Just the other night, I was invited to a party to celebrate JWT’s wins at Cannes. There was no live entertainment; there were no speeches; there was no chief guest.
Or, perhaps, there was one.
From the moment he walked in, all attention was focused on Aggie – and, to a lesser degree, on other JWT creatives. If, during the course of the evening, someone had suggested that Aggie planned to leave JWT in the next couple of weeks, I would have bet my shirt against the possibility.
Last night I would have lost my shirt.
I haven’t yet had a conversation with Aggie. I have had a very brief one with Colvyn Harris – a conversation that did not go into the whys and the wherefores of Aggie’s decision. All that is irrefutable is that Aggie is turning entrepreneur, teaming up with former colleague Santosh Padhi of Leo Burnett. JWT and Leo Burnett cornered the lion’s share (no pun intended) at Cannes, and, conventional wisdom would suggest, these are the last two agencies that creatives would want to leave.
Yet, Aggie and Santosh have, indeed, left. There is obviously something more that Aggie+Santosh want, something more that their agencies are unable to provide. It’s unlikely to be, in today’s world, something as simple and crude as money. Both Colvyn and Arvind (Sharma) will be ruminating on the reasons for the departures of Aggie and Santosh respectively. Perhaps other agency heads need to spend some time on the reasons as well.
The opportunities for successful professionals in advertising are growing exponentially and almost all the new opportunities come bundled with a significant entrepreneurial component. The risk of turning entrepreneur is far less for an achiever than it has been, say, ten years ago, because the environment has changed dramatically.
Clients no longer are closed to working with boutique shops and start ups and have come to put the idea above all else. And the idea, they now recognize, may come from all corners, not just from a large agency.
Perhaps we are closer to an open-source environment in India than we had realised. Where the days of the exclusive arrangement between client and agency are numbered. Where clients will work with the agency on record as well as with start-ups as the one that Aggie and Santosh propose to launch.
And perhaps it’s time that large agencies spent some time on the possibility and figured out a way to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit in their stars as a way to attempt to retain them. Ignore this newly discovered need and you might find that you lose talent when you least expect to.