Friday, June 15, 2007

High Fidelity

During an interview with a prominent website, legendary Creative Director, Lee Clow, was asked how he had managed to stay with the same advertising agency (TBWA) for thirty years. That’s three whole decades in an industry infamous for its high rate of employee turnover! How had he been able to resist, for so long, the temptation to jump to the next assignment and perhaps to bigger bucks? Lee’s answer hit home just as hard as his ads. In his opinion, a person should move only when he/she is absolutely certain that there’s nothing left to be accomplished in the place where he/she is currently employed.

Lee himself is still motivated and still willing to push the envelope. He believes that there’s still more to be accomplished in the very agency he walked into as a young man all those years ago. He likens his long and successful stint at TBWA to a great marriage (incidentally Lee’s been happily married for 35 years now), where trust and mutual understanding only grow stronger with time.

If you look around you, you will find that examples abound of people who’ve made it big by staying rooted to a place. Piyush Pandey joined Ogilvy & Mather, Mumbai, as a trainee account executive. Today, nearly two decades later, he’s still with the agency. Only he’s graduated to Group President and National Creative Director. The association here between agency and employee is so strong that you cannot speak of O&M, India, without bringing Piyush Pandey into the conversation. Another top-notch professional, Prasoon Joshi, spent ten defining years at O&M before moving to McCann Eriksson as its Regional Creative Director (South and S.E. Asia), where he’s again spent close to a decade establishing new standards of creative excellence. Today, Joshi is credited with the resurgence of McCann in India.

People like Pandey and Joshi have become synonymous with the organisations they’ve helped shape over the years, and which has, accordingly, shaped them. They’re not alone. Ad guru Alyque Padamsee is still identified with Lintas, Neil French with O&M, Trevor Beattie with TBWA, Indra Sinha with Collett Dickenson Pearce, Indra Nooyi with PepsiCo, Lee Iacocca with Chrysler, Amin Sayani with AIR and so on… This, of course, has been made possible through years of association; an association that has been both productive and mutually beneficial. ‘Productive’ really is the key word here. The industry comes to value you more when they know that you’ve made a difference through your work to the fortunes of an organisation, not just done time there.

There are other advantages of being a one-agency person. It allows you to operate within a framework of trust and goodwill; something that you build up over a period of time. People both within the organisation and outside regard you with a certain degree of respect. Moreover, anytime there’s a vacancy at a senior level, the management is most likely to consider you for the job. This is because they value your loyalty and see you as someone who understands the values and policies of the company.

If you belong to an industry that’s still evolving, you would do well to hitch your wagon to an up-and-coming star at the earliest opportunity. That way, when the industry hits a plateau in terms of growth, your own position is firmly secure. The rapidly growing Public Relations industry in India offers a good case in point. There are jobs for the taking and PR professionals have often been guilty of switching from one to another with a disturbing frequency. When it’s a question of one’s career, this can be a surefire recipe for disaster.


Lee puts things into perspective when he says, and I quote, “All I know is that a lot of people kid themselves by moving to too many jobs and then find themselves going out of the business when they’re 35 years old because they’ve compromised and jumped around for money and for the wrong reasons. The only reason you should move to a new job is if you are not getting the opportunity to do what you want to do and what you believe you can do”.

1 comment:

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