Career In Advertising

Bitten By The Advertising Bug Early, And Nurtured Right Through! - Prahlad Nanjappa

I think I have been quite fortunate, in a couple of ways. One, I found someone who spotted my interests early & pointed out a path, which became my niche – advertising! Two, my graduation & the influences early on in my career, laid a great foundation for my future growth.


Art always inspired me. I was an active painter in school, and was deeply impressed by ancient sculpture and art. However, in the rare times we were allowed to watch TV in my boarding school hostel, I would look at ads in the commercial breaks and think to myself: I wish I could do ads like that. I noticed more and more ads that I liked - and some that I thought I could do better! I was inspired in those days by the Parry’s Coffy Toffy ads, BSA and Pond’s Dreamflower Talcs (all coincidentally done by JWT, an agency I would later work for). From then on, everything I saw was in the perspective of an ad.

And then came the big decision. My career counsellor in school helped me identify my interests & pointed me towards advertising as a profession. It was very simple. He asked me what I liked about those ads that I was so drawn to. I told him it was the idea of creating something so good that it could become popular. Seeing something you make, ‘beaming it’ out to everyone for them to either like or dislike. That was what got me!


And so I did my graduation in Visual Communication in Loyola College, Chennai, an institute known to have one of the best media programs. And as I coursed through those three years of script making lessons, marketing campaigns, multimedia classes, art appreciation seminars and literally everything media related, I started feeling a bigger inclination towards copywriting. That’s when the switch happened. Copy was my chosen path.

So, I tried out for a trainee copywriter position at Ogilvy & Mather (Chennai), the then home of many legends in advertising. Of course I had not heard of any of them then. After my summer internship, I hung out at the office, worked late hours and asked questions one after the other. I came up with bold headlines and endless body copy and I didn’t budge. Until they had no option but to hire me!
I was fortunate, that the seniors at the agency took the time out to mentor and guide a fresh youngster, who thought he knew everything! I was so inspired by each and every one of them, that I simply didn’t look beyond at any other job option.
As for my parents, they still think, my job as a copywriter is ‘to copy someone else’s writing and rewrite it (LOL)!


Advertising is a lot of late nights and hard work. It is frustrating when you work on something for many nights and then your client just doesn’t agree with you. And you have to go back to the drawing board. But then, office itself is really like a college canteen, with so many talented people that you work with. You get to travel to exotic locations for shoots, and sometimes, you get to hobnob with celebrities, too (sports stars, movie stars, etc.). Every single day brings with it new challenges and new assignments. And when you see an ad on TV that belongs to you - and that you are proud of - it makes up for all the late nights.

There are roles closer to the business side – like, in Account Management (also called Account Servicing), or in the Strategic Planning departments. Those are people who come with an MBA.

On the creative side: you can join as an Art Director or a Copywriter. Typically, Art Directors come with a degree in Art. Copywriters, on the other hand, have varied backgrounds. I have worked with engineers, a doctor, a bio-physicist and even a professional footballer! All of whom changed their career paths when they were bitten by the advertising bug.


1. You can join banking if you want to be rich, you can join marketing if you want a 9-5 job. Advertising people have no set hours and the pay is average. But then, this is the most fun time you'll ever have at work - ever!

2. If you'd like to do art, you would need to choose subjects that lead to getting a Commercial Art degree. If you'd like to do copywriting, read a lot! And you can do that alongside whatever other subjects you are interested in.

3. Ideally do spend your summer holidays with an ad agency, so you can get a feel of the business. And try a big agency in one year, and a small one the next, so you get a feel of how both work.

4. When you are applying for a job, creative directors will ask to see your "portfolio" - spend time creating a body of work. It could be ads for your favourite products, a website idea for a service or a television idea for your best restaurant.

5. Be prepared to sacrifice a lot of holidays if there is a deadline. A lot of times you have to stay back and work while your friends and family are meeting up.

6. Life is the biggest teacher of ideas. Experiment with new cuisines, make new friends, travel to a new place. And always be open to ideas. They can come from anywhere and anyone.

Prahlad's Education And Work History
  • 11th & 12th – Science
  • Graduation – B. Sc (Visual Communication)
  • First 14 years after graduation – Trainee Copywriter, Ogilvy & Mather; Senior Copywriter, Trikaya Grey; Creative Supervisor, Enterprise Nexus, Associate Creative Director, Grey Worldwide; Vice President & Senior Creative Director, JWT;
  • Last 2.5 years – Partner at my own agency, Fryed Advertising.

Entrance Exam


Steve Jobs, chief executive officer and co-founder of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, urged graduates to pursue their dreams, follow their interests & curiosities and see the opportunities in life's setbacks-- including death itself.