesh Iyer, then that is that formula for salvaging both the served brand and the serving industry, unlike banking on a decadent reputation manifestly, as obsolete as the video cassette recorder.
In case I have not been sufficiently clear, let me try one more time. Today much of the advertising and media industry are being led by folks like Dilip Vengsarkar, Mohinder Amarnath or perhaps Bishen Singh Bedi. Imagine for a moment, if the IPL teams were indeed fronted in the arena by any of them or their remarkably talented peers. We would witness a great repertoire of experience but rather obviously, the demographic fitness would lead to comical performance. Now in the case of Media and Advertising, the issue is not pure play age but instead contemporary mindsets, the commitment and ability to apply greatness of the past to the challenges of the present.
I would most certainly urge the governing bodies of our industries to adopt the auction procedure, relieving key talent from employment contracts and introducing them to the open market. This will potentially be a super win-win, as the economy at large, apart from petty corporate and personal agendas, benefit from a state of art talent pool. For those complacent potentates still ruling the roost, all I have to say is that time is indeed up, but it is never too late to change. Let the auctioneer decipher what that market decides, and we will all live happily ever after.
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