Conquest of (ad)CHAMPIONS

I was standing on the verge of completing three years with Ogilvy, of which the recent most was perhaps the most happening to-date. Over the years, I had heard of wonderful talent management programs Ogilvy runs locally as well as internationally, many of which I was associated with. This is the story of “conquest of paradise”… a paradise of advertising champions!!!

Back in 2007 when I joined (seems ages back), a new management was in place and so was the company itself. Training/talent development seemed to be the word-to-go as by the end of Q4 ’07 (I only joined in September), I had already done two rather interesting workshops on Ogilvy’s very own 360 degree Brand Stewardship and Common Creativity. 

By 2008, as my Ogilvy vocabulary was on the rise, I was introduced to the “Future Giants” program. Future Giants isn’t a just single program but a combination of workshops and trainings which make up for “the ultimate adman crash course”. Although the year went by without any notable mentions, I was told of a program which happened to be the “shining star” of Future Giants; “Adopt  A Country” or AAC module. Under this program, a young, talented, aspiring and potential future leader would be sent to a presumably better/bigger Ogilvy operation for a stint of twelve weeks only to return as a better resource than ever with renewed vigor and passion for the “Company of Immortals” (refers to Ogilvy & Mather). 

But!!!!! even after making it through the nomination process, the Global Recession of 2009 struck and that was it for my blooming dreams. As most of 2009 was spent crying and contemplating, if the company would make it through… luckily for Bangladesh (a country largely immune to the effects of 2009 recession) business was going just as usual. Thus 2009 was marked with some wonderful workshops, esp. High Impact Presentations conducted by Dale Carnegie Training. This was a one-on-one coaching experience aimed at making a STAR PRESENTER out of an ordinary you that even came with a money-back guarantee. Undoubtedly, the excitement and suspense it generated remains unmatched to this day. It was simply an amazing experience… as they videotape your progression from Presentation 1 to the Final presentation (no.5, I think) over a course of two hectic days, the transitions are as startling as watching a stop-motion film on a plant’s growth over time. May be I had a rapid development to showcase upon, or may be I am the self-obsessed (as I’m often told) who just loved watching himself on TV… it was truly an improvement over time!

2010 was knocking at the door, and I was still awaiting that fabled dream of a Ogilvy experience abroad… when I was re-introduced to the sleeping dream of participation in the relaunched AAC program in 2010. Hopes were high, spirits touching the sky but no news to make me cry (in joy :p)… By June, I was asked for a personal bio since my name was being nominated by local management for the mother of Ogilvy trainings, AdChamps. I had heard about it when an ex-colleague and my MD, Keya Apu had been there in 2008… but it was a thing of the dreams, not to be realized anytime soon. But as always, I wrote a rather obscure yet inspiring story about myself (click to read)… that spoke more of confusions than achievements.

Two months had gone by, and I had successfully secured the first ever creative award for Ogilvy Bangladesh as the unbelievable news of my selection into AdChamps came out. Considering my position (a mere Account Manager) and time spent at Ogilvy (only 3), I was rejected after getting the initial nomination. However largely due to my boss’ (Keya Apu) insistence and persistence regarding my    capacity to absorb and learn, I was finally inducted into the final roster of AdChamps 2010.

Held in the Jetwing Lighthouse Hotel at Galle, Sri Lanka since 2008 (skipped in 2009, no event) AdChamps brought together the very best of Ogilvy Asia-Pacific for a three-day intensive training on the latest and greatest Ogilvy had to offer in terms of learning and practice. 2010 was even special as Russia and South Africa was added to the guest list to make it more comprehensive and effective geographically. Along with my other colleague (and also reporting line manager) Saif Bhai, I was to travel to Galle for the conference in September. The joy from winning the metal hadn’t subsided as the excitement and fear of participating next to the ad-geniuses took over. As the days drew closer, sheer panic gripped me as I was constantly thinking of how not to let people down (being the only Manager in a conference of Directors and above, it was literally child’s play to fail miserably).

Entering GREATNESS!

With a 16hr transit for a 4.5hr flight, we reached Colombo half-dead… let alone being all pumped up and ready to rock :p And after another 6hrs (getting lost in the way) journey to reach Galle… I was almost giving up on event making it in one piece. But it was the first view from the hotel lobby (click to see), that was enough to take away all the hardship and pain getting there. From the getting-lost on the way lunch at The Brief, to the welcome dinner at Amangalla, to the team dinner at The Fortress and finishing it off with the grand dinner (not so grand food though) at our Global CEO Miles Young’s very own Mirissa Hills… the food, the architecture (mostly that of Geoffrey Bawa, the legend) and the natural ambienceexCMO of Unilever. As for delegates, I was not only the youngest delegate by age (only 26) but also by post (Account Manager) and attendance in Ogilvy talent programs abroad (1st for me). The delegates were literally the cream of Ogilvy’s Asia-Pacific, but also centerfold persons in their respective industries.

The delegates of AdChamps 2010
In the press

For the 1st day and a half… all I did was gulp and gulp again as I exchanged wishes with awe and inspiration with the fellow delegates. By the 2nd day, as we were briefed on the highly anticipated “live pitch competition” my heart sank in worries of what team shall I end up with, what if I do so bad my teammates think of me as the L word. Luckily enough (thanks to Almighty, as I’ve always been), my team ended up being one of the strongest (selected through random sampling though). And as we worked through the night, preparing and making our killer idea come alive… the sheer competitive feel was at its highest peak. No team was worse off if not better, and all of them had the same structure to begin with – 1 distinguished team leader, 1 planner and 4 or 5 delegates. The competition was between 6 teams with one eventual winner whose ideas will actually see light of the day and a (definitely not worth) second place.

On pitch day, as the presentations begun… I somehow started getting a gut feel, we would do good (how good? that I had no clue). After three teams were done presenting, it was our turn… my teammates from Vietnam and Russia, Thorsten and Semen did the Intro and closing while I was tasked with the strategy formulation. By the time Q&A session had started, the whole team on dais… there was profound curiosity and appreciation in the plenary. And by the time it came to an end, drum rolls is all I could hear!!! It was an astounding presentation, a killer if you may call it. From the start to finish, with an incredible display of teamwork, creative innovation supported by strategic integration and wonderful presentation Team II (our team) had done it 😀 As we received congratulations and tap in the back throughout the extended lunch break, it was only a matter of time before the decisions were made final…

The WINNING team
with the TROPHY

As I looked at the proceedings of the remainder of the day with the prized trophy on my lap, all I could think of is… THIS IS IT! This is what I had to do – to out-do every Tom, Dick and Harry there was, to out-perform the greats in their own game… to beat ’em all and WIN THE GAME!!!

Coverage in Bangladesh Brand Forum

This is my story… and like all other fairy tales, mine had a happy endingas well…

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