By Francis Thomas, Ideation Director, Maitri Advertising – Kochi
We still haven’t reached a point in India where a brand can do an Adidas – junk its television budget and transition into digital advertising and collaborations. (Although, according to this report, Reliance Jio’s launch has accelerated this possibility significantly.)
So while digital is set to eat up mainline at some point in the future, it isn’t doing that right now. Advertisers still plan their campaigns with television and print as the major ‘ATL’ deliverables – digital is still treated as that thing to do because everyone else is already doing it and anyway it doesn’t cost so much, just upload the films to YouTube and Facebook and put a hashtag, and do that boosting thing, thanks, and think of a viral video if you can.
Digital budgets are still small change when compared to mainline budgets. Digital is killing Mainline in a completely different way – it’s stealing its people.
For the longest time, advertising has been getting the pick of the litter straight out of college despite being a miserable paymaster, mostly because if you wanted to be creative on a daily basis, there was literally no other avenue. You did advertising or you did movies, and movies were even worse when it came to regular paychecks.
When I graduated college all of 7 years ago, Mainline was the place to go if you were creative, digital was the unglamorous cousin that was paying more because the work was just boring adaptations. You couldn’t really be creative in digital. So I took my minimum-wage salary and lived in a 100 sqft apartment with a series of flatmates and got by. But from a class of 55, barely 10 made that choice. The others slipped into digital, which was more welcoming, didn’t demand 1 year of work experience minimum from fresh graduates, paid a lot more and let you have a life.
Mainline paid whatever it wanted to pay because smart kids would line up to work for free. And then, all of a sudden, the smart kids stopped lining up. Digital started doing some interesting work. Then a slew of content creation channels for YouTube started up. Aggregator sites were hiring. Writing a webseries and UI/UX design turned into legitimate career choices.
Mainline’s miserable pay was no longer offset by its monopoly on creativity. And almost overnight, an agency’s biggest HR threat wasn’t another big agency – it was the BuzzFeed content development team.
Unfortunately, nobody in Mainline upper management seems to realize that. They’re just mourning the old days, when the kids were smarter and worked harder and longer. They aren’t seeing that the smart kids are in digital now, working harder and longer than ever, and Mainline is stuck with the ones who couldn’t make it into a digital content production house or an exclusive design cell.
Mainline’s upper management is a force to reckon with, yes, but they still need young creatives to do the actual work. They can’t possibly do everything themselves. The whole industry is becoming top-heavy without building up a second and third line, and that’s a terribly short-sighted place to be.
It’s time Mainline stopped being complacent, opened its wallet to the smart kids and got its sexy back.
But then again, I may be completely wrong. Let me know in the comments.