Blogs & Comment

It takes all sorts to make an ad world

Ramsey Naja is chief creative officer, JWT MENA

“One of the toughest challenges that face agency leaders in corporate cultures is the one that consists of marrying two diametrical opposites: the discipline required by a dominating body such as a multinational, and the rebellious imperative that drives creative minds. “It is the art of managing impossible people”. This is how a former creative director of mine used to describe that balancing act. Impossible people indeed. People who are too cuckoo to understand a clock, let alone timeliness. People who are too unlinear to fall in line with the timesheet. People who don’t know what’s in their own bank account but who are expected to be sympathetic to finance.

Impossible people – regardless of departments – approach problems with a deliberately obtuse attitude that rejects the obvious solution out of hand. For them, and to the despair of expedient business leaders, the obvious – even if may make sense – is the enemy. But oddly, these are the very people who make the difference between beige and uniform acceptability on the one hand, and bright and spectacular success on the other. You see, their conviction is that, if we were to count on “what makes sense” as a strategic guiding principle, agencies would be pretty similar peas in not too dissimilar pods.

Unless you have impossible people, in creative, planning and account management, creativity becomes just a clever rehashing of the tried and tested, so much so that you find yourself wondering if your competitors – or even you – have already run that campaign that has finally emerged, bruises and all, from the seventh round of focus group research. The comfort of familiarity is provided to us all by a particularly ugly but cushy sofa whose ugliness is strangely hidden or an accepted part of life. And for us to get out of it – pizza and drink in hand – and move over to that weird but ergonomically perfect piece of furniture wackiness takes someone who, annoyingly, can always be relied upon to say “I don’t agree”.”