Twenty-three years back, my father called up the agency reception board line, it was 9 p.m. and my first day of internship at a prestigious agency. Some guy came and informed me that my father is holding the line at the reception. Those days we didn't have any cell phones, not even a pager. Hello! I said, my father, asked: "what time will you be back. What about your dinner?" I thought for a moment and replied, "I don't know we have just begun."
Advertising agencies are known for their late-night work culture. Back in 90s, Advertising was a glamorous profession. Most of the work needed immense skillfulness. There were no computers. The studio artists were highly in demand and getting their attention was a tough job. Every day as an intern, we were to reach by 10 a.m., and nobody told me when it would be over. But it was fun although most of the freshers didn't do much except for observing and putting flaps on creative mood boards for client presentations - there was no PowerPoint presentation at the time. On good days, I would reach home at midnight and on a perfect day by 2 a.m. But it was enjoyable, we learned so much, and we were glad that they gave us the opportunity.
Looking back from what it was today, I think things have become better as Computers have helped crunch the time, but the late-night culture continues, but with an option of doing the work from home. Back in the days, we didn't have so many media opportunities as it was limited to print ads, radio and TV commercials, and also the direct advertising or point of purchase advertising. Fast forward to today, we have far too many options of media, and digital mediums have explored the advertising field over the last 20 years, today we see far many campaigns and for many small and big brands. Today multiple agencies work collaboratively for a single client.
In the last twenty years, I have mentored many creative talents. Having observing them and myself over the years, I can spot the "Creative professional' who will go home on time and who will be slogging at work late into the night. While sometimes it is unavoidable due to clients, but mostly every creative individual can go back on time. Having done that in the past, I know it is possible. Today, work cultures around the world are changing, and so is the nature of work. Advertising today is no longer what it used to be two decades ago; it has evolved into a more complex form. If you are a young creative professional, you should consider working on the following five essential areas to become more productive.
Avoid distractions at any costs.
Creative work demands a high level of concentration. Two plus two is four in mathematics but in the creative field, two people plus two hours can produce zero productivity, and that is due to lack of concentration. It is the most challenging aspect of the job, and it is like taming a wild elephant. Creative individuals are sensitive and receptive. Naturally, they are prone to distractions. During my initial years, I was hassled by the lack of concentration, and I would wait till late in the evening to get started when all the sources of distractions have gone home. But then it began to affect my health, and I would feel sleepy all throughout the day until I resumed playing - basketball, badminton and sometimes cricket. The game taught me how to concentrate more effectively. I not only regained my health but also picked up speed at work.
Lack of clarity is a productivity killer.
My mentor used to say " garbage in is garbage out." Initially, I didn't pay much attention to it. I was fairly accommodating, I would take up the project without putting in much thought. As a result, I ended by paying a huge price for the same. I missed my mom's birthday, and also my friend's wedding, and got separated from the world outside. The only relief I had was the hour of play, which kept me fit and active. I soon realised that I need to know a few basic things, why am I working on the project? What does the client want to achieve? And for whom? The more questions I asked, the more clarity I got. I would get on a call with the client to learn more about their business. I quickly learned that sometimes the client hasn't thought through their plans, and they are mostly open to new ideas. I ended up doing some innovative work and also earning laurels for many. It dramatically cut down the effort. Sometimes a client would ask me to check the campaigns on their behalf, and If I am okay, they are okay.
If you are not reading, you will waste a lot of time.
Even a factory requires raw materials before the finish products come out. For a creative professional, that factory is the brain, and the raw material is reading. I was fortunately lucky here since I was a science student in school, it was easy for me to pick up books and go at length. Besides, our agency had a vast collection of books and I made the most use of it. Since I was new to the field, I would read everything my mentors and seniors were reading. I would often spend time taking their point of view on that subject matter. I read everything and anything because I knew that at an agency, you would never know which client work will land on your desk. It could be Dog food, Sanitary Napkins, Computers, Processors, Chips, Breakfast Cereals, IP Networks, fertilisers, and just about everything. My colleagues knew I was fast, but they didn't focus on why I was able to turn things around quickly, and my secret is reading. While many would hunt for ideas in creative magazines, I preferred looking for insights that would help me solve my client's problems.
Working in silos is a big blunder.
It's nothing personal, and it is business - Godfather. I guess many of my colleagues took their creative work in the same manner too. Personally, it is like safely guarding their ideas. As the world began to tilt towards multi-media, it was essential to learn how to collaborate faster with many professionals as every media offers a unique technological advantage. Even today, strangely, the art and copy guys don't work together, they work one after the other, which is a bad practice, they won't discuss with the developer so they will never make the best of that media. It is like writing a website copy which is not SEO friendly or coming up with a design which will delay the website by 30 seconds. Teamwork is the key, and you'll be able to do much better and quickly if you focus on how to solve a client's problem instead of maintaining your status quo.
Without research, you are shooting in the dark.
You'll have to learn to turn down your first ideas and focus back on research. Assumptions are the mother of all f**k ups, and I have learned the hard way, and unless you want to repeat my mistakes, pay attention to your research work. Let us say you come up with a great campaign idea, and got everything right, only to discover "They don't speak or understand English" by then you have already spent money time and everything on the campaign. In my opinion, great creative professionals will dedicate 90% of their time doing research work and 10% towards delivering a great solution to their customers. Your ability to solve a problem purely depends on your understanding of the problem. If only you ask the right questions, you will find favourable answers.
If you are not paying attention to the above five essentials, you'll spend a lot of time reworking, firefighting all through your career. There is a method to this madness.
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