By Ambarish Ray
The stereotypes, of course, have other names. I will attempt to note some of them when I deal with them individually. First, to set the context, of course. I see a lot of ranting around me. Anyone with a platform (push button publishing platform included) seems to be holding forth in an impassioned and incensed manner on issues. This piece makes an honest effort to make some observations instead. Any impassioned colour creeping into the delivery of those observations is purely the fault of the writer.
c. 1842, when Volney Palmer set up the space concessionaire, the concept of the advertising agency was recognised, if not born. It is significant to understand that both the terms – ‘advertising’ and ‘agency’ got profiled and practised with this move. Mr Palmer, with the American Newspaper Agency, created the concept of space. Not the ethereal one but the column centimeter one. Selling space, therefore, was the inception. The advertising bit, of course, was a value addition and certain ‘systems of advertising’ were created and sold to fill up the spaces that were sold first at discounts. Well, the picture can be obtained from here.
c. 1920 to 1960 and some time after that, stalwarts like Claude Hopkins, Albert Lasker, Rosser Reeves, Bill Bernbach, David Ogilvy, James Webb Young, John Orr Young, Raymond Rubicam and many, many more not only profiled but created approaches like the USP, the proposition, the science of advertising, the insight and much more. Their media counterparts, now armed with space as well as time (radio, to begin with) sold the medium while the message was crafted separately.
Okay, enough. A bit of history was important. That is the thick line between a critique and a rant. Very soon, the role profiling in Advertising started acquiring Brahminical segmentations.
Hence, we had the three chief classes:
a) The Warrior class – the fighter, the frontline man, client servicing (this one of course is a collective nomenclature), the ubiquitous new business guy – regressed nowadays as the Business Development Officer, the hustler (in hushed tones). Yes, that is it. This class is seen brandishing quarterly reports, briefs, loose sheafs of paper, worried or aggressive expressions, a spare smoke or a quip to lubricate joints or egos and such. A fairly smart and street savvy seller, the snake oil pusher equivalent of yesterday.
b) The Hermit class – well, this one has developed over time. There was a glorious period when these placid sages held centre stage, chanting with netherwordly detachment such gems as insights, minds, metaphors, propositions, positionings and so on. They have developed geometrically to now propound the shapes of things to come like diamonds, pyramids, triangles, rectangles, rhombi, rhododendrons, hyperbolas, hyperboles, prisms and more (okay, maybe not rhododendrons). Also called planners. Sometimes called strategy officers.
c) The Fruitcake, a class apart – absolutely phenomenal in their positioning. Sometimes left of centre, sometimes bang in the middle of an argument, oftentimes right off the charts and at all times, delightful. Known also as creative, visualiser, art guy, those creative types (collective again), copywriter and then some. The craftsmen.
These classes were defined as much by what they did as by what they didn’t. And, the lines were clear. Unambiguous.
Then, the world changed. Advertising gave way to communication. Talk gave way to talk back. Selling gave way to lots of things. And, in a world where almost everything has been turned out on its ear, the stereotypes still remain. In fact, there seems to be a greater desire to create and use stereotypes. One encounters the same departmental approach in large companies, similar class distinction and an uncannily repetitive specialisation drive. The marketplace has changed tremendously and irreversibly. We are still gazing into our navels.
The warriors, sages, hermits, fruitcakes, production guys, touch up artists, hustlers, heroes and other stereotypes need to move on. Give way to a new breed of problem solvers, answerers, men and women who own every link in the idea value chain. This may be sounding very Howard Roarkish and I would have dismissed it as such too. Only problem is, it is already happening –
That’s it. No more. Take it or leave it.