The recently concluded AdAsia 2019 in Lahore was a big hit and enough ink and bytes have gone into writing about its highlights and relevance to our market scenario. And yet, I am angry. Angry at the many agencies and design houses which decided not to participate and angrier still at the employees of these companies who did not ask to attend. This is not me sitting on my high horse looking down. I am looking up in frustration, mostly directed at myself. I should have spoken sooner. (Insert slapping forehead emoji here.)
This was a missed opportunity for everyone for so many obvious reasons. Yet there are further underlying reasons that were ignored by the heads of companies and their employees. Here are some of the missed opportunities. (And no, I am not a spokesperson for AdAsia; I am only a member of the industry.)
1. Don’t ask – don’t get
Were you absent from AdAsia because you were waiting for someone to invite you? Wisdom dictates that unless you ask – the answer is always no. Did you ask? Did you try? Did you make an effort or come up with a solution? Many people who attended came up with arrangements of their own, such as staying at a friend’s place or paying for the airfare themselves to ensure their attendance at one of the biggest advertising events in Pakistan in 30 years. If you didn’t, it is your loss.
2. Don’t plan – don’t win
More and more brands are taking their creative work in-house. What does this entail for agencies and creative houses? It means your talent will be poached more aggressively and you will not be able to offer them a solid package or perks because business is shrivelling. If you didn’t plan to give your employees a chance to learn from the industry experts and show them that you care for their growth, then it is your loss.
3. Practice what you preach
Organisations often complain about not finding the right resources in the market. They keep preaching that training is essential. True, most agencies cannot afford to send their teams to festivals and conferences abroad to broaden their minds, but this was in our own backyard! Approximately 1,200 kilometres from Karachi and less than four hours from Islamabad. An arrangement of monthly salary deductions could have been made between employees and organisations. Once again, did anyone ask?
4. Don’t learn – don’t earn
The saddest part is the attitude about not learning. We all need to have a Beta mindset and recognise the need to constantly learn about new platforms and technologies. Experience and skill is not enough; a thirst for knowledge and using your experience and skill to mould that knowledge is what will separate the ‘has beens’ from the ‘who’s is who’ of tomorrow. Those who earn the most are those who learn the most. As Lao Tzu said: “The wise man knows he doesn’t know, the fool doesn’t know he doesn’t know.”
5. I didn’t come here to retire
Dave Trott in his book Creative Blindness And How To Cure It (run and buy it now) tells a magnificently true story. It is about a rookie police officer in the Los Angeles Police Department who attends his first briefing and discovers that there is a tradition of dividing police by picking marbles. Anyone who picks a white marble gets the toughest beat in terms of crime infested neighbourhoods; picking a black marble means an easy beat. The rookie got the easy beat on his first day. The next day he turned over the bag containing the marbles and picked a white one. The other cops shouted: “What the hell are you doing kid?” He replied: “I came here because I wanted to be a cop. I didn’t come here to retire. I don’t want the safe and easy beat. I want the beat where I can find out how good I am. The beat where I can learn what it is I am doing right and wrong and what I need to do to get better. I don’t just want to pass the time until the end of the shift. I could do that in a factory.”
Every day, the rookie chose the white marble. Soon he had tallied up the largest number of arrests and his record looked pretty good. The other cops shouted foul, saying: “He picks the hardest beat, so of course his record will be great.” Yet, pretty soon, no one wanted to be seen as ducking the tough beat. And, instead of being shunned, that tough beat became the most sought after one. The precinct’s arrest rate went up, crime went down and morale went up. Nothing else changed in that precinct. Everything stayed the same, except the attitude of the people who worked there and that happened because of one rookie who didn’t wait to be asked.
Now you ask yourself, did you ask or are you here to retire?
Atiya Zaidi is ECD, BBDO Pakistan. firstname.lastname@example.org