I began my career in advertising as an Account Manager.
The role had always been attractive to me, AM’s must possess a silver tongue and unrivaled tenacity (despite being the agency punch-bag). They are linchpins, “jack of all trades but master of none”, generalists, unsung heroes who keep an ad agency’s heart thumping.
However, today I write this article as an Analyst, a specialist role, not concerned with hours and costs but with research and insights and I am just as happy. In the ad industry this is quite a distinctive change and one which was born from opportunity.
The speed at which business moves demands an immense tolerance for change.
Charles Darwin famously wrote; “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives or the most intelligent, it’s the one that’s most adaptable to change”.
Some of the commercial titans we know today come from hugely different roots.
Nokia was making rubber in a Finnish paper Mill in the late 1800’s, and it was not until 1992 that the company launched their first phone and revolutionised mobile communications.
The global powerhouse Nintendo is arguable responsible for some of gamings most significant milestones. But whilst today they’re synonymous with the Master System, N64 and DS consoles, they began with rice makers.
David H. McConnell was a travelling book salesman who realised women were more interested in his free perfume than the novels he was selling, and Avon Cosmetics was born.
Michio Suzuki was best known for his Weaving Looms in the early 1900s, but something along the way made Motorcycles and Cars a better option.
The list continues, Colgate made candles not toothpaste, Tiffany, Young & Ellis sold pencils and paperclips, not luxury jewelry.
Perhaps one of the most entertaining however, is the story of Samsung.
From the dried fish merchant in Taegu, Korea to the largest Consumer Electronics brand on the planet alongside a presence in heavy industries, automotive, finance, art and fashion.
Samsung is peppered with stories of change but it is that of Lee Kun Hee, the son of Samsung founder which is perhaps most distinctive.
After taking over as chairman in the late 1980’s, Lee found that quantity was the primary objective of the brand at the expense of quality.
In 1993 he addressed the entire company, famously stating…. “Change everything but your wife and children”.
…and he enforced this. 1995 saw Lee visit a Samsung factory in Gumi which had been producing faulty phones. He had his staff assemble a pile of 150,000 devices and fax machines and set them alight in front of over 2000 employees. Stating never again would Samsung produce anything below impeccable standards.
He shipped out Koreans and drafted in foreigner workers to induce variety and shake up the lethargy.
All of these stories offer massive guidance for us. Change offers massive benefits.
However, it is human nature to find change uncomfortable.
The controversial character, Peter McWilliams (who came to fame campaigning for the legalisation of Cannabis) said “Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be comfortable being uncomfortable”.
In advertising, this is rule #1. Never sit still. Never rest on laurels.
Tom Goodwin of Ad Age comments ; “Slowly but surely, a lot of the words we use to describe media and appliances are becoming rather inappropriate. We may use a smartphone, but the phone app for many is one of the least-used apps. We listen to the radio, but we do so from a tablet. We read newspapers from a laptop, and we’re about to have watches that have little to do with the time.”
So what are we saying from all these lovely little stories and poetic quotes?
Sniff out ‘Change’ and make it your ally. Become friends with change. Make change your “bread and butter”, your routine.