I recently got an email from a New York journalist.
She was writing an article and asked if she could check my recollection of GGT:
She wrote: “You ran your department through fear, and encouraged your staff to steal briefs from each other’s desk and present their work to try and one-up the guy who had the assignment.”
From that, it didn’t sound like a very nice place to work.
But everything is a matter of perspective.
What happened was that when I was a junior at BMP I didn’t like the way the briefs were given out.
The senior teams got all the best briefs and the juniors just got the trade ads.
Fair enough, you don’t want your most expensive resources working on your least important ads.
But the senior teams would go on long lunches, or go to a wine bar, or go over the pub.
All during the time when I could have been doing those ads.
But the account men wouldn’t give me the briefs because I was a junior.
So I used to wait until the senior teams were out of their offices, then I’d go in and take the briefs off their desk.
I’d do the ads then I’d show them to the ECD, John Webster.
He didn’t know I hadn’t been asked to work on it.
If he liked the ads I went and told the account man John liked them.
No one questioned John’s decision, so they ran.
It didn’t make me a lot of friends among the senior teams, but I wasn’t there to make friends.
I was there to get a lot of work out in a hurry.
So later, when I opened my own agency, GGT, I was looking for juniors who had the same energy I had.
And I included it in the traffic system.
When you’d done your own work you were entitled to have a go at any other briefs that hadn’t been done yet.
That meant the seniors couldn’t rest on their laurels.
If they went to lunch or the pub that was their choice, but someone younger and hungrier might be doing their work.
It also meant that, if you were a junior, you never got to complain that you didn’t get the best briefs.
Just finish your trade ads, then work on whatever you like.
If you’d rather go to lunch, or the pub, or go home early, that was your choice.
But at the end of the year I would see who had the biggest quantity of good work.
And adjust the salary levels accordingly.
That’s why the best juniors became seniors very fast.
For people who just wanted a fair crack of the whip it worked great.
But for people who wanted to be judged on other criteria: seniority, awards, education, social class, being friends with the ECD, it wasn’t so great.
In fact for people like that it must have been scary.
Because all it was ever about, was the work.
Everyone had the same 24 hours in the day, how you used it was up to you.
That’s why I never saw it as scary.
For me it was just honest.
Of course, to some people that is scary.