互动中国专访:DDB全球首席创意官 Amir Kassaei “And Turn Thee Eastward”——向东方去

早在今年二月底时DDB中国宣布在上海成立了其大中华区第一个全球创意核心(Global Creative Hub,一个旨在为DDB的全球客户们世界统一各地作品水准并培养创意人才的机制),吹响了今年这家老字号代理商东进的号角,其全球CCO Amir Kassaei先生也在今年六月底特地飞到了中国推进这项计划的顺利实施。同时我们也相信——时至今日我们也看到了——DDB不会是唯一对中国市场有进一步想法的4A,在这片“遍地流淌着牛奶和蜂蜜”的地方进行布局恐怕是很多大型代理网络今年的最大议题之一。

这次互动中国有幸在Amir密不透风的行程中抢得了面对面采访的先机,让我们通过他一探DDB对中国市场的认知与部署。当然,有如此好机会能接触到重量级的创意领袖,光是刺探军情如何能值回票价,在如何经营好广告公司乃至广告人的职业生涯方面,Amir也给予了我们很多宝贵的insight。这位人格魅力四溢的广告人(你们知道DamnDigital一般不夸人)在仅半个小时的采访时间内给出了远超我们预期的信息量,那么你要不要来看一看呢?
采访/编辑: Wayne Tai/Vivian P
采访协力: Lena Chen/London H
(原创内容,转载请注明来自DamnDigtial)
 (DamnDigital=DM / Amir Kassaei=Amir)

The “Hub”

DM:首先我们想问的是,DDB目前在全世界有多少“创意核心”?所谓“创意核心”究竟是什么?

Amir:我们目前有在美国、南美、欧洲与亚洲各有两座全球创意核心,算上现在上海的这座一共有九座。

Amir:我们设立它的出发点很简单,它是一个吸引最好的国际与本土人才在全球框架下为我们的全球客户服务的平台——一方面,它提供最好的创意;另一方面,它也负责人才培训。

 

DM:我们是否可以认为“全球创意核心”是一种对资源的整合?

Amir:我不这么认为。整合代表你要将很多不同的人带到会议里,整合代表了一种思维方式。就如我所说的,我们的工作不是创造广告点子,而是解决商业问题。而如果你需要解决一个商业问题,无论如何你都需要“整合的”思考问题。因为你必须控制全局,你必须找出最好的方法来解决问题。在执行层面上你需要不同领域的专家,但是在概念层面上不是这样。你需要的是头脑足够灵活的“通才”们。我不相信那种从N个代理商找N个人坐在一起就能解决概念上的问题。在执行的问题上,你需要数字领域的专家,你需要市场专家,你需要媒介专家。但是在制定概念与策略的层面上,我不认为他们是必须的,你需要的是能够高处俯瞰全局,把控一切的人才。

 

DM:还有一个关于创意核心的问题。您刚才说这会是一个聚集人才的平台,那如果该平台举办一些学习性质的活动,你们会不会对DDB之外的公众开放呢?

Amir:现在还没有,我们只有一些对DDB内部开放的课程。不过我们可以想象这件事早晚会发生——因为我们的创意文化就是给那些对广告有兴趣的人机会,让他们看到广告业是如何运作的,和他们交流,以此来吸引他们加入我们。

 

“And Turn Thee Eastward”

DM:您将在上海呆多久?

Amir:在上海已经呆了一周了,我马上要飞去欧洲,并且在有需要的时候回来——我的生活就是飞来飞去,机舱就是我的家: )

 

DM:亚洲的其他两个创意核心在哪里?

Amir:一个在新加坡、一个在悉尼。其中悉尼中心为大众进行全球服务,新加坡中心则在全球范围内贡献了很多数字业务方面的点子。

 

DM:那位于上海的创意核心是负责中国业务还是全亚洲的业务?

Amir:不,它将参与全球业务。其实今天那些大品牌们,比如大众、麦当劳等,都希望他们在中国的广告在质量上能够与他们在美国与欧洲的广告媲美。而如今的问题是在中国我们还没有足够的人才与资源来实现这个目标。所以我们设立“上海中心“的目标就是吸引国际人才来中国服务,并且训练本土人才以使作品的质量达到国际水准。

 

DM:既然上海中心是服务于全球客户的,那么有朝一日当中国的本土客户足够大、足够好之后,他们能够利用这项设施么?

Amir:完全没问题。设立“上海中心”的目标(之一)就是服务本土客户。我们有一个叫做“Fit for excellence”的计划,该计划的目标是鼓励客户为先锋创意买单——不是为了平凡的日常业务,而是为了让企业成为他应当成为的样子。我们要建立一个全球化的平台,好创意将利用这个跳板被呈现到客户面前。所以虽然“创意核心”是个全球化平台,但是我们也会根据不同的区域来调整其职能。

本质上,“FFE”是从我们全球客户那收集,然后提供给各处办公室的信息概要。之后各个团队被鼓励去分解这些摘要。“FFE”能够带来目前团队所缺乏的新鲜感,潜在地那种不受客户要求束缚的新想法因此诞生。对客户来说,他们拥有一群不受地域限制的创意团队,双方互利共赢。

Amir:最大的变化不在于广告公司的结构,而在于渠道和流动性,在于世界级的顶尖想法以何种速度传达给我们在中国的客户。

 

DM:您认为DDB中国是否需要准备好迎接“全球创意核心”的到来?

Amir:中国已经是DDB全球网络中最大的组成之一了,从中国办公室出来的作品其质量惊人,可以与我们全球其他最具创意的办公室比肩。并且中国发展的规模和速度都不是欧美可以比拟的。所以我不需要告诉(中国的)同事们他们该去做什么,他们已经做得很好了。我在这里只是个客人而已。

 

DM:是什么因素使得DDB对中国市场如此有信心,以至于投入了这么多资源?

Amir:是显而易见的事实。如果你观察中国前进的步伐,你就知道它早就是全球最大的市场之一,并且会在5到10年内统治全球。所以你必须到中国来,你必须投资中国。

 

DM:除了全球创意核心之外,DBB在中国有更进一步的计划么?

Amir计划很简单。再说一遍,我们的目标是成为国家、区域以及全球范围内最创新的公司,并且统治业界,在中国我们追求的也同样是这一点。DDB在打入中国市场的征途中已经成果显著,这点从我们在过去几年收到的推崇与赞扬中可知一二。在全中国我们有五个办公点——扩张的空间绝对有余,并且我们目前也正在考察所有的机会。

 

DM:DDB中国如何看待中国本土企业?

Amir:目前在中国上演的最大的变化是数字爆炸(digital explosion)。大众传媒的冲击只会加速这一进程,当然就中国的具体情况和规模而言,这背后还需要多得多的资金和资源。基于这点和中国独特的市场环境,中国已经为本地消费者提供进化了的西方互联网产品,多半还改善了这些服务。

从营销沟通的角度来看,这意味着我们可以在世界范围内应用我们的方法与理论,但必须根据当地需求做出具体调整。对我们来说,口碑营销(WOM)从未如此重要过。不同之处在于由于数字社交媒体(的影响),口碑营销现在步履维艰。DDB的社会创造性和视消费者为信息传达人并拥有媒体的6度理论的相关性从未如此高过。

Amir:电子商务是另一个重大的突破。我们从未收到过如此多有关电子商务咨询方面的请求。这是对中国的数字生态系统有多健康的一个真正的衡量,同时也有助于以更加有效的方式对国内消费增长以及市场营销者是否有必要扩大市场规模进行权衡。仅仅是在2011年11月11日这一天,中国最大的电子商务平台淘宝网就达到接近1亿美元的惊人销售额。由于规模和全方位服务的定位(淘宝商品从仓库出发,送到你家门前并且有自己的支付系统),以淘宝网为代表的电子商务正在重塑现代产业。

 

How to be A Creative “Director”

DM:说到“创意”与“概念”,每个ECD乃至CCO的职责描述里有非常重要的部分就是“创意管理”,我们一直很好奇“创意”这种看不见摸不着又不稳定的玩意究竟如何管理?

Amir:对我来说有一件事情很棒,那就是我没有什么“职责描述”,相反我自己决定我必须干什么,并且我的工作非常简单——做一切我能做的事情来释放团队的潜能,为DDB打好基础,订立我们的创意标准,并且设定一个团队与公司自我成长的目标。我的工作就是帮助团队,服务团队。这其中90%都是管理工作,但是以身作则也很重要。因为如果你不言行一致的话,没有人会听你话的,(作为管理者)你必须冲在第一线。

 

DM:根据我们的了解,您在过去的十几年广告生涯中遍历了从客户服务到策划到创意等广告产业中大多数的角色,并且最终选择成为一位创意人。您是否认为,必须体验广告产业所有的角色之后,一个伟大的广告人才会诞生?

Amir:不,这不是必须的。虽然我的经历让我获得了不同的观察视角,学到了各个代理商部门各自的长处。但是对其他人来说,看情况吧。而一个广告人必须做的是拥有一个开放的心胸,他必须理解全局,必须理解客户部的工作,必须理解虽然他身为一个创意人但同时也必须参与制定策略,必须理解媒介,以此创作出合理的创意。我不认为一个广告人必须做过以上所有的工作才能理解那些事,但是他必须有一个开阔的心胸去接纳它们。

 

DM:在您看来,“创意人”与创意“总监”之间,最难以逾越的鸿沟是什么?

Amir:以DDB来说,我们的创意总监必须是最好的策略策划、最好的客户服务人才、最好的创意人、最好的客户、最好的执行者以及最好的教师与鼓动者,这七点缺一不可。这是一个非常高的目标。因为创意总监就像一个一边在参与比赛一边在管理队伍的足球教练,如果你做不到,那你就不成为一个创意“领袖”,对我来说,创意领袖意味着很多完全不同的东西。

 

DM:那以您的标准而言,如何才能成为一个创意领袖呢?

Amir: 如果你有相应的天赋与气质,你就可以成为成为(创意领袖)。不过DDB有自己的一套内训系统来帮助他们达到这样一个目标。要知道成为“创意总监”是非常难的,因为那是一个“教练”型的工作:你不能包办所有的一切,相反你的任务是释放团队其他人的潜能,为好的idea能被接受而战斗,教育人才,甚至教育客户。

 

DM: 关于DDB的内训系统,您能跟我们透露更多一些么?

Amir: 以年轻人来说,我们有一个叫DDB Launchpad的计划,这项计划最开始只在澳大利亚与美国进行,如今我们将它拓展到了全球的范围。我们每次通过一定的评审程序,在大学生中挑选5到6名参与者与我们共事六个月,期间他们将会接触到我们最顶级的brief,并且接受专人指导。在六个月的参与期结束之后,我们会对他们的表现进行评判,并最终邀请最有潜力的那位学生加入DDB。

在资深人才的层面上,全世界只有DDB与柏林学院——世界上唯一家颁发“创意MBA”学历的大学——展开了紧密合作。一方面我们每年会提名内部的管理人员去学习该MBA课程。另一方面我们正在建立一个新的、节奏更快的机制。每年两次DDB会将公司内最好的创意总监们送去参加这项课程(MBA),学习得以成为一个“创意CEO”的全部本领。因为对我们来说,一个创意总监必须如同公司CEO那样了解业务的全貌。

 

DM: 您怎么看待风险问题?DDB在人才培训上投资如此之大,有没有想过万一这些人才在DDB受了培训之后跳槽走人怎么办?

Amir: 没有,道理很简单。培训人才需要花大笔钱,所以如果你是DDB的富有创造性的总管,如果你想要在2年内完成MBA培训计划,你必须事先签署一份协议,该协议要求在培训计划结束之后,你必须在DDB呆满5年。

 

DM: 说到跳槽问题,我们也和中国的其他广告代理商谈过这个话题,他们对人才的需求很大,然后大部分公司选择用高薪来与竞争对手抢夺人才资源。因为目前大的经济环境不景气,人们自然趋向于选择高薪的岗位,这就是中国本土的现状,您对这一策略是怎么看的?

Amir: 我们所能做的也是这个公司最根本的理念和最牢固的目标——如果你能够将创意和人性两者合二为一,那么你就可以让世界变得更好,这是DDB自1958年以来的宗旨。它不再是关于做出好广告,而是关于我们利用创意和人性来改善这个世界。参考我的职业生涯来说,我相信如果你一生只是追逐金钱,那你最终会一事无成。

所以如果有这样的青年才想要更多的钱,让他们走人是上策——因为他们不够优秀,不够专注于正确的事情。所以我们不仅要对DDB负责,还要对中国社会负责。事实上,建立一个伟大而事业并不意味着拥有很多金钱——当然有钱是件好事。但当你第一次不得不就你的专业知识和性格建立一个平台的时候,你心里必须对自己想要达到怎样的质量标准有一个目标,这就是我们在DDB能实现的东西。

如果你有兴趣知道我们能给予你何种支持但你又只对钱感兴趣,我会告诉这样的年轻人你该去做别的事情。因为要是我对赚钱上心,我不会来做广告。但是我认为在DDB就业的伟大的人,他们不只是想要赚钱这么简单,他们想要一个能够充实自我的工作,他们觉得自己做的事情有益于自己和社会。没错他们是想要达到某种优裕生活的质量标准,但那不是首要目标,这是我想对年轻人说的东西。我想对中国的年轻才俊们传达这种理念:毫无疑问钱很重要,但是钱只是成为伟大的人的一部分。

Amir: 但是想要做到这一点,像我之前说的那样你必须对自己真诚,领导和教育意味着你本人必须身体力行。光站在教室里面说些有的没的,自己却不那么去做是远远不够的。所以你必须自己先符合这个标准,要是你在那说废话年轻人很快就心不在焉不在听你说什么了,相反如果你认真对待这件事,你身体力行,那别人自然就会理解,别人会相信你在严肃对待这件事。这是我的观点。

 

Last But Not Least:

DM:在最近几年DDB已经创造了很多获奖的数字作品,我们可以说在过去几年中DDB变得更数字化了么?

Amir:我不能保证说是这样。我们想要成为的是其他代理商的榜样。我们不会成为以数字为主导的代理商,因为我们不是技术公司。我们想要成为的是创意进化的制造者,并使用数字技术作为工具来达成这一目标。而当你想成为业界主宰与最先锋的公司时,你必须在数字、移动等领域给出一份与传统广告相同质量的答卷,以此来与不同的目标群体交流。我们不是一家完全的数字代理商,如果我们比五年之前更棒了,这也是我的愿望。再说一次,我们的目标始终是在国家、区域与全球范围内,统治业界。

 

DM:我们始终相信好广告是由20%的好点子与80%的好执行组成的,我们也接触过很多“好点子坏执行”的广告。我想问的是,执行是否需要在创意产生的最初阶段就被考虑在内?我们如何确保好的创意能够得到完美的执行?

Amir:我不担心这点,因为其他代理商还没有意识到你所说的问题。答案很简答,我们做的不只是广告,我们所做的是找出相关的事实:一件产品、一个服务、一个品牌、一家公司,将他们以新鲜的方式呈现在消费者面前。我们制造消费者的关注,并且让他们谈论我们创造的东西。

Amir:(实现创意)需要很多方面的支持,而如果你想要实现一个创意,那么在创意发想的同时就要考虑到执行问题——但是没有很多代理商是这么做的。再者,我们创造的是解决方案,解决方案意味着你必须考虑全局,明白你的创意在市场里是否行得通,并且如何执行与传播,不论如何这些都是创意流程的一部分。但是你说的对,你需要一个至少和你的代理商一样好的执行者来保证作品的落实。不过作为一个全球网络的好处就是我们可以与全世界的好制作公司们合作。就中国来说,也是这样。

 

DM: 所以您的意思是会有一个很强力的组织来把上述所有资源整合到一起?

Amir: 不。就像我说过的,我不需要很多“人”,我需要“想法”。创意和架构无关,和流程无关,和有多少人坐着开会无关,创意关乎你是否有勇气与热情去做不可能的事,关乎你从一开始就需要一个怎样的团队。

 

DM:您已经谈过贵公司的招聘标准了,那另一方面,你们选择客户的标准又是什么?你们的确会去选择客户,不是吗?

Amir: 标准同样非常简单,我想任何一个良好的客户与广告代理商的关系都建立在信任的基础上。信任意味着尊重双方,把对方当做合作伙伴,而不是生硬地区分他是客户你是广告公司这样。我们理想中的合作伙伴追求的标准是能够为自己的业务升值的。但这是一个态度问题,一个时间问题,也是一个奋斗精神的问题。因为世界上没有完美的客户,所以你必须在客户与广告代理商的关系问题上费点心思,这也是我在做的事。

并且我认为许多客户恰恰也在寻找这样的广告公司。但是也有不少广告公司不具备这种把对方当做合作伙伴的大目标,他们把自己定位为服务公司,而不是一个咨询伙伴,这就是为什么许多广告不堪入眼的原因。所以我们努力成为一个值得信赖的伙伴,支持我们的客户。成为值得信赖的伙伴意味着你必须像客户一样去理解业务,这是非常困难的工作。

Amir:我认为人生目标也与你和客户之间的关系的目标有关。DDB的目标不只是赚钱,更是为了帮助客户解决他们的问题。如果你以才华横溢的方式做这份工作那么钱自然滚滚来,因为我们能够提供别人难以企及的优质服务。换个角度来说,如果你做出来的东西别人都能做,那么你的麻烦就大了。

DDB一直致力于让我们的客户确信你只要选择了DDB,你就能在市场上占据先机,然后再和客户协商钱的问题就要简单得多。我的想法就是如果你没办法提供优质的产品,你就有麻烦了。但是出于同样的目的,你可以想尽办法去赚客户的钱,但你提供的不是高质量的产品,这是我的感受。在我看来态度与我们的企业文化休戚相关,因为DDB是一个充满创新精神的公司所以实践这个理念比较简单。我们是创意革新的发明人,所以对我们来说以这个方式思考问题,然后做一个有创造性思维的公司然后尝试把自己改造为一个创意公司是更容易一些的。

但是危险之处是,这也是过去几年中频频发生我想要改变的一个现象:DDB的许多人渐渐失去了对DDB的核心力量的关注。而我和领导层的许多人的工作就是时时提醒他们我们每天的工作是什么。正如我说的那样,寻找和创造真实,用大众关心的新鲜的方式传达信息是DDB的核心,这自然也是我们一直在努力做的事情。

 

Original Interview Transcription English:

DM: First question, what exactly is a “global creative hub”? How many of them are there?
Amir: We have already two in the United States, two in South America, two in Europe, two in Asia. And, we are adding another one in Shanghai, so that makes nine of them.
Amir: The idea is very simple: we want a place or platform where we can attract the best national and international talents to work on a global scale on global brands.
On one hand, it helps foster strong creativity; on the other hand, it helps educate national talent.
DM: Is Shanghai’s hub responsible for Asia’s business or only China’s business?
Amir: No, it is responsible globally. If you look at what‘s happening at the moment, the big global brands like Volkswagen or McDonalds are asking for the same kind of quality from China as that of Europe’s or the United States’. The problem in China currently is that we do not have enough talent or resources to match that goal. So, the idea is to build a hub here to attract international talent to China and educating the existing Chinese talent to increase the quality of work to global standards.
DM: Where are the other creative hubs in Asia?
Amir: In Singapore and Sydney. Sydney, for example, is working globally on Volkswagen. Singapore is contributing many ideas in terms of digital marketing around the world.
DM: What makes DDB have so much confidence in the Chinese market to invest so much in it?
Amir: It’s a matter of fact. If you see where China is going, it’s already one of the biggest markets in the world. It will dominate the world in next 5-10 years. So you have to be here, you have to invest here. That’s what we believe.
DM: The hub is aimed to serve global clients, but what if Chinese local clients are big enough and good enough, could they leverage the hub?
Amir: Exactly. The hub’s goal is supporting existing national brands. We actually have a project called “Fit for excellence”. “Fit for excellence” is a very simple idea, which is to motivate our clients towards accepting and buying innovative ideas in terms of not doing the day-to-day business. Instead, we are building springboards to help develop ideas that can be worked on by the whole global network, and then presenting it to the clients. It’s run globally but the regions are adapting to the needs based on the program.
DM: I would like to ask more about the hubs. You just said it’s a platform for gathering talent. So if the hub runs events or education seminars, will they be open to public or just DDB internally?
Amir: Not yet. We are trying out different initiatives to educate our DDBers in different categories first. However, what we can imagine happening is basically what we are doing now anyways; because of our creative culture, we give people who are interested in the advertising industry the possibility to just get a sneak of how advertising is working, meeting and talking to them to attract them into the industry. Again the job we have in is to educate the creative talent we have, to bring them to a position that they can deliver work that is of the same quality globally. And that’s just a question of time. I don’t believe that it will take long. It will happen anyway.
DM: DDB has created many award-winning digital works in past years. How has DDB become more digital in recent years?
Amir: I’m not sure if it’s happening now or if it happened in the past year, but what we are doing is to try to be ahead of the other agencies. We’re not solely being a digitally driven agency because we are not a technology company. We are the company who invented the creativity evolution, and we are using technology as a tool to make it happen. And, if you want to dominate the industry and become the most innovative company, you have to deliver solutions which are mainly driven by digital, mobile and cyber space as good as those in the traditional space because you have brands, products and services, especially in China, when you have to use traditional media to communicate with different targets. So we are not solely a digital agency. The goal is to dominate industry in every region, every country and on a global scale.
DM: What do you think that DDB China Group should do to be prepared for the new hubs?
Amir: I think China is already one of the biggest important parts of the network. If you look at the quality of the work coming from our Chinese offices, it’s amazing, and it’s among the best creative offices that we have. China is growing in a scale and a speed that is not visible in the States or in Europe. So they don’t need much direction on what to do, since they’re already doing great. I’m a guest here and I get a coffee every day, that’s fine.
DM: How long will you stay in Shanghai?
Amir: I arrived around one week ago, and will fly to Europe and come back here when needed. I basically live on the plane, I don’t have a home.
DM: So is the hub a kind of an integration of resources?
Amir: No. I don’t believe that integration is a question; if you bring different people to the table, integration is a mindset. Because our job, as I said earlier, is not delivering advertising ideas, but instead solving a business problem, which requires integrated thinking anyway. Because you have to hold your own ground, you have to find the best way of solving a problem. It’s not about coming from different disciplines, because aside from concept development, execution requires experts from different disciplines. You need people who are bright-minded enough to understand that they have to be generalists. That’s my belief, because if you are executing an idea, you need experts. You need digital experts, you need the target market experts and you need the media experts. In terms of developing the concepts and strategies, I believe that you need people who understand and oversee the bigger picture.
DM: On the topic of concepts and creativity, I’ve always wondered how creativity is managed. Being intangible and unpredictable, how do ECD or CCOs manage to always deliver quality work to clients?
Amir: It’s a nice thing not having a job description. I coined the job description myself. My job is very simple; it is doing everything that I can to build the infrastructure, to build the tools, to motivate people and unleash the potential of all the people at DDB. It’s about setting a creative standard and setting a goal that we would like to pursue ourselves. That’s my job. Helping people, servicing people, that’s my job. It’s 90% management, but 10% role model as well, because if you don’t walk the talk, then nobody will follow you. So you have to be in the forefront.
DM: According to your bio, you have worked in different roles in advertising as an account, a planner and finally as a creative. Do you think a great adman should experience different roles in the industry?
Amir: It’s not necessary, but I think it helped me get to where I am today. It allows you see the different point of views and strengths of different functions in an agency.
For other people, it depends. You could do it, but you don’t have to. What you do have to have is an open mind and think of the whole picture, and it really helps to understand what the account guys are doing. Your job may be creative, but is also taking involved in strategies. You have to understand media to develop concepts which make sense.
DM: Other than the hub, do you have any further plans in China’s market?
Amir: The future plans are very simple, again, our goal as a company taking national, regional or global is to be the most innovative company the marketplace, and dominating the industry, that’s the goals for China also.
DM: You’ve mentioned the concept and the execution, and I’ve always believed that good advertising consists of 20% good ideas and 80% good execution. Here we have many cases that start with good concepts but due to bad execution, cannot be called good advertising. What I want to ask is whether the execution part should be during initial stages of creative generation? How can you assure to follow through a great concept with great execution?
Amir: I don’t worry about that because all the other agencies don’t get it. It’s very simple. What we are doing as a job is not advertising, what we are doing is finding or creating a relevant truth in the form of a product service, brand or company. Then, we have to deliver to people in a fresh way. If we are doing this, people will start to care about what we do. And as we connect the world, they will talk about it.
Amir: So you have the multiple kind of support about what you are doing. If you really want to deliver a creative idea, part of the job means that you have to think about the execution at the same time. Not a lot of agencies are doing it. Again, we are talking about solutions. Solution means you have to think about the whole, and understand if the idea is working in the marketplace and how you can execute it and spread it, that’s part of a creative process anyway, but you’re right. You need execution partners who are as good in the quality as your agency to deliver it till the end. But the nice thing about having a global network is that you can work around the global with all production companies. So if this is the idea from China, we have a good network they can took almost everybody to execute the idea.
DM: So you mean it shall be a very strong organization to integrate all resources together.
Amir: No, as I said, I don’t need a lot of people. I need the minds. Creativity is not a question of structure, is not a question of process. It’s a question of are you courageous or passionate enough to do the impossible? That’s creativity at DDB. It’s not a question of how many people you’re sitting here and how you structured people. It’s about what do you want a team first time.
DM: I have a question about the gap between a creative guy and a creative “director”. What do you think the gap is?
Amir: A creative director at DDB is the best strategist, the best account guy, the best creative, the best client, best executer, best teacher and motivator. If you don’t deliver these seven goals, you are not a creative director. It’s high goal. It’s about being like a soccer trainer. You are playing but at the same time but you’re managing and motivating a team. And if you can’t make it, you are not a creative leader. To me a creative leader is something completely different.
DM: So how does one become such a creative leader?
Amir: If you have the talent and the personality, you can become it. What we are doing is to have our leadership program and educating our talents towards the position to give them the needed skills to do the job. So it’s difficult to be a creative director because a creative director is a trainer job. It’s not about doing the stuff by yourself. It’s about unleashing the potential of your people, educating your talents to them, fighting for the ideas of other people and educating your clients.
DM: So can you tell us more about the internal training system DDB has?
Amir: What we do for example at DDB for the young talents is the DDB Launchpad. The DDB Launchpad is a program started in Australia and the US and now we are scheduling it globally. The idea is you’re bringing young talent from universities to an assessment process and you’re choosing 5-6 people who are spending six months in an agency in one room, getting all the best briefs of the agency, having people who are taking care of them. And throughout the whole process they are working in an agency on a day-to-day base, and at the end of six month, you are sitting together with them, and realize or judge the potential candidates for the agency. That’s what we are doing.——on the junior level.
Amir: On the senior lever, we have a corporation with the Berlin school of creative leadership. There’s only one school in the world who is giving creative MBA. It’s a problem to develop creative CEOs.
And we are the only network who is working closely to them. We are nominating people from the network to make the MBA at one side and we are also developing a program which is more intense. Twice a year we send the best creative directors from DDB to do this program to exactly get the skills they need to be a creative CEO. Because, again, a creative director should understand the business as well as a CEO of the agency.
DM: How about the risk? DDB invest so much on training talent, what if they just go away after that…
Amir: No, it is very simple. Cause it costs a lot of money, so if you’re a creative director at DDB, you want to do that MBA program for two years, and sign a contract that after the MBA program, you must stay another 5 years in DDB.
DM: Talking about the job hopping, we’ve talked with many agencies in China, they are eager for talent, and many of them just use high salary to compete each other for attracting talents, the whole environment is not very healthy, people will just naturally go somewhere can pay them higher, and that’s what’s happening here now.
Amir: What we can do and that’s the solid goal and foundation of this company, since 1958, is if you combine creativity and humanity you can change the world for the better. It’s not about doing good advertising. It’s about how we can change the world using your creativity and humanity. And I don’t believe, looking at my own career, that if you’re running after money you won’t achieve anything in your life. So if there is young talent wanting more money, you should let them go because they’re not good enough, they’re not focused enough on the right things. So our responsibility is not only for DDB, but also for the Chinese society. To say, building a great career doesn’t mean to own a lot of money. It’s nice to have a lot of money but first you have to build a platform and substance in terms of your expertise, personality and your character. You have to have a goal in your life in terms of what you want to achieve as a quality standard. That’s what we can deliver in DDB. And if you are interested in that we can support you but if you’re only interested in money I’m saying to the young guys you should do something completely different. Because if I was interest in making money, I will not be advertising, But I think the great people in DDB, they are not solely interested in making money, they want to have a great job which fulfill themselves. They have the feeling that they’re doing something good for themselves and the society. Yes they also want to achieve kind of nice quality of life standard. But that’s not the first goal, that’s what I’m telling the young guys. I think if it can help the Chinese young talents to give them the feeling: Yes money is important, but money is only part of being great.
Amir: But, to do that, you have to be truthful to yourself because like I said, leading and educating means that you have to walk the walk. It’s not enough to stand in the classroom talking bullshit and are not behaving like that yourself. So you have to live this standard because young people are fleeing very fast if you’re bullshitting around. If you’re serious about it, it’s because you’re living it. If you’re living it, people understand it, and they will be convinced that you are serious about it. That’s my impression.
When I was young, there were teachers coming in, you will feel immediately if the guy is just talking, or if he is really serious about it. You have to find people who are role models and living it. Then you can educate the young people. The problem that you describe, it really exists and in the next 5-10 years as you are becoming even bigger and bigger, ever stronger society and economy. It won’t be a question of money but I think it could be a wrong strategy for DDB to try to compensate a non-existing personality with money. We always said we wanted to hire people who are nice and talented. If you are nice and you are not talented, you shouldn’t join DDB; if you are talented but you are an asshole, you shouldn’t join DDB. So I think that part of what’s nice is that we do everything such that everybody can be the way that they want to, if they have substance and quality, and not only solely interested in money. But if you talk to other companies, they might not have same kind of perspective, but that was the foundation of DDB and I think it’s the right way to go, because money will come anyway.
DM: You’ve talked about the recruitment standard, but on the contrary, what is your standard of choosing clients? You do choose client, right?
Amir: It’s also very simple. I think every great client-agency relationship should be based on trust. Trust means you are respecting each other and you’re regarding each other as partners, not as I’m the client and you’re the agency. And we try to find partners who want the value we can add to their business that they don’t have alone. But it’s the question of attitude, time and of fighting sprit because no client in the world is perfect, so you have to work in the relationship. And I think lots of clients are looking for that also but a lot of other agencies don’t have this big goal of being regarded as partner; that’s the reason a lot of advertising are looking like shit. Because agencies find their roles as the service company, not as a consulting partner. So what we are trying to do is being a partner, supporting our clients. And to be a partner means that you have to understand that business are as good as they do. So it’s hard job.
Amir: Well, the goal of your life is also related to the goal of your relationship with your client. The goal of DDB is not solely earning money. The goal of DDB is helping the client solving their problems. If you’re doing it in a brilliant way, the money comes automatically because we have superior product nobody else can deliver. If we deliver the same shit like all the other ones, you have a problem. What we are trying to do is to convince our clients all the market place, if you come to DDB, you will get something which helps you being superior in the market place, then, it’s also easier to negotiate with them about money. If you are not delivering the superior product,you have a problem.
That’s what I believe. But as the same goal, the only way to earn money with your client, you can do it, but you are not delivering quality. That’s my feeling.I think attitude is related to our culture, it’s easier for DDB to live it because we are a creative-mind company. We are the inventors of creativity revolutions. So it’s easier for us to think about that way then to be a creative-mind company then you try to transform yourselves being a creative company. But, the danger is, that’s what happened in the last few years I’m trying to change is a lot of people at DDB will lose their focus, about what is the core strengths of DDB, and my job and the job of a lot of people in the leadership is to remind them what is our job every day. As I said, finding and creating relevant truth, delivering in a fresh way that people start to care. That’s the main focus of DDB, so that’s what we trying to do.
DM: While establishing a global creative hub is Shanghai, what’s DDB China’s further plan to expand Chinese local market?
Amir: DDB has made significant inroads into China and this has paid off with the accolades we have received over the past few years. Across Greater China we have five offices – there’s definitely room for expansion across the country and we are currently reviewing all opportunities.
DM: How does DDB China think about Chinese local business?
Amir: The biggest change in China is ongoing– the digital explosion. The onset of social media has only accelerated this and, of course, with the scale in China, there is much more funding and resources behind it. Because of this and China’s unique market environment, China has evolved all of the West’s Internet offerings for the local consumer, and more often than not improved these services too. From a marketing communication perspective, it means that we can apply methodologies and mechanics tested and proven in the world – but adapted specifically to local needs. From our perspective, WOM (word of mouth) has never been so important, the difference being that it’s now on steroids because of social media/digital. DDB’s social creativity, together with our 6 degrees philosophy that sees consumers as transmitters, media in their own right, versus just targets, has never been more relevant.
Amir: E-commerce is another huge movement. We have never received so many request for e-commerce consulting. It’s a real measure of how a) robust the digital eco system in China is, b) the domestic consumption growth and c) the need for marketers to grow and conquer the scale that is China in a more cost effective way. Just on one day, 11-11-2011, Taobao, China’s biggest e-commerce platform sold close to US$1 billion in goods. Because of the scale and full service orientation (they warehouse, deliver to your doorstep and have their own payment systems), they are reshaping complete industries.
DM: What preparation should DDB China (From human resource to company structure) do while establishing such a hub in Shanghai? How much has been done and how much has yet to be done?
Amir: The Global Creative Hub was established with our multi-national clients in mind. The hub will provide them access to our creatives around the world, no longer restricted by country or region. The hub complements my “Fit for Excellence” project which matches the Hub’s objectives and gives our multinational clients access to creative from wherever in the world. Essentially, FFE are briefs that have been collected from our global clients – which are then supplied to all offices. Teams are then encouraged to crack the brief. FFE brings back a freshness that an existing team may have been lacking, and potentially new ideas by those not bogged down by every day client requests. For the client, they have access to a world team of creatives not limited by country or region. This works the other way as well. In terms of talent and recruitment we are very excited by our new programme, Launchpad, a global mobilisation programme for young creatives over three months to Shanghai or vice-versa for local teams to be in other DDB offices around the world. The biggest change in not the structure in the agency, but the access, mobility and speed of which world-class ideas can reach our clients here in China.

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