What are we waiting for? - An open letter to Agencies

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Open letter to agencies

The Author is an Advertising Agency Professional with years of experience working with leading Agencies.

In the wake of rising COVID-19 cases and the general sense of moroseness, an agency in India has given two days of leave to all its employees. In effect, weekends included, four days to let the steam off and focus on oneself. To take a chill pill, as someone stuck in time would say. Considering the circumstances everyone's been under, it is a solid gesture. A much-needed one, rather. And every single employee is sure to be thankful for it. 

While this is definitely a breath of fresh air from the agency, more needs to be done by every other player in the industry to make a collective difference. Much bloody more.

The not-so-pleasant work culture of advertising agencies around the world is no longer a secret. While some of us are used to it, and a lot of us enjoy our jobs, it would be foolish to say that it isn't taking a toll on our health — both physical and mental. The misattributed sense of importance and urgency given to the job at hand remains the primary problem. 

In most cases, the Earth won't come to a screeching halt if a release gets delayed or you miss out on wishing the world a "Happy Garden Meditation Day." Despite clearly knowing that's the case, the clients put pressure on the management. The management puts pressure on the employees. The employees take it out on their health and that of their family members. 

And if in the rarest of scenarios comes a job that is of utmost importance, why can't it be planned better — firstly by the clients, and then by everyone else involved? Don't you know when our nation's Independence Day is? It comes on the same day every freaking year. So why wait till 14th August to unveil a 360-degree integrated campaign brief? 

Or is everyone going to silently endorse the toxicity and keep this ruthless conveyor belt running until someone falls dead? 

If yes, here is NEWS for you. Over the last four days, two advertising professionals lost their lives to COVID-19. They both worked for the same agency. They weren't allowed to work from home during this lockdown. In fact, they weren't allowed to work from home from May 2020. Because if two 'sale' banners didn't go live, the apocalypse would descend upon the world, wouldn't it? 

And predictably, it got to them. It got to their colleagues also, but they fortunately and thankfully survived. And then, and only then, did the agency down its shutters and announced a WFH option — almost a whole year after the rest of the agencies did. 

They did the bare minimum and announced it on their social handle like they'd saved lives. No, you didn't. In fact, you did the exact opposite.

So dear toxic agencies, wake up and smell the blood on your hands. Because coffee obviously hasn't done the trick for you. And if even that doesn't twitch an empathetic muscle in you, God save advertising.

Disclaimer: This piece is not in any way meant to discount the people who don't have a choice but go to work — our frontline defense of health workers and others whose livelihoods depend on risking their lives. This is an appeal to those who have a choice but still refrain from implementing it. 

This is a sincere request to all the Agencies from the Indian Advertising and Marketing Ecosystem, please introspect and realize the damage this URGENT, IMMEDIATE and AVAILABLE 24*7 culture is causing before it's too late.

Take Good Care of your employees, it's high time we practice People First principles rather than just preaching them.

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