Leading advertising creative Ajab Samrai shocked the London advertising scene in 2013 with the announcement that he would be leaving for a new role in Tokyo at O&M Group Japan. After almost three decades of work in premier roles in London, most of that time spent working under Paul Arden at Saatchi & Saatchi, Samrai’s decision to move to the other side of the world came as a surprise to many. However, Samrai stated that he was driven by the urge for adventure and to frighten himself all over again by taking on new and exciting challenges.
With that in mind, Ajab Samrai took on the role of O&M Group Japan’s Chief Creative Officer, taking the opportunity to reshape and rejuvenate the office in a market that was far from guaranteed to offer him success.
You can find out more about O&M Group Japan in the short video attachment to this post.
Breaking Apart Systems
One of the first tasks Ajab Samrai set himself in his role at O&M Group Japan was to break apart systems that were slow, hierarchical and outdated. After a month of following advice on how to do business in Japan, Samrai realised that following this received wisdom was not going to achieve the desired results. Advice such as respecting status and hierarchy, not implementing change too quickly and not being too emotional was, he felt, leading to stagnation rather than rejuvenation. Samrai therefore decided to inject more urgency into the business and dismantle systems where there was too much process. By moving away from emulating the big Japanese advertising agencies and into a new system with a heaver international influence, Samrai began to turn the fortunes of the company around.
The infographic attachment looks at some of the awards O&M Group Japan has won under the creative direction of Ajab Samrai.
One of the first projects Ajab Samrai implemented was the physical rejuvenation of the creative space at O&M Group Japan. Samrai felt that the outlay of the office, which at the time had individual staff members seated in booths much like those in a call centre, was not conducive to creative thinking. He therefore set about ripping down the barriers and creating a space for original thinking and better communication. Symbolically, the old dividers were smashed by staff members, and a new central meeting point was installed. Artwork from local artists was also brought in for inspiration. While there was a certain level of resistance to change initially, most people quickly adapted. Those that did not left, opening the door for new creative talent.
The Creative Ideation Cycle
Following this physical rejuvenation, Ajab Samrai next shortened the creative ideation cycle, reducing it from a few weeks to just a few days. This pushed people to loosen up on their thinking and generate ideas more easily and quickly. Introducing new talent also helped to shift the creative focus, which Samrai had identified as too visual, with the visuality at the expense of narrative. Many of the new talent taken on board, therefore, were writers, helping to redress the balance to create stronger and more engaging narratives.
Throughout his career, Ajab Samrai has worked on numerous campaigns supporting diversity. This mindset caused him to champion the introduction of more female creatives to the O&M Group Japan office, many of whom were attracted by the limited hierarchy of the revamped agency which offered more chances for progression. Samrai has received numerous awards for his campaigns based around the theme of equality, which can be seen in his hiring practices.
You can learn more about some of Ajab Samrai’s career highlights via the embedded PDF.