Text: Jay Mavani
[This story first appeared on medium.com. It has been republished here with permission from the author]
I was told, “Don’t sell your soul” very early in my career.
At first, I didn’t understand. With time, I understood not just the meaning but its utter relevance to almost everything that I felt was wrong with the dire state of digital advertising in India.
You see, on paper I was doing more than just fine. A once upon a time graphic designer turned web designer, gradually moved on to being a fairly successful creative director. Working with big brands, managing creative teams, travelling across the world, pitching and winning not just new business but also hearts of co-workers and clients.
That piece of paper kept me going for years. Until one fine day, with no prior warning, it came to an end. I could not seem to just go on anymore. It left me puzzled, not knowing what to do but to look at that very paper.
I held the paper close, only to realize that I did not relate to what was written. I disliked the font. The colour palette lacked appeal. The formation wasn’t aesthetic. It almost felt like the artist within me had gone missing.
With the paper discolouring and quality fading over time, the severity of deterioration had caused cracks all over. I held it further away, only to realize that the cracks formed a pattern in between the lines. A pattern so devious that everything around it suddenly started to look jaded.
I stared at it long enough to notice a definite texture; a texture that was deeply reflective in nature. Reflective enough to unearth everything I had consciously chosen to ignore about why I became unhappy doing what I loved so dearly.
It was reflective enough to ascertain that I wasn’t being true to myself. I knew in my heart that I could not continue being a part of a culture that I felt detached from and had grown to dislike. It was clear that my conscious ignorance, if continued, would have simply led to an auction of my soul.
Of course, I could not let that happen. I crumpled that piece of paper and not only did I quit my job, I also fired myself out of the prospect of ever being a part of the digital ad-agency culture in India.
On paper, as you can imagine, it looks foolish. But for the sake of my soul, it is precisely what was required. I could not allow myself to be part of…
A culture that force-feeds bullshit to consumers.
A culture that looks to justify it’s existence with shiny pieces of metal.
A culture where unqualified criticism has become the norm.
A culture that spends more time celebrating people who have succeeded than encouraging people who have not.
A culture that refuses to recognise its potential to do social greatness.
A culture that consistently expects disruption and innovation but somehow always settles for the mundane.
A culture that doesn’t use, but intensely abuses social-media marketing.
A culture that happily hosts unqualified digital leadership and talent.
A culture that makes a few too many false promises to its people.
A culture that has accepted complexity as the new simplicity.
A culture that orgasms so easily with the latest internet buzzwords.
A culture that has forgotten the simplicity in the idea of love, by consciously shifting attention to likes, views, comments and shares.
A culture that has stopped valuing the craft in the process of trial-and-error.
A culture that constantly observes and recycles without acknowledgement.
A culture that does not necessarily articulate expectations.
A culture that seems to specialize in maximising profits at unrealistic costs.
A culture that finds comfort in blaming one another for lack of creativity.
A culture that lacks honesty and trust, assuring a constant state of doubt.
A culture that has found comfort in creating for the sake of billing.
A culture that is allowing mediocre social-media marketing to slowly kill the beauty of conventional digital advertising.
A culture that consistently focuses on building fear of losing businesses.
A culture that is in denial of the fact that most strategies are actual bullshit.
A culture that conveniently ignores problem solving by hiding problems.
A culture that has lost itself in the maze of inflated egos.
A culture that has stopped differentiating between needs and wants.
A culture that talks about touching the hearts of people but conveniently forgets about the souls of their own.
A culture that does not value people’s time.
A culture that conveniently ignores this elephant in the room.
I could not ignore the elephant any longer. It is all that I could see.
I tried very hard to tweak if not change the culture; not just for myself but my teams, my co-workers and for a slightly better and honest future of digital advertising in India.
It was not easy and I failed every time. With every attempt, I turned into a non-believer, I lost faith and conviction to keep trying. And one cannot go on without either of those. So, I fired myself.
One could say that I expected too much and they’re probably right in saying so. You see, when you are emotionally and passionately driven about anything you do or create, you tend to forget that it is after all, just a job.
Maybe I should have realized this much earlier, or maybe not. If anything, I’d rather be late in this world than early in the next.
With everything I’ve said, you either get over it or you simply get out.
I couldn’t. So, I got out.
[Legend has it that Jay believes that everything in the world can be slightly better. After spending close to 10 years in the world of digital advertising in India, he decided to leave. Regardless of size and importance, he has now embarked on a journey of doing things for the first time. A journey of fulfilling his dreams and expanding his horizons. On paper, a journey of making mistakes, failing and probably wasting time. You can follow him on twitter or linkedin.]