“Now beats tomorrow…”

How do you get to the top of the advertising tree? Commitment and a good work ethic, says Robert Senior, Worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi

As the worldwide CEO of advertising giant Saatchi & Saatchi, Robert Senior has had a hand in many of the most memorable advertising campaigns. The coloured balls bouncing down a San Francisco street? Tick. The gorilla playing the drums? You guessed it. So, how has he done it?

Know your customer “My first foray into business was when I was 10 and at the Frankfurt International School. I was a British kid, hankering for English stuff, with American friends pining for Americana. One day, in a store, I saw the Frisbees the Americans had been enthusing about. I bought 10, sold them for a profit, went back and bought 30.”

There’s no substitute for hard work “The millennial generation has been brought up on right-here-right-now expectations and delivery, but hard work goes a very long way. I’ve been to Silicon Valley and seen the big guys from Google and Facebook, and let me tell you, their work ethic is thunderous. You only get out what you put in.”

Commit yourself “I’m not particularly talented, but I have committed myself and that, combined with hard work, has got me here. I used to worry that it was a case of focusing on one thing or another, but it’s not, so I pack it all in. Everyone says they’re so busy they couldn’t take on more, but are you really?”

Be yourself. Everyone else is taken “I often find myself referencing this Oscar Wilde quote. Everyone has their own force and energy, and the smart leader knows how to get the most out of them – and situations. In 2000, we did a campaign for Skoda. Under the bonnet, the engineering had the calibre of a VW, but everyone thought otherwise. So, rather than protesting, we basically said: ‘We know you think we’re rubbish’ and that was an entirely different proposition. ‘It’s a Skoda. Honest’ was the line that turned everything around.”

Harness the power of creativity “It’s increasingly difficult to watch TV ads and see something that interests, jolts or amuses. Now, it’s about numbers, but in the past, we trusted the creatives and made ads that people loved.”

Embrace company culture “You get the best out of people when they believe in what they’re doing and understand a higher-order purpose. What’s the body language in your office? Is the soundtrack one of laughter or a keyboard? When things go wrong, do you chastise and bully or laugh and learn? These things shape company culture.”

…but don’t overdo it “Inspirational quotes on the walls mean nothing – they’re just decoration. I’m also not convinced of the value of things like pizzas in the office, late lunches once a week or dress-down Fridays. They’re fi ne now and again, but if you do it every week they bring about a sense of entitlement. The danger is, it reinforces the opinion that sloth is acceptable and it’s not.”

Creativity can be uncomfortable “If something really is creative, by definition it’s different and that can be uncomfortable. We were taken off the Cadbury pitch because the CEO couldn’t understand why we were using a drumming gorilla to sell Dairy Milk. Eventually, his daughter saw it and convinced him. That ad was recently voted the best ever in the UK.”

Beware too much change “Transformational change is everywhere: Amazon has no shops, Uber has no cars, commerce is undergoing a revolution. Supermarkets, for example, spend a lot of time on building the perfect e-commerce platform, forgetting that Mrs Marsh in Milton Keynes still wants to pop in to a shop to buy milk and bread.”

Now beats tomorrow “But tomorrow will kill you if you’re not prepared. It’s a delicate balance.”

This interview was carried out by SIM7’s Simeon de la Torre and first appeared in easyJet Traveller magazine. To read the latest issue (and the entire back catalogue of magazines), visit: http://www.ink-live.com/emagazines/easyjet-inflight