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Agency Life

Survival of the Fittest

Survival of the Fittest

Sulaiman Beg

Sulaiman Beg

April 2, 2019

“Working in advertising takes you through all the emotional states...often in the same week,” says HOY by Havas’s Ernest Riba.

"You really have to like it to survive in this often absurd world we call advertising. I keep choosing it every day."

But the Managing Director of HOY by Havas says he wouldn’t have it any other way. Below he shares why advertising today is the linchpin in our creative culture, the importance of agency culture, and the soccer player he’s not a fan of.

 

So how do you explain your job to people who aren’t in the industry?

I help brands make their products and services more interesting.

What’s the weirdest thing about working in advertising?

Most of what we do is invisible to people. It’s a daily challenge to break through the anonymity of what we create.

The coolest thing?

I share a desk with screenwriters, developers, designers, anthropologists. If you are in the right place, nowadays, advertising works as a unique cultural pivot. It allows you to work hand in hand with people you’d hardly encounter in other industries.

Do you ever feel the pressure of being a managing director?

Working in advertising takes you through all the emotional states…often in the same week. You don’t need to be a high-level executive to feel the pressure or even need to do a good job. You really have to like it to survive in this often absurd world we call advertising. I keep choosing it every day.

How do you handle the pressure?

Swimming.

So, how’d you get your start in advertising?

You can say it was my calling. The father of my best childhood friend ran Casadevall Pedreño in Barcelona, then Publicis Casadevall Pedreño in the early ’90s (an independent agency that was twice named the best agency in the world at the Cannes Festival). In less than 10 years, I heard lots of anecdotes about brands, insights, filming…

"Create a culture where incredible work is valued and stimulated, whatever form it’s in, and everything will go well."

What steps should others take to get their start in the ad industry?

Don’t put advertising in the center. The level of sophistication in the industry is increasingly pronounced and a very high level of specialization is required, even from the so necessary generalist profiles of today. That’s why I would start by studying and working first in an industry related to advertising but not specifically it, and then pursue advertising in the second part of your career.

What do you wish everyone knew about you?

I’m the middle brother. I think this gives you a unique point of view about the world.

What do you hope no one ever finds out?

I prefer 10 minutes of Ronaldinho to 90 minutes of Messi.

What’s your best advice for future leaders?

The product is the answer. Create a culture where incredible work is valued and stimulated, whatever form it’s in, and everything will go well.

Best advice you’ve ever gotten?

My director of strategy in Spain advised me when I was very young to focus on high-impact projects and to say no to other projects if they took time away from the previous ones. I still recall this advice in moments of stress.

Tell us about a time you were wrong.

For two years I led the R&D team in the largest digital agency in Argentina, and I came to believe process was the recipe for innovation. Today, I’m convinced process helps people collaborate better, but the only successful formula is to be surrounded with great and diverse talents committed to delivery.

What about a time you were right?

Within 20 years I moved from Barcelona to Berlin to study, and later to Buenos Aires to experience working on another continent. Migration is an incredible experience that changes your life. I know that most migration in the world is unfortunately forced, but when you have the luck and the opportunity to choose to live in other places, it’s irreplaceable.

Anything that you’d like to add or feel that I missed?

With Pedro Di Risio, Federico Plaza Montero, Nicolás Zarlenga, and the rest of the team, we are working to make HOY, the new creative boutique of Havas, into a player of global excellence for strategy and content. Good news will continue to come from Buenos Aires.

"You really have to like it to survive in this often absurd world we call advertising. I keep choosing it every day."

But the Managing Director of HOY by Havas says he wouldn’t have it any other way. Below he shares why advertising today is the linchpin in our creative culture, the importance of agency culture, and the soccer player he’s not a fan of.

 

So how do you explain your job to people who aren’t in the industry?

I help brands make their products and services more interesting.

What’s the weirdest thing about working in advertising?

Most of what we do is invisible to people. It’s a daily challenge to break through the anonymity of what we create.

The coolest thing?

I share a desk with screenwriters, developers, designers, anthropologists. If you are in the right place, nowadays, advertising works as a unique cultural pivot. It allows you to work hand in hand with people you’d hardly encounter in other industries.

Do you ever feel the pressure of being a managing director?

Working in advertising takes you through all the emotional states…often in the same week. You don’t need to be a high-level executive to feel the pressure or even need to do a good job. You really have to like it to survive in this often absurd world we call advertising. I keep choosing it every day.

How do you handle the pressure?

Swimming.

So, how’d you get your start in advertising?

You can say it was my calling. The father of my best childhood friend ran Casadevall Pedreño in Barcelona, then Publicis Casadevall Pedreño in the early ’90s (an independent agency that was twice named the best agency in the world at the Cannes Festival). In less than 10 years, I heard lots of anecdotes about brands, insights, filming…

"Create a culture where incredible work is valued and stimulated, whatever form it’s in, and everything will go well."

What steps should others take to get their start in the ad industry?

Don’t put advertising in the center. The level of sophistication in the industry is increasingly pronounced and a very high level of specialization is required, even from the so necessary generalist profiles of today. That’s why I would start by studying and working first in an industry related to advertising but not specifically it, and then pursue advertising in the second part of your career.

What do you wish everyone knew about you?

I’m the middle brother. I think this gives you a unique point of view about the world.

What do you hope no one ever finds out?

I prefer 10 minutes of Ronaldinho to 90 minutes of Messi.

What’s your best advice for future leaders?

The product is the answer. Create a culture where incredible work is valued and stimulated, whatever form it’s in, and everything will go well.

Best advice you’ve ever gotten?

My director of strategy in Spain advised me when I was very young to focus on high-impact projects and to say no to other projects if they took time away from the previous ones. I still recall this advice in moments of stress.

Tell us about a time you were wrong.

For two years I led the R&D team in the largest digital agency in Argentina, and I came to believe process was the recipe for innovation. Today, I’m convinced process helps people collaborate better, but the only successful formula is to be surrounded with great and diverse talents committed to delivery.

What about a time you were right?

Within 20 years I moved from Barcelona to Berlin to study, and later to Buenos Aires to experience working on another continent. Migration is an incredible experience that changes your life. I know that most migration in the world is unfortunately forced, but when you have the luck and the opportunity to choose to live in other places, it’s irreplaceable.

Anything that you’d like to add or feel that I missed?

With Pedro Di Risio, Federico Plaza Montero, Nicolás Zarlenga, and the rest of the team, we are working to make HOY, the new creative boutique of Havas, into a player of global excellence for strategy and content. Good news will continue to come from Buenos Aires.

Sulaiman Beg is Havas' Director of Global Internal Communications. He has never eaten canned tuna fish.

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