Changing times change industries. The advertising industry is synonymous with creativity, teamwork, and innovation; however, the state of affairs is far from how it could have been.

The Gap That Exists

In a world of fresh creatives, eye-catching spectacles, and jaw-dropping campaigns; Pakistan DOES lag behind. While the rest of the world is testing the limits of new technology, Pakistani creatives do at times seem to be content with the work of yesteryears. So, why does this gap exist?

Well, for one, the conservative nature of many top brands leads them to staying with the tried and tested formula. While most of the world has moved towards digital and tapered-off old-fashioned radio spots, we have remained behind. This is partly due to our demographics (a tiny percentage of our marketing audience is available online – and the number is far from what it is in many other countries) and partly due to the fear of stepping into the unknown.

Why Is The Gap There?

Majorly, there is a major learning gap in the Pakistani ad industry, largely down to the lack of link between educational programs and the work required by agencies.

Students study a program at their college or university and, often, instead of stepping into an agency where they can be mentored, matured, and molded, they enter the world of freelancing. Freelancing is not without its merits, and while the potential pay may be higher, it does not provide the foundation of a good advertising and marketing career that an advertising agency experience does.

Agency Aid

So, how do people in today’s day and age learn about the industry? Aside from educational programs and taking on a low-paying freelance gig, new creatives have taken it upon themselves to learn from impersonal sources. What they need to realize is that a YouTube video is not the same as the trial-by-fire training first-hand involvement provides.

Hence there are those who seek out agencies to learn from; becoming management trainees or social media executives, hoping to climb the ladder and absorb as much as they can along the way. These young talents use their theoretical knowledge that they have studied in their respective educational programs, and try to implement it in the real world. They aspire to see the campaign they have worked on, on TV or on a billboard; up high touching the clouds. The truth is often less attractive than fantasy. Raw talent is just that: Raw, not ready.

Advertising agencies these days are stacked full of either such newbies who have just entered the job market or those who are older and are settled in their positions and spaces, more popularly referred to these days as their ‘comfort zones’. In my opinion, comfort is a creativity-killer: Creativity demands continuous improvement; the belief that nobody, least of all me, is capable of knowing it all; and that life’s journey is just about learning as much as anything else.

For agencies to improve, and for our industry to improve in-turn, we need to nurture our talent. The solution is simple yet not easily achieved: Retain young talent and mentor them into the creatives of tomorrow. This can be made achievable by providing young creatives the tools for their own growth; including continuous development opportunities in the form of workshops, hands-on training, creativity stimulating games, and most importantly, a workplace culture that puts emphasis on quality rather than quantity.

A very sad fact is that most advertising agencies these days are akin to mills, churning out product that is essentially homogenized. You see an ad for a cooking oil brand and you can be sure there will likely be a play on a wedding or a huge family gathering etc. This leads to an obvious lack of new ideas.

Can The Situation Be Fixed?

Nothing is truly irreparable and with the right steps, the industry will be able to look forward to producing more and more creative professionals with outstanding ideas. The most important need for a more creative tomorrow is to create a better working culture today. Gone are the days when every aspiring advertising professional would look forward to working at an ad agency. These days anyone can put up an ad on Fiverr or Upwork or any of the hundreds of job boards online and create a ‘gig’ to start selling themselves as marketers.

What modern marketers want, and honestly, what everyone wants is a good work-life balance. People want to work at a place where they like spending time. A place free of office politics, a place where promotions are given based on merit and nothing else, a place where they can be happy. People are now more focused on work-life balance than ever before because they have more options. So, if they are working at a place with a bad culture, they will just leave. We have all seen this happen many, many times. Modern problems require modern solutions, and a culture built on employee happiness can pay dividends in the short-term as well as the long-term.

Burnout is hardly a new concept in the field of advertising, but the sheer number of people leaving the industry all together is a worrying trend and one that seems unlikely to change. A better environment will lead to better work being produced and more committed employees.

Some revolutionary suggestions based on my experiences working with a number of advertising agencies: Instead of Human Resource Managers, advertising agencies should consider having Happiness Managers on-board. Instead of late nights, cooped up in an enclosed space, there should be room for escapades with colleagues. To encourage long-term employment at agencies, provide newbies with a mentor; someone they can rely on to learn while they take their first steps in the world of advertising. This way, by building a better culture, we can build relationships that will hold strong far longer than they currently do.

Welcoming a Brand New Tomorrow

Although the Pakistani advertising industry may be in a tough situation, it has the potential of going a long way from where it is right now. The Pakistani nation has an abundance of talent and with relevant strategies, we might soon be able to welcome back the golden age of advertising that we still remember from the ‘70s and ‘80s.

The future course of action will be set by the actions we carry out today – this can be our line in the sand. We must adapt and improve or risk losing it all. With the appropriate shift in culture, our industry can become a beacon of fresh ideas and inspiring work.

We are the creators of our destiny – let’s create a beautiful one.

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