Those marketing platitudes you think make you sound smart? They don't

Rohan Tambyrajah: the global group strategy director at PHD
Rohan Tambyrajah: the global group strategy director at PHD

PHD's global group strategy director shares his lessons from the career ladder, including get to understand what really motivates leaders.

They say that the perception of time accelerates after 30, and I am saddened to find that half-a-decade has passed since I was a Face to Watch.

Back then, I was an innovation director at Arena Media. Now, I am global group strategy director at PHD and fortunate enough to work with a team of intimidatingly smart comms planners on Unilever.

I was pretty sure I had it all worked out in those days – the future was digital, it was all about engagement and technology was the marketing panacea. Fast-forward a few years and, after a couple of icy baths in the unforgiving waters of marketing science, I’m less sure.

While I am buoyant about the future of our industry, I now have more questions than I do answers. More doubts than certainties. So it feels remiss to be doling out advice. But I’ve been asked to, so I will.

Don't get swept away by change

The pace of technological change is not the pace of behavioural change. The systems of delivering communication have become more sophisticated but the systems for receiving them – people – haven’t. It’s very easy to conflate the two.

Do get swept away by change

Disregard the above as you see fit. Clients are motivated by more than just effectiveness – Cannes Lions get people promotions. The skill of a good planner is to make the fundamentals feel shiny and to root the shiny stuff in the fundamentals.

Be scepticaI, not cynical

I find it increasingly easy to default back to the "Well, Byron Sharp says…" high ground. You’re probably not wrong, but that’s not to say you will always be right if you take that stance.

Learn about a client's business

Probably obvious, but I doubt most agency folk know the share price or market capitalisation of the business they are plugged into. And it’s good to know what really motivates senior leaders.

Work with as diverse an array of people as possible

As the adage goes: if you ask an advertising agency to solve a problem, the answer’s more advertising. Though, increasingly, it’s not. It’s worth finding people who define problems differently and get to different answers.

Understand the relationships people actually have with brands

Those relationships are fleeting and promiscuous. Someone said our industry spends a very long time thinking about what real people spend very little time thinking about. That is not to say brand affinity doesn’t exist – it’s just a weaker force than we often portray.

Learn when to shut up and when to speak

I sometimes spend meetings procrastinating over what to say, only to hear it said by someone else first. Conversely, I sometimes continue to talk long after I should have shut up. The right balance is a fine thing.

Don't use silly words

Those marketing platitudes that you think will make you sound smart? They don’t. We all do it. But don’t.

Rohan Tambyrajah is the global group strategy director at PHD. Tambyrajah was featured in Campaign’s Faces to Watch in 2012. 

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