By Ambarish Ray

I like and respect a designation. This polemical piece, therefore, is a rebuke of the abuse of it. The advertising industry, like a pendulum being swung incessantly by the mad hatter, seems to be oscillating from one extreme to the other.

The latest trend, it seems, is with designations. On one end of the psychedelic spectrum, we have NCDs and Chairmen and Chief Creative Officers and EVPs and Senior EVPs and EVP – Creatives and Brand Leaders and Business Development Officers and such; strewn about the precincts of the company like confetti after a rowdy party. On the other end, we have the absolute absence of any designation; an amorphous blob of human flesh, controlled like Communist zombies and presented with aplomb to the hapless client as such.

Neither really works. Vilifying designations by doling them out like carrots in a barnyard sale only injects industrial quantities of helium into the already inflated ego. Eradicating them completely with genocidal madness, on the other hand, creates a culture that has long Karled up and died with Marx.

Here is the crux:

a) People work for their personal benefits. That’s fundamental human nature. Anyone who claims against this is either naive, schizophrenic or a liar. This is an observation and not a judgement. If there is any exception to this statement, it is too noble and too statistically insignificant to be of any value for the functioning of society, economies, commerce and consumerism.

b) The twin engines of growth – personal, professional, national, corporate, global, political and others, are Desire and Dissatisfaction. There are no others. It is when these two are firing on all cylinders that some of the greatest achievements have been recorded – from George Soros to the World War to Avatar finally getting released to the Human Genome Project. (Greatest does not necessarily mean morally correct or socially justifiable. It means, the impact, the scale and the residue of the achievement is extraordinary).

It is therefore, following this syllogism, that the point gets mooted: Designations are not just a method of recognition of talent, focus, sacrifice if you will and results, it is also a catalyst for performance and achievement. Designations are both the spur and the reward of enterprise and ambition. They need to be earned and awarded. Not conferred. And anything that needs to be earned and awarded cannot, by definition, be ubiquitous. Imagine giving your child a bottle of Bisleri for coming first in her class.

Or, taking away any motivation for her to do so by announcing at the outset and with a visionary air that coming first, or last or anything in between doesn’t really matter because it is all the same anyway. Managed well, understood well and used with wisdom, designations are the blue eyed boys of caring and responsible Capitalism. The biggest boon to the service economy. The greatest nitrox to the two engines mentioned above. They are what people aspire towards, strive to get, cherish when they do and soon seek the next one.

This is the cyclical culture of ambition, performance and precedence. This is what creates more leaders behind the first one.

And this is the journey, with the first milestone being ‘The shadow behind the coffee machine’ right up to ‘Chairman Emeritus’ and possibly beyond. And, this is not about time. Time is neither an excuse nor a benchmark in this journey. Indeed, the road can be and has been traveled faster and with superhuman dexterity by many. That, in itself, is an ambition to harbour. How beautiful it is when this virtuous cycle perpetuates.

But, we muck it all up with this insanely polarised affliction to either squander or abolish. So you are either shaking hands with four Chairmen (one for each zone) and cc-ing 352 Chief Operating Officers (one for each taluka, major police station market area and branch situated beside a pucca road) or meeting a bunch of men and women who are all Brand Courtesans mandated to tirelessly entertain your customers.

Damn.