Nothing Is Impossible: Exclusive Interview with Robert Senior
Robert Senior, CEO Worldwide of Saatchi & Saatchi, recently spoke to Nutty Lin and Qin Xian Pu from CHINAdvertising about the concept of ‘Nothing Is Impossible’, the belief that creativity can change the world and the art of solving ‘problems’. An excerpt of the interview is below.
As CEO, Robert is dedicated to driving innovation and inspiring both clients and the agency’s global team of 6,500 staff to achieve excellence. He firmly maintains the belief that nothing is impossible and that creativity has the power to change the world. “Nothing is impossible” is more than a slogan; it is a guiding principle that enables a completely fresh look at creativity and solutions to clients’ needs.
Robert is absolutely tenacious in his commitment to the core work of advertising: using one’s passion, instincts and insights to understand human behavior, and persuading minds with creativity. At its essence, advertising aims to spark emotional reactions in the public and influence their behavior in certain ways. Good listening, sharp thinking, a meticulous eye for detail are all critical to this process.
Advertising is Story-telling in a Unique Way
When asked about the launch of his career in advertising, Robert is adamant that advertising chose him, and not the other way around. Loving your work is the only way to succeed. For people who lead full, storied lives, it’s not about getting from A to B; it’s about enjoying the process. People like this see their lives as beautifully written stories. Their journeys are full of serendipity and curiosity; they notice their surroundings – what’s happening, what’s different and what’s interesting – and they are always curious about whatever they encounter. The plot of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliette, the most famous love story of all time, has been repeated thousands of times – boy and girl fall in love but both die in the end – so why has Shakespeare’s version of it stood the test of time? It’s not so much what the story’s about as how it’s told that matters.
“That’s why I say the ad industry chooses some people,” Robert says. “Advertising is storytelling,” – using stories to motivate action and spread ideas – so storytelling abilities are extremely important. People are affected by advertisements when they get caught up and lose themselves in the story.”
If not advertising, Robert says he might have chosen to pursue teaching or the law. The truth is that every profession needs storytelling: lawyers tell stories to free their clients; teachers tell stories to get their students to remember. In business, storytelling and imagination are used to capture people’s attention and influence their decision-making.
Starting with “Nothing”, and Climbing a Higher Mountain
Robert co-founded Fallon, an independent ad agency in London, with only four partners. Robert recalls how passionate they were at the time: they had no clients, no office – nothing. They all gave up their previous jobs to take the plunge. It was a surprise to everyone how quickly they were able to adjust and adapt; with nothing else to get in the way, their pure creativity won clients and got their business off the ground. Starting from nothing is an extremely trying proposition, much like trying to ride a bicycle for a child: a supporting hand makes the learning process go much faster. Robert made full use of all the resources he could get hold of at the time, and the business slowly began to mature. It reminds him of the situation in China, where the agency had to build something out of nothing. China is a huge market, and it takes years of experience and hard work to gain a foothold.
Saatchi & Saatchi has a team of outstanding individuals who rise to meet formidable tasks. “When we come to work every day, however, we all start with nothing,” says Robert. “We are already have a world-famous name, and our job every day is to do something to keep it famous. It’s both a gift and a huge source of responsibility and pressure. Seeing how far and how long we can go drives us forward. At Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday, he said, ‘I’m 90 today, but tomorrow I will face a new day and do what we must all do – I will climb a higher mountain.'”
Saatchi & Saatchi summits new peaks every day – and this is because we are famous and we believe that nothing is impossible. Yesterday is gone, and so we pour all of our effort into starting anew tomorrow. This kind of passion for building something new everyday and sense of destiny is a big part of what attracts everyone who works here.