Last week had special significance to me. I completed 24 years in the industry. It has been two dozen years since the first day I set foot into an advertising agency, after being unemployed for one full year.
To say that it has been a long and enriching journey is an understatement. I have known everything that is professionally possible on the job: I started as a young trainee copywriter, worked as senior copywriter, and finally moved into strategy and became Director of Creativity and Strategy. I worked in branding, served as a lecturer, sharing my passion, started my own company, won awards, and pitch competitions. I was caught up in the storm of a financial crisis and had to close my company, work as freelance to repay debts, and help several companies going through a rough patch. I did everything that is professionally possible. Or so I thought.
Over these 24 years, the Internet happened, then mobile phones happened. These inventions have affected the industry in more ways than one can conceive. For one thing, your audience is not sitting at home in front of the TV, waiting to watch your advertisements. He is on the net, and he is on the move, his attention divided. More importantly, the dynamics of the relationship between the customer and brands has changed. He expects more than a transaction with you, to educate him, guide him, and entertain him. He wants you to be his friend. He wants to know that he can trust you, that you are truthful and authentic and not using gimmicks to sell to him. He wants to know where he began, what led you to where you presently are, what your dreams are.
Because of these changing customer needs and expectations, traditional advertising is no longer as effective as it used to be. The industry is going through one of the most disruptive phases of its history. Many conventional agencies are having to relook their operation or face a slow death.
After being on a journey that has lasted 24 years, it feels like being on a ship that has hit an iceberg and is sinking slowly. The stages of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression have passed, now is the time to consider acceptance so you can move forward.
The last four months at Ducorp have been both the most frustrating and the most exciting times. You continuously have to contemplate the options, either you sink with the ship or adapt and overcome by proving through resilience, courage, and humility that it is not over yet. Unlearning what you thought you knew so you can learn and grow. Letting go so you can move on.
Charles Dickens’ famous novel A Tale of Two Cities starts with the line: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…”
This is what life has been for me.