– MG Parameswaran
Companies can be very creative with titles. But often, these titles vary across industries. In some, the VP is an entry level title (Citibank once even had a VP, Telex. No, I am not joking). And GM was a very senior title. In some sectors, a VP is more senior than a GM and internationally, an EVP is just a shade below the CEO. But titles are not frozen in time and are not cast in stone. In the mid ‘80s, HTA (now JWT) sent a seismic wave through the entire ad world by overnight re-titling account supervisors as account directors. Lintas changed the title of account executives to brand service executives. And the tsunami of ‘Title Pollution’ continued.
Not all title changes can be deemed to be Title Pollution. Often jobs change, and titles change to reflect this change. For instance in the late ‘70s, agencies had copy and art departments (remember Mad Men?) and the creative director was the national figure, one per agency. But as the lines between art and copy started disappearing and TV started emerging as the primary medium, agencies started using the title ‘creative’ more liberally. So we had creative supervisor, creative director, group creative director and so forth. Account planning emerged as a separate practice and agencies created titles to fit the requirement. Account planning director was a much sought after title.
The ad world is today changing ever so fast with the growth of Digital, with a capital ‘D’. There is a big move towards digitisation of the entire agency, not just relegating it to the back room or to the specialist unit that it trotted out when a client used the ‘D’ word. No wonder there is a growth in titles like chief digital officer and CIO.
This is not unique to India. Harvard Business Review, in an article published a couple of years ago, spoke of the need for companies to create a chief marketing technologist position. If clients are thinking of new positions that can harness the power of digital better, why should agencies lag behind? In the years gone by, agencies that managed to integrate account planning into business units managed to reap the real fruits. As long as account planning stayed in an ivory tower, the business units used them sparingly and only for fire-fighting. This situation can easily repeat itself if the chief digital officer is given her own ivory cubicle and not made to work closely with the business teams. And business teams need to be motivated and threatened to ensure that these specialists get integrated fully. If that happens, everyone, including the client will benefit. If not it will be yet another case of Title Pollution.
The author is founder, Brand-Building.com