As the Chief Creative Officer at BLITZWORKS, Ajab Samrai is responsible for ensuring the agency builds cohesive and effective brands that bring clients closer to their audiences. He got his career start through Paul Arden, Saatchi & Saatchi’s legendary executive creative director, who provided him with an opportunity to work in the marketing industry in the late 1980s. As he puts it, this early experience changed Mr Samrai’s life, and decades later he would lean on advice from Arden to change the fortunes of his agency.
In 2013, Mr Samrai decided to take up the role of Chief Creative Officer of Ogilvy in Japan, a country he admired for its creativity and culture. However, he was walking into an office that was written off among the agency’s global network as an adaption outpost in a country that was seen as impenetrable for foreigners. For Mr Samrai, these were all reasons to get excited by the challenge ahead. He was guided by words of advice provided by close contacts, which touched on always respecting the culture, not being too hasty with change, and avoiding emotion.
As meaningful as the advice was, Mr Samrai failed to make an impact for several months. He faced resistance at every turn, and a global staff satisfaction survey placed his office at the bottom of the table. Something had to give. Otherwise, the office would never get out of the rut it was in. At this point, Mr Samrai remembered his mentor’s words to “live on the edge of fear”, which sparked the idea to hothouse every idea the creative department worked on. He was told the idea would be impractical at best or result in chaos at worst, but Mr Samrai was determined to “shock the system” and turn things around.
The 2:2:1 Model
Mr Samrai introduced his own hothousing process that he named the 2:2:1 model, which at its core required three or more creative teams to work on each client brief. It worked something like this: each creative team had two days to present at least 20 ideas, for which they received feedback.
Each team was required to develop 20 more ideas based on this feedback across two further days. These ideas were reviewed in turn and feedback was given. The fifth day would be dedicated to producing 10 final ideas based on that last feedback. A selection of the best two/three ideas would then go to the client.
In summary, every brief would generate 150 ideas in five days, with the winning two/three ideas selected to go to client presentation.
Mr Samrai’s 2:2:1 model was a success, with the creative department now driving much of the change. The agency went on to land six consecutive major pitches in 12 months, and started to put pressure on rival creative agencies with more staff and resources.
Between 2015 and 2018, Ogilvy Japan became the most awarded international agency in the country and also went on to win Creative Agency of the Year, as well as Creative of the Year for Mr Samrai.