The Liril girl. The Liril girl reinvented. The love-them-or-hate-them Zoozoos. Ever envied the mind that dreamt up those advertising icons? Of course you have.
But what about those who got that brainwave approved and aired? Behind the mystique of a creative, casual environment in an advertising agency are the demanding days of many a client-servicing executive. We spoke to three such executives in client/account servicing—who interface between clients and creative teams—and asked them to demystify their schedules, work-life balance and career progression.
That all three live and breathe work was a no-brainer, but it was surprising to know that the travel gets less frequent and the work attire is not always strictly formal as you move up the ladder.
Management trainee, Draftfcb+Ulka, Mumbai
Rajvi Bhow’s friends can’t understand why she needs to work as late as 1am at times. “I have to constantly explain to them what exactly I do,” says the 26-year-old, who spends most of her waking hours with Tata DoCoMo, the brand she is currently working on. Account servicing, she tells her friends, is not always as immediately obvious as creative work in advertising is. Bhow doesn’t write copy, create layouts or take snazzy photographs. Nevertheless, she is in office an average of 12 hours every day, from 10am to 10pm, making sure everything goes right for Tata DoCoMo.
Face of the company: Rajvi Bhow spends Saturday mornings in Mumbai markets, doing research on the brand she is currently working on. Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
Daily duty: Being the juniormost member in a team of five, Bhow finds herself handling the bulk of operational jobs. She is often on the phone, making sure promotional material is printed just so and delivered on time. Other times, she could be rushing to the local markets—to a Matunga flower seller’s, say, to make sure he has the DoCoMo colour scheme right in the floral arrangements for a launch party. Once a week, she must ferry creatives (layouts or copy created by the agency) to the weekly meeting with her clients at Tata DoCoMo’s office in Chinchpokli or Navi Mumbai, then come back to her office to hand them back to the agency’s creative team for changes.
With so many interactions where she is the “face” of the company, Bhow has to adhere to a dress code that is conservative: trousers and full-sleeved shirts or Indian formals. However, she adds, “Fridays are jeans and T-shirt days, but only if there are no meetings on those days.”
She finds it exhilarating to be in the frontline. “My best moment in advertising was seeing the actual campaign come to life—seeing that first hoarding, the full front-page advert in a newspaper. It was incredible to see something you’ve worked on for so long now being seen by millions of people.”
Though Saturday is officially off, it is the day she does most of her work-related research—visits to markets in Vasai and Virar, collecting information on her brand and on competing brands.
Leisure: She likes to stop by her favourite clothing store, Chemistry, as often as she can. Bhow plans evenings out only on Saturday nights, mostly at “Valhalla or Polly Esther’s”, nightclubs in Mumbai.
Sanity saver: “I read a book called Welcome to Advertising, Now Get Lost. The chapter on account servicing was so good! The writer totally sympathized with us because we were sandwiched between the client department and the creative department. I keep that in mind when work gets hectic.”
Senior brand strategy director, RK Swamy BBDO, Mumbai
“I remember my first day at Crossways Advertising. I thought I was destined for big things in advertising. And then my boss walked in, and asked me to deliver a letter to a client. You can imagine my reaction at the time. Today, I understand the worth of a task as simple as delivering a letter. Probably my boss wanted me to interact with the client,” says 33-year-old Hemal Vadera, who has been in the business for 10 years now.
Sweet spot: Few operational Hemal Vadera free to focus on finer details and strategy. Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
Daily duty: Vadera’s workday is typically dominated by his two major accounts: State Bank of India and Karvy Consultants. A lot of his work now, he says, is strategy. He heads a team of five client-servicing executives and an equal number of creative people. Much of his time is spent fine-tuning the details: finalizing copy, colours, layouts, placement of the logo, etc. “The operational work is much less now than what it used to be,” he says.
The other important aspect of his work is strategy discussions and presentations at clients’ offices. Vadera rarely has to travel outside Mumbai nowadays, though.
Unless he’s out meeting clients, lunch is always with the team. “I prefer a home-cooked meal which is delivered by a dabbawalla. At 1pm every afternoon, the entire office (around 100 people) comes around to have lunch together. It’s like a lunch mela.”
Apart from the odd late night in the office with his team, Vadera is usually home before 10pm.
When Vadera started his career in advertising, he lived close to his workplace. But now his office is far and driving down makes no sense. After he drops his five-year-old daughter Amy to the bus stop at 8.15am, Vadera walks across to Kalyan station to take the train to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. An hour and 15 minutes later, he’s at work.
Leisure: Given his working hours, most family outings—movies, meeting his parents and family trips to the mall—must wait till the weekend. That is, if it’s not a working weekend.
Sanity saver: Visiting malls to play games and spending time in the park with his two children.
Vice-president, Ogilvy and Mather, Mumbai
It’s a room with a view on the 12th floor. The Mumbai traffic whizzes past on the Western Express Highway. Inside the office, a breakfast of toasted sandwiches from the agency canteen arrives just as Prakash Nair, 38, starts work on his portfolio of brands. Dove, Sunlight and Comfort from Unilever, Pidilite and Tata-owned retail store Westside are just some he works on.
Less formal: Travel schedules and dress code no longer bind Prakash Nair. Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
Daily duty: A large part of Nair’s day is spent on ideating and discussing strategy. Dressed semi-formally in a striped shirt and trousers, Nair conducts a briefing with his team of 12 early in the day. “I don’t remember the last time I wore a tie or suit,” he says. “But we are not that casual either. We may roll up our sleeves, but we still stay somewhat formal.”
It wasn’t always this way. Starting out at Grey Worldwide as an account executive, Nair had to dress formal, tie mandatory, for every meeting.
Another aspect of his work that has become easier is his travel schedule. Regular travel was a norm, but now it’s only the odd research trip in key Hindustan Unilever markets (metros for Dove; villages in Kerala and West Bengal for Sunlight) or an advert shoot.
With his busy mornings, you might never guess that Nair is but a reluctant lark. He wakes up at 8.30am. But to ensure that he reached work on time, when Ogilvy and Mather moved from mid-town Mumbai to the northern suburb of Goregaon, Nair found rental accommodation in the suburb of Kandivali, near his office.
Nair usually joins his wife Shivali for lunch (she works at the same office). “We get a dabba service, Love Lunch, from Bandra. Every morning those guys send out a menu email titled ‘Dear Love Luncher’, with a wonderful description of your lunch. It’s catching on at the O&M office.”
Leisure: Nair’s day ends late, between 9pm and 10pm. So watching movies, meeting friends, listening to blues is restricted to weekends. It’s hard to find time for long holidays, but he dreams of a road trip such as the Mitsubishi Great India Driving Challenge.
Sanity saver: “I’ve resisted a BlackBerry so far, and even the iPhone. It’s not convenient for texting while on the move. But I do manage to change phones frequently.” His current favourite: the Nokia E71.
Every month, we will explore a profession through the lives of three executives at different stages in their careers. This is the first of a monthly series.
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