Ajab Samrai, Chief Creative Officer at Blitzworks: Supercharging Creative Advertising

According to the late Paul Arden, former Executive Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi, the key to staying relevant and producing great work is to “Live on the edge of fear.”

Ajab Samrai was employed by Paul Arden in 1987 at the age of 22 and recalls that the opportunity changed the course of his life.

In 2013, he relinquished his career in London to take on the role of Chief Creative Officer at O&M Group Japan. Despite not being able to speak the language, he plunged into a market regarded as impenetrable to outsiders: a graveyard for foreign talent. Samrai received plenty of advice, following it to the letter. Nevertheless, several months on, he had failed to move the needle even a millimetre, meeting huge resistance at every turn.

Samrai had little influence over the wider agency, but exercised autonomy over the creative department. He created his own version of Saatchi & Saatchi’s hothousing process, naming it the ‘2:2:1 Model’.

The 2:2:1 model enabled creative teams to explore 90 ideas on every brief within just four days, before pitching the most promising concept to the client. Not only did 2:2:1 work, but it became a catalyst for change at O&M Group Japan, disrupting agency operations; enabling planning to write briefs faster; account handling to sell faster; and production to deliver quicker.

Within 12 months, O&M Group Japan won six major pitches in a row. The team helped drive sales growth for brands like Citizen, American Express, Coca Cola and IBM. Ajab Samrai was recognised as Creative of the Year by Campaign Asia, with O&M Group Japan recognised as Japan’s Creative Agency of the Year.

Samrai recognised that 2:2:1 helped staff to bond, energise, create and inspire, in an atmosphere where anything is possible. Returning to the UK in 2018, Ajab Samrai had one thing in mind: starting his own business.

Institutionalising this potent business model, Samrai effectively turned it into a direct-to-client offering. Joining forces with Marcus Brown and former Saatchi & Saatchi Executive Creative Director John Pallant, Samrai developed the idea further, successfully applying the hothouse approach to create Blitzworks in 2019.