advertising, digital, office, publisher

Agencyguy In Publisherland

“It’s different!”

Shortly after I began my stint at Yahoo, my friend Nishad from Contract Advertising asked me how it was to be working at a publisher.

I couldn’t give him an appropriate answer – it was too soon, honestly. So, a short while later, he asked again. And so did almost everybody else I’d worked with in my previous life.

Now, four months into my journey at Yahoo, it’s time to answer his question. Here, in no particular order, are my ten key discoveries after diving into this strange new world.

The first thing to realise at Yahoo is that, as a creative person, you don’t take centre-stage. Agencies live and die by their creative product, and thus treat their creative teams like demigods. The team I lead exists purely to help sell our media properties, which is the core of any publisher’s business. We do so by adding value to brands through cutting-edge digital solutions. It was a tricky adjustment for me to make – but once you realise your place in the system, once you let go of the attitude, you can figure out how to do the work you want.

The second thing that hits you about working at Yahoo is how knowledge-driven the place is. We know stuff about the web, about our users, about tools, about activities that would stun you! Hard numbers! Not surprising, really, considering Yahoo is one of the places that has literally powered the evolution of the Internet, and is continuing to do so. Even better – what we don’t know, we find out. If agencies had the wealth of digital knowledge that we at Yahoo do, they’d be churning out some seriously brilliant stuff. I guess that’s why clients see us as the digital experts.

At number three is my one bugbear. At Linteractive, I had pretty much the freedom to develop a solution wholly based on Facebook, or a micro-site, or QR codes, or whatever. At Yahoo, I’m tasked to develop a solution based primarily on Yahoo. Thankfully, it isn’t as restrictive as it sounds. Yahoo has deeply integrated with Facebook (you can access your Facebook account from your Yahoo home page) and we openly use social media connections on our properties. We also do mobile, apps, on-ground, the works – but all of them rest on Yahoo and its properties.

Number four is something I’m really proud of. We at Yahoo are proud of who we are, what we do and what we know. Yet, we don’t have the ego traditional creative agencies do. An example: we were recently stuck on a particular brief. Like, really, really stuck! And the pitch was the next day. We needed help – and asked for it. The team spent six hours with the media agency handling the account, running them through our pitch presentation, taking aboard their perspective. The next morning, we rewrote the entire presentation…and won the account later that afternoon. Can you imagine an agency creative team doing that?

Number five is a spin-off from number four, and is more personal than general. In my short stint here, I’ve met and collaborated with a number of people from different walks of life. These include media agencies, cutting-edge digital and social media agencies, copy editors, game designers, techies and many more. My world isn’t as insulated as it used to be.

Number six – Yahoo is a global company…and acts like it! We interact with our global counterparts on an almost daily basis. Insights are shared. Ideas are critiqued. Help is offered. There are no barriers to collaboration.

Number seven is every geek’s dream. We’re a digital company. So everything here is digital. Every system, every report, every form, every tool – it’s all on our company Intranet. We don’t circulate Excel sheets with everyone’s extensions on them – we just look ’em up! We use VoIP phones, Adobe Remote Connect and British Telecom Bridges to get together remotely (anyone decipher what I’m saying?), all without first calling for IT assistance. And if our Internet connections were F1 cars, they’d leave Sebastian Vettel eating their dust. I’m in heaven.

Eighth on the list is how accountable we hold ourselves. We’re always tracking, measuring and optimising our campaigns. When banner clicks drop, we develop more creative renditions overnight. When pageviews slide, we make an aggressive editorial, social and promotional push. This partly comes from the nature of digital as a measurable and quickly modifiable medium – but mostly it comes from a hungry, positive attitude.

Ninth is a lesson I should imbibe if I ever start up my own agency. The first position I’ll fill is that of New Business Director – and I’ll hire a salesperson from Yahoo to fill it.

Finally, number ten. I now work in a company that believes that life isn’t all about work. A company for whom the phrase ‘work-life balance’ isn’t just something out of an HR manual. On normal days we come in at 9 and leave at 6. By 7, the office is deserted. By 8, the lights are off. On days that we have personal errands to run, we log in remotely and work from home. I still don’t get it sometimes…but who’s complaining!

It’s a whole new world, Publisherland. I don’t know yet if this is the last job I’ll ever want and I don’t know how long it’ll remain new and fun and exciting. But for now, my amazing journey through the rabbit-hole continues.

office, respect

Ladies And Gentlemen…The President!

In the American political drama The West Wing, people get to their feet every time the (fictional) President Josiah Bartlet enters the room.

Apparently, in the White House, when the President stands, nobody sits – as President Bartlet so devastatingly reminds a visitor in one episode.

Now, the advertising industry is a fraction more casual than the White House – we can, and do, call our CEO by his first name.

However, I believe that there is an exception that proves the rule (and I’m really trying to figure out the meaning of this phrase).

I hear that in a creative-heavy agency (the one with the red branding currently based in the furthest suburbs of town), people rise every time the Chairman walks by.

Apparently this has been going on since the time the Chairman was merely the National Creative Director.

This is not hearsay. I was told about this by an ex-employee who was reprimanded for keeping his feet on his desk and not standing up when said NCD walked by.

(One of the reasons he quit soon after, if I remember right.)

And I always remark on this episode with the greatest of contempt.

But, as is a regular habit, I stuck my foot in my mouth today.

When our CEO entered the boardroom to begin the meeting, me and my colleagues all stood up…

Worse, I said, “Good morning…” and had to bite down on my tongue to prevent myself saying, “Mr. President.”

And even though I sort of made up for it at the end of the meeting, by sitting still (the only one to do so, all my colleagues stood up again) when he got up to leave, I still think I’m OD-ing on The West Wing.

conversations, office

Leaning Over A Cubicle Wall, Staring At The Back Of A Laptop

Me (walking around aimlessly, clearing my head, stretching my legs): Hello.

Fancy Joint (looking up at me, her nose swollen, fingers clacking away busily on the keyboard): Hi (to be pronounced with two fingers clutching one’s node…er…nose).

Me: What’s up?

Fancy Joint (sniffing wetly, concentrating hard on her work, trying to ignore this irritating person): Dnothig much.

Me (guessing): What are you playing?

Fancy Joint (slightly indignantly): I’b dnot playig.

Me (guessing correctly): Ah. Then what are you chatting about?

Fancy Joint (caught out, but not caring because I’m not gonna be appraising her): A play I’b goig too.

Yes, advertising is all about good impressions.

how to, office

How To Relieve Boredom And Clear Your Head In An Ad Agency

Find someone to pull a phone prank on.

And there’s always someone to pull a phone prank on.

conversations, office

Teen Coffee Aur Chaku

Yet another random conversation at work today.

LooksGayButClaimsHeIsn’t: Hi baby!

ILoveGayBoys: Hi.

(Insert some indecipherable blabber in Bengali here.)

LooksGayButClaimsHeIsn’t: You have really soft hands (grabbing ILoveGayBoys’ hands).

ILoveGayBoys (secretly liking it): Chhee! Let go of me!

Me: This could construe as sexual harassment in the workplace you know. ILoveGayBoys, you should throw our Code of Conduct book at him!

LooksGayButClaimsHeIsn’t: Dude she’s my wife!

Me: She’s my bachchi! You can’t sexually harass her…

ILoveGayBoys: So sweet…

Me: …at least not in here! I have no issues if you harass her outside office!

ILoveGayBoys: Samit!!!

(A revelation strikes me.)

Me: NOW I get it! Now I understand why you guys have such cool chemistry!!!

ILoveGayBoys & LooksGayButClaimsHeIsn’t: Why?

Me: There’s a reason I’ve chosen your blog nicknames you know…

(A revelation strikes them. Protesting cries emanate.)

Me (ignoring everything): BTW, what do you call a slutty Bong chick?

(Everyone waits.)

Me: A Bonk! Get it! Hahahahahaha!

SpaceCadet (letting go of Second Life for a rare moment): What? What do you call a warped Bong chick?

Me: No, no! That answer’s either SpaceCadet or ILoveGayBoys!

(Now I’m surrounded by two angry Bong girls and one angry alleged Bong guy.)

ILoveGayBoys: But that’s true ya! SpaceCadet is so spaced out!

Me: Yes, I always imagine her with a bubble around her head.

(SpaceCadet gives me a dirty look.)

Me: Earth to SpaceCadet! Earth to SpaceCadet!

SpaceCadet (spacing out): Hey, does anyone want some sponge cake?

(Three chimes of “Yes!”)

LooksGayButClaimsHeIsn’t: I’ll call for a knife!

Me: And coffee!

ILoveGayBoys & SpaceCadet: Coffee!

LooksGayButClaimsHeIsn’t (on the phone to the canteen): Pick up, you wankers! Hello, haan, Samit ke yahaan teen coffee aur chaku bhejna, ILoveGayBoys ka birthday hai, cake aur boss ko kaatna hai!

Me (in splits): Teen coffee aur chaku! Hahahahahaha! (Joined by others.)

SpaceCadet: That should be a film title man!

PS: For all those who may ask, “What is the insight here?” I reply, “Ad agency folks have really random conversations.”

PPS: Teen = Three. Aur = And. Chaku = Knife. Bhejna = Send. All non-Indians and ABCDs, you’re welcome.

insight, office

Alcohol And Advertising

When I was but a lowly (pun most certainly intended) intern, I was invited out for my first drinking session by my boss (The King), my senior (Big Sister) and a senior planner who I’ll call Peg Measure.

So we landed up at Gokul, where The King and Peg Measure had gotten a decent headstart over us. We arrived, they called for one more bottle of Alcazar vodka and two more bottles of Sprite, and we proceeded to imbibe some alcohol.

In those days, I had a strict drinking rule – two, small, tall. So, two drinks down, I stand up and prepare to say my goodbyes.

That’s when The King gives me his “you better not be fucking with me” stare and orders me to sit down. Intimidated, I comply. He pours me a drink, slides it over commandingly, and says, “Bastard, if you don’t learn to drink, you’ll never survive in advertising!”

Six years later, I think I know why. So here are several reasons why advertising and alcohol make for strangely good bedfellows (not the type who wakes up in the morning bleary-eyed and dragon-breathed, not knowing who the girl sleeping next to him is).

1. It helps us overcome the pains of low salaries. Seriously underpaid, man. Here we are, working nights and weekends, sacrificing all we hold dear (including but not restricted to marriages, sleep, a life, peace-of-mind, friends and self-esteem), churning out ideas that earn our clients millions, and what do we get? A salary less than what the graduating IIM class turns down in disgust.

(Note to self: try not to write like Perry Cox talks.)

2. It helps us think. The next time you’re stuck for an idea and you’ve tried everything (including, but not restricted to, searching for images on Getty, searching for videos on YouTube, frequent visits to the loo, a round of Counter-Strike, flirting, walking around aimlessly and one more round of Counter-Strike), head for the nearest (cheapest – refer to point number 1) bar. At the very least, you’ll soon begin to give two hoots about the brief you’re stuck on.

(Note to self: please refer to previous note.)

3. It helps us handle our bosses better. When we’re drinking without bosses, we can bitch, moan and gripe, knowing that there are other people around who feel the same way. And when you’re drinking with bosses, you can get to bond with them and swear at them without fear of reprisal. What’s best, most of the time they’ll pick up the tab.

4. It helps us keep up with peer pressure. Almost every day you’ll hear someone talking about “how fucking smashed and/or stoned we got last night, what a fucking blast it was!” It seems like they’re living that whole cool “advertising” life and you’re just a boring loser who’d have been better off earning megabucks shifting money from column to column in an MNC bank. If you drink, you can swap a story or two and feel like a real part of the advertising fraternity.

5. It helps us drown our sorrows. From a creative’s perspective, alcohol can drown bad servicing and their bad deadlines, bad planning and their bad briefs, bad bosses and their bad judgements of what are clearly great ideas, bad clients and bad rejections, etc., etc.

6. It helps us celebrate. Farewells (“He was so great, we’re gonna miss him, cheers to him!” or “Yippee!! He’s going to mindfuck people at some other agency!!! Cheers to him!”), great sales results (the one time you can mooch off a client and make him open his wallet), annual bashes (where flirting can develop into something far more serious), increments (let’s blow up the almost negative increase in our salaries even before it’s credited to our account) – these are just some of the things we adpeople celebrate with single malt whisky.

7. And finally, to sum up, the greatest reason alcohol works with advertising people is that it helps us keep our jobs. Just ask my former Creative Director, Scary, who threatened to sack me every time I didn’t get drunk. Who cares for the recession if you’ve got your daaru!

conversations, office

Of Tubelights And Whitening Creams

The conversation went as follows:

PataHai (F) (standing at the water cooler): Tubelights!!!

ILoveGayBoys (F) (ostensibly working at her desk): You look white every day.

PataHai: Lekin mein toh dhoop mein chalke aayee aaj.

ILoveGayBoys: Why did you come walking, why didn’t you take the cab?

PataHai: Dekho, dekho! ILoveGayBoys ke pair mein zeher bhar gayi hai! Uske nails blue hain!!!