Blogs & Comment

I wish Kipling ran an agency today

Ramsey Naja is chief creative officer at JWT MEA

“Around this time – namely in the middle of the awards season – offices, and long-serving veterans in particular, brace themselves for the inevitable Kipling email. The Kipling email, you see, is like a promotional item that comes shrink-wrapped with award show results, and is as relevant as nose-hair tweezers that would accompany an anti-ageing cream for men.

The Kipling email is, as the name suggests, an offshoot of Rudyard Kipling’s famous link between manhood and the treatment of triumph and defeat as the imposters they are. It is, depending on the results, either a call for humility, a stern warning against complacency or the electronic equivalent of a commiserative hug.

But regardless of its form, content or objective, this kind of correspondence ignores a fact that should be evident: by its very nature, competition produces more defeats than victories and, too often, we usually either give the former a cursory glance, or the kind of overreaction that makes the Spanish Inquisition look like Mary Poppins. In fact, mourning over a defeat is nowhere near as edifying as a good forensic examination of its corpse.

But more important than the process itself, it is the mindset that the Kipling email should really address. Being poised in defeat is as civilised a trait as they come. It may also be a damn sight easier to find in synchronised swimming than in bare knuckle boxing – or advertising, for that matter – but a mindset that knows how to bow gracefully before the adversary suggests that rare mind far more likely to succeed the next time around. Sadly, it is also the kind of grace that is even rarer amongst victors for whom, more often than not, triumph leads to triumphalism and the kind of winners who don’t just see themselves as the chosen ones, but feel they have acquired an automatic lifetime membership to the Illuminati. Kipling may have been the Nobel Prize for Literature’s youngest recipient, but he subsequently turned down offers of knighthood, which, for him, were unconnected with his art. Now that’s what I call humility.”