Thursday, 13 December 2007

Buy side or sell side; Doer or Make Doer, where's the game?

The weather in Mumbai or Bombay as I tend to yet and maybe always will refer to it is amazing. For those interested in the weather, the best time to be here is from November through February.

As I look outside the window, around me the madness continues. No one has noticed the weather. When I moved back to Bombay, my adopted home from Bangalore earlier this year, the weather was the last thing on my mind. The excitement of the rubber hitting the road again in a sell side assignment is what was floating my boat. That the traffic in Bangalore is arguably and notionally more crap may have entered my mind.

Where am I taking you with this? Well, simply: Where would I rather work today, Agency or Client? For years, it has been the path of exodus from PR or Advertising or other MarComms agencies to Client or Buy side roles. Traditional wisdom seems to suggest that moving to a client role has been the staple ambition of most communications or marketing interns, a larger aspiration seemingly bordering on the infinite.

This traditional wisdom translated and still does to considering client side roles as better paying; better working conditions, standard industry best practices in HR and Benefits policy. Salary surveys and this image of the make-doer being higher up the food chain than the doer. Add to that legend, cult chatter and imagined greatness to make a heady mirage of desire and aspiration, to my mind the only other comparable oversold silver bullet solution to bliss is marriage!

So you made it to the buy side with an unbelievable hike. Congratulations. First move, I know what's best, this agency sucks; fire the Agency! One year and two agencies later, all agencies still suck. “My budget is crap, no one understands my vision, and the boss is an idiot". The cycle moves downstream from confusion; frustration; denial; pragmatism; cynical submission and points further. Slowly the cognitive realization of the existence of other traditional company functions like Finance, HR, Corporate Planning & Strategy, Sales, and Quality dawns, besides of course Marketing into which a traditional PR or Communications or MarComms function will report.

If I sense defiance and a few backs getting up already lets up the ante a bit; imagine reporting into Sales or its often interchangeable euphemism - Sales & Marketing or worse HR! Politics assumes a new meaning and such things as annual budgeting (read begging, negotiating, storming out of meetings and sometimes even threatening to leave are usual tricks). Empire building and head count become the corner stones of all calculation!

The news isn't all bad, happy things include a PR Firm to flog (depending on how fat this company is-let us add an advertising agency, a web agency, a media buyer, an investment relations firm and so on) on retainer who you usually never call before 7pm with new requirements to be delivered first thing in the morning. End-of-day (EOD) and close-of-business (COB) and other similar dire abbreviation start peppering your e-mail. The tyrant in you starts to surface and the latent evil becomes apparent. Alarming surveys and such non-issues at most agency jobs such as consumer media preferences in the internet age start factoring on your radar!

So you think you should be one down from the corner room and the place of Communications and PR is at the Board Table along side the CEO or MD, that's good, Bombay weather remains amazing, no one has noticed.

So what’s happened here? From being, ‘the Business’, you have suddenly been relegated to a “Support function”. Yes, you got paid better, probably drive a car now instead of the old faithful motorcycle or a better car if you already had one, and live in a slightly more up market location. You’ve acted wisely, have decided to get married, have a child or two, settled down and become and EMI lifer too, the hours are better, it’s all coming together!

What is this thing that makes agencies more passionate, creative power houses that function on the cutting edge of innovation? I took a call and moved back to the agency end of things, there are good days and there are bad days but I am having a lot of fun...so far that is!

There are arguments for and against and while the jury is out on that one.

I leave it there for you folks to start a debate with your views. I would love to hear what you people out there in the PR Agency or Sell Side/Client or Sell Side or combination thereof in cyberspace think about being a doer or a make doer!

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