Seth (n) – 1) Owner of a Pakistani company 2) A state of mind when you feel you are not answerable to anyone for anything.
Whereas the first is found as a ubiquitous figure in local companies and advertising agencies across Pakistan, the second – which is a state of mind – exists everywhere. Succinctly put – it is as a mental disorder which usually takes hold when one is promoted to a designation one is not ready for.
Some time ago, I started working for a new client. We have had 11 meetings, of which I was on time for 10. This Seth, a marketing head, would always take about an hour before seeing us. What bothered me was not the hour that was wasted but the lack of any remorse. No apology, no justification, business as usual. The 11th time I was 15 minutes late, thinking this person will take his time as usual. I was wrong and for half an hour we were given a lecture on the value of time, with special reference to 15 minutes.
Another company I worked with had a multidimensional hierarchy. We had to move from ABMs to BMs, to MMs and more Ms. And when we eventually got to the marketing director the brief was changed. Time, money and effort wasted and this would keep happening. I kept telling the team that if we could present directly to the marketing head, we would save a lot of time. Their reply was always “Phir woh humain kis cheez kay paisay day rehay hain?”
The sad part was that we, the agency, would come out as the idiots who did not understand the brief. In ad agencies Seths are usually famous for their biases. Typically, they have an inner circle made up of people with two traits. One, they agree with the boss about everything and two, they give the boss the information (or disinformation) about what everyone else in the agency is doing. Oh and one more thing. They behave just like the boss – especially when he is not around. They smoke the same brand, drink (if they didn’t before) and even dress in a similar way. You can recognise them as the crowd that always laughs when the boss cracks a joke. These people would remind you of mini me in Austin Powers.
I knew a senior person who had the IQ of a chair. The only smart thing he would do was to always be part of high level meetings and conversations. His trick was to repeat the last four words said by the boss. When I discovered this I asked a group of colleagues to check if I was wrong.
That day during a meeting my colleagues could not stop giggling because after every third sentence this would happen.
So the boss would say: “The need of the day is to have a clear strategy.”
The guy: “I think we must have a clear strategy.”
The boss: “Let’s come up with something totally out of the box.”
The guy: “I think we should come up with something totally out of the box.”
I wasn’t laughing at the end of the year when he got five bonuses and I got one.
The LU Zeera Plus campaign seems to be the brainchild of a Seth mentality.
One fine day someone at the top decided to cast Shan without realising that it is the idea that maketh the ad. After Anwar Maqsood in Zeera Plus, Shan seemed as much of a misfit as Veena Malik would be in a burqa. One out of 5 stars for brainless brainwaves.
There is this odd fakeness in Pakistani ads that we cannot put our finger on.
Kurkure Nimko is one such example. It tasted like a warm, flat Pepsi on a hot summer’s day. The most distressing aspect was adopting the name Nimko, which is one of the most recognised and revered brands in Pakistan. A big brand like Kurkure stooping so low so as to steal this equity, is shameful. The moronic logic given was “We spell it with a ‘K’.” Yes that does make it worth stealing. One out of 5 stars for applying their creative genius in the letter ‘K’.
One of the saddest things I saw (which also served as proof that we all have a little bit of the Seth in us), was the post about Walter winning an Effie for Pepsi. I saw three likes on it compared to a post of a Hrithik Roshan ad which had 57 likes. I am not willing to believe that people from our industry don’t know the value of winning an Effie. I am all for rivalry and competition on a domestic level. But when any Pakistani receives a global achievement, all of us have the privilege of raising our heads up high. And this gives us the responsibility to appreciate the people who give us this opportunity. We should have enough guts and a big heart to pat Walter on the back. Five out of 5 stars for making us proud.
That is all for this edition. And here is a plea to spot the Seth within us and in front of us. To make him realise the importance of people. The roles that they play and the roles that they should be playing. That delegating responsibilities does not make you smaller but on the contrary makes you a bigger person.
I love what my ex-boss once told me when I asked why I hadn’t been promoted:
“Train someone junior to take your position so that you can rise to a better one.”
In three months I trained someone and I was promoted.