With the explosion of media, today's world is probably a lot more aware of my profession. It doesn't necessarily hold true for what i do. As such, there is no clean definition for what i do. Broadly put, i write to make a living. My words feed me. After six arguably sincere years of science including four years of professional training to make chips talk, i chose to drop out of mainstream. I started writing copy, dribbling past peer-parental suggestions that it was the wrong career choice. The white-collar dream has always fascinated bong bourgeois and they weren't the least amused by my round-collared meanderings. Honestly, i surprised myself as well. I started young but perhaps i started wrong. Only Perhaps. I risk my modesty here, not that much of it exists anyway, but sometimes the burden of being bright is especially heavy when you don't know where you're headed. When i was younger, much like a lot of us, i thought i could be anything i wanted to be. Strangely as i grew up, i failed to streamline that belief and much of it holds true even today. Only now, i'm a professional copywriter. Partly by chance, partly by choice. Struggling, good and lost in an alien industry armed with pure belief when i could rather have done with some clue.
Even after almost two years, i still wonder how i landed up here. I didn't know too many people in advertising. I didn't know much about it either. I loved ads and stories of advertising. I loved seeing the ad-people on print and television. I loved the fact that there were no rules. Rather, no strict rules. and you could look the way you wanted and wear what you were comfortable with to the workplace. I loved brands and their stories. I always had an idea when i saw an ad, only nothing to do with it. In the last few months of engineering when i was gearing up for the b-school routine, i had an opportunity to "write a few lines" for a small agency. A story-telling session followed in what i later learnt was called 'briefing' in my profession to-be. I liked the money, they liked my lines. More briefs followed and more money. I was still coming to terms with the fact that I was paid for burping words. In the absence of a desirable IT offer or intent for the same, I spent time cracking sums and writing copy. Slowly I started spending more time at the agency writing more than just copy. It was the phase I call ‘my drift’. The job-offer soon followed and was accepted. It was my first job and i had no one senior in what I did. Previous and previously experienced copywriters maintained atrocious levels of copy at the agency and i was their cheaper, better solution. I learnt everything on the job. In a year, i had a body of work spanning campaigns, ads, inserts, innovative media to every collateral that involved a written word. It was a proprietor driven agency so it had its pros and cons. Pros being meeting clients at a very senior level, incommensurate to my experience, getting to create entire pitches, handling accounts, recruiting people and so on. It was inexplicably too much to learn in the first year and probably the only compensation for not joining the big guys who of course would have pushed me through the trainee grind and paid me lesser.
Small agencies have an orbit by themselves. They're trying too hard to survive. Biting more than they can chew and chewing more than they should. They have a strange, self-repeating life-cycle. They find it hard to attract good talent, harder to retain them and are often annexes to the client organisation. They are forever struggling for the big ticket (read big client). When i joined advertising, i didn't personally know anyone from this field. Or from the big agencies. I always wondered what agency culture meant. I'm not racist, but the small agency trap for a copywriter is being limited to the creative exposure of a predominantly vernacular art department. I wasn’t sure where the job was taking me. Today, I have a higher pay and greater say in another agency that is happy to hire me. But the thrill is fizzling out.
I’m at mental crossroads. I see a deluge of people in the big agencies, none of whom I know, doing second rate work consistently well. And some young people doing prodigiously well. I’m missing that creative buzz. I wonder if buying time in this new job is actually losing it. It’s one thing plying your skills ad quite another honing it. There will be a time when I’ll outgrow this agency, if not already, but will I be ready for the big league? We aren’t much different, us writers, from aspiring actors in this city. Maybe just a little less desperate and a little more cerebral. Otherwise just the same. Armed with a promise and a portfolio, trying to get an audition with creative directors across the city. Our screen tests are copy tests and we have awards instead of gladrags. We struggle to land the big roles, with the big cast on a big script. So we settle for small agencies. Smaller brands, smaller budgets, smaller canvasses. They feed us, keep us going.
What keeps me going? It's the glint of hope in my eyes everytime i leave for work, that someday, i'll leave for a bigger place. Pit my wits against the very best and use my work as my ladder. That someday, i'll make it big here before i succumb to the i succumb to the left brain's lust for corporate moolah.
Two years down, I’m still holding on to the belief I started out with. Looking to break in. Only now with half a clue, as the copywriter by chance. No, nothing to do with copyrights :)