After nearly thirty years mostly spent working for Paul Arden at Saatchi & Saatchi, the decision by Ajab Samrai to cross the world and take up a new position in Toyko at O&M Group Japan was surprising, to say the least. However, this leading advertising creative wanted exciting and new challenges. In 2013, Samrai was appointed Chief Creative Officer at O&M Group Japan, a post that was not without its challenges.
Breaking Apart Systems
Samrai’s intent was to change – if not remove altogether – outdated structures and processes at O&M Group Japan. Samrai set out by following advice and treading carefully with regard to culture and tradition. He respected status and seniority, he only made small changes and he was unemotional in his approach. As a result, nothing happened. After a few weeks, Samrai had the confidence to be more decisive and implement sweeping changes which modelled O&M Group Japan more along the lines of international agencies. The accolades began to follow.
One of the earliest innovations Samrai was responsible for was the physical alteration of the working space at O&M Group Japan. Staff members were isolated from each other in a soulless environment like a call centre, hardly conducive to creative thinking. The staff members themselves dismantled and destroyed the artificial dividers between the working spaces. Artwork from local artists was brought in to brighten the environment and a new central meeting point was created. As with all change, there was resistance but many staff members embraced the new order.
The Creative Ideation Cycle
Next, Ajab Samrai reduced the ideation process from weeks to just a few days. This challenged people to step up, create pace and move away from long, drawn out processes. Samrai was careful to recruit good writers, as he felt too much emphasis had previously been placed on visuality rather than a balanced mix of content and visuals.
Samrai has a track record of working on promotions and campaigns which endorse and celebrate diversity. It was a natural extension of this, therefore, to include more women in the new team; this was easy, as the revised and open work environment – with the removal of outdated and hierarchical processes – immediately appealed to women. There were better prospects of both equality and promotion at O&M Group Japan.
Samrai has received multiple plaudits for his support and endorsement of equality in the workplace.