1000 Words of Wisdom

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together”

Never had a clue how this excerpt from Van Gogh would be the perfect answer to “why me?”. For an adman who sells campaign ideas for brands for a living, it wasn’t the usual child’s play to sell brand “SABIH” and keep it sold! To my utter surprise, five years after I baby-stepped into the mad world of advertising, nothing described my achievements better than the quote above.

Back in 2007, joining Ogilvy was a gambit for me. The agency had just opened its doors in Bangladesh – a bagful of prospects but little accomplishments in reality. As exciting yet enduring the journey was, it was only in 2010 when the hard work started giving dividends. An idea that was simple in concept but fabulous in action did the trick for Ogilvy. The first 360° campaign, in which I double-timed as both a suit and a copywriter, the launch of Air Action by Mentos broke the deadlock of creative recognition for Ogilvy. Scoring our first ever metal for effective creativity (at the national Commward 2010) and that too in a prestigious category (Most Effective Launch) was just about perfect. However beyond that fanfare, it gained us the client’s trust that let us practice better creative freedom (developing the first of its kind radio engagement campaign, Mentos Monday that won in Dhaka Adfest 2011) and reinforced Ogilvy’s image as the preferred partner (leading to handover of the McCann business to us). In a matter of three years, the PVM account had grown by over seven times and was the second largest business of Ogilvy Bangladesh. All this achieved by getting the basics (of creating great work that works) right!

However, being a brand steward often calls for going beyond the call of duty. Over the years, I have consistently tried to develop and deliver on the stewardship principals again and again. For me it was always about owning the brands I worked for, instead of being employed to look after the brands. When TANG was losing market share to me-too brands, an initiation on my part resulted in a sampling program across eight metros that regained significant market share. In addition to that, I helped identify a need-gap followed by writing a business case on how Kraft could grab share off carbonated drinks by making TANG available at vending machines. The idea was well appreciated and approved by Jiri Hejl, the then Regional Business Director for Kraft Foods, but could not see light of day. Kraft’s acquisition of Cadbury had unfortunately put the plan back to the drawing board. A few months back, at a social gathering, I stumbled upon a group of Italian photojournalists working on the RISHI community. Hearing what they had to say, I was in my MD’s office first thing next morning explaining why we should take up this opportunity. If pushing forward with a one-off campaign wasn’t risky enough, there was almost little or no money to be made. All I could foresee back then was a social cause that would make headlines and an outstanding campaign in the making. A year later Khachar Bhitor Aachin Rishi became Ogilvy Bangladesh’s first ever entry into AME. It’s remarkable to recollect how I could convince an “it’s no good” to “it’s our shot at fame”.

It really doesn’t help being a blogger, a social network junkie and a tech geek from a country barely beginning to embrace the “digital revolution”. However, I try to keep myself and the rest of Ogilvy Bangladesh updated on what’s the latest and greatest in digital around the world with regular mails that read “daily dose of awesomeness”. Managing the Ogilvy Bangladesh fan page on Facebook, attending webinars on social media by Thomas Crampton, subscribing to Digerati by Barney Loehnis are just a few of the initiatives I am part of. My newest undertaking was to be nominated as the Digital Lead of Bangladesh. Following Ogilvy’s global drive towards Digital, when my MD offered this opportunity, I eagerly took it up. Our first digital project – Grameenphone Brand Page (a brand activity showcase) was also my responsibility.

In the end, it all comes down to the realities of the bottom line. When it comes to business, I have always considered myself numbers-oriented. Not so long ago, PVM was having an artwork redevelopment across all SKUs. Instead of getting this done by Selection (their central design house in Italy), I pitched and sold the idea of using Redworks as the studio operations partner. Since then PVM has used the local Redworks facility as and when required and that resulted in additional revenue from unidentified new business. After a few years of absence, when Kraft/Cadbury was reviving their Bangladesh operations, we were asked to handover the business to their media partner. Instead I was successful in getting them to keep not only the creative but also the media business with us, adding substantial greenbacks in the process.

Google Ogilvy & Mather Bangladesh and you are most likely to find either my blog or professional profile in the Top 10 results. Innumerable times I have been the introducer of new faces to the agency. From talent scouting in campuses to headhunting from other agencies, I have been instrumental in getting recruits across the hierarchy. Considered the blue-eyed boy of Ogilvy, I thrive at instilling a sense of pride that comes from working for Ogilvy. The long hours, and unfriendly clients become irrelevant in the face of the contagious enthusiasm I nurture. The Duracell Bunny-like passion and devotion to my work was always held in high regard and aptly recognized. When the moment of truth finally came, I found myself up against the very best of Ogilvy at Ad Champs 2010. Although I was the youngest delegate by age and experience, my team was the eventual winner by a margin nonetheless. This meteoric rise (though the Ogilvy ranks) and the budding fame (TV and Magazine interviews) has been an inspiration for everyone in and beyond. And as a people’s person, I always try to make the best of it by motivating the apprentices.

It has been nothing short of a spectacular journey at Ogilvy for me… and I believe it is only to get better with time. While being nominated for the YSOY 2011 competition is definitely a moment of pride, I’d rather win it to turn dreams into reality. Passion for advertising is my reason for being, and what place to showcase it better than Ogilvy… I am Sabih Ahmed, and I am here to win it!!!

This what I wrote in my “Why Me?” application for Ogilvy Young Suit of the Year 2011.

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