Pinder embraces the new age of engagement

Richard Pinder, EMEA chief of Leo Burnett, tells Tim Addington never mind China, the ME is the fastest growing market

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By  Tim Addington Published  July 17, 2005

Pinder embraces the new age of engagement|~|Pinder200.jpg|~|Pinder... “When you talk to chief executives of global organisations, they are uninterested in static markets”|~|There is an air of satisfaction surrounding Richard Pinder, who is casually dressed in a pastel shirt, linen slacks and deck shoes at Leo Burnett’s Middle East headquarters in Dubai. The agency’s president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa has just come out of a five-day global quarterly review of the ad agency’s creative work, in which 1300 pieces were judged by 40 Leo Burnett staff. The man in charge of 40% of Leo Burnett’s worldwide business is enthusing that the agency’s eight Middle East offices have produced 15 pieces of work that have been given the highly-prized ‘seven plus’ ranking. All the pieces are judged against a seven-point scale which was devised by a now retired Leo Burnett worldwide creative director. Last year the Middle East team scored just 13 seven pluses in a whole year. “In this quarter alone the team is on 15,” says Pinder. “That level of seven pluses is as much as any of our offices has ever delivered in one quarter, except perhaps Chicago.” The internal judging system may appear to some outside observers as nothing more than a five-day, all-expenses-paid junket to some far flung foreign capital or seaside resort, but to the managers and creatives at Leo Burnett’s network of offices, it is deadly serious. Their bonuses depend on it. A score of four and below means the respective agencies are “not earning their money,” says Pinder. A ranking of five and six means that the creative work is considered to have an innovative strategy with a good idea, while work that gets a seven plus is regarded as being a fresh and truly unique idea that could happily stand alongside the very best in the world. “It costs us US$2 million a year to do, so for us it is definitely worthwhile doing,” he says. “Before we were saying to the Middle East, ‘yes guys you did some great work by the standards of your market, but it wasn’t of a world standard’. “And now we are saying ‘you are actually doing 15 pieces of work that are absolutely up there with the best in the world’. “It is a very interesting measure for us. It is not perfect, but it gives you an indication of how advertising in this market is coming forward,” says Pinder. The advertising head says that awards, while an honour to receive, do not mean a region has come of age in terms of the creative work it produces. “I am not sure a gold lion at Cannes says the Middle East has come of age, but I think it is absolutely right to aspire to do great work because it will drag more people into the industry,” says Pinder, speaking before Tonic won the region’s first Cannes gold lion. “In my opinion, clients are pushing for more and more creativity than ever before. At the end of the day, it is not to get a seven plus, but to make a difference in the marketplace,” he says. With more than 20 years’ experience in the advertising industry, Pinder, an economist by training, has risen through the ranks of the advertising industry, beginning his career at Grey Advertising before moving to Ogilvy & Mather in London, where he became UK managing director. He joined Leo Burnett five years ago and was appointed managing director of the company’s Asia Pacific network from 2000 to 2004. During his time in Asia, Leo Burnett was named regional agency of the year, an accolade that Pinder clearly regards as a career-defining moment. In February last year he took the role of EMEA president and is now responsible for 52 full-service offices in 48 countries. Sitting in the agency’s swanky new offices at Dubai Media City, Pinder is firmly focused on strengthening and growing his empire and has the Middle East in his sights. “What is fascinating for me is people talk about China a lot. But the growth percentages we have here [the Middle East] easily match the growth percentages we have in China,” he says. “The business we have got here is the same size of the business we have in China. In fact, it is slightly bigger. “It is basically like having another China and most businesses in the world, if they could have another China, would be very happy.” Leo Burnett in the Middle East has doubled its size in just five years and now accounts for 4% of the ad agency’s global business, up from 2%. While the figure may appear small, Pinder claims most businesses would happily accept that increase. “When you talk to chief executives of global organisations, they are uninterested in static markets. They talk about Russia, China and the Middle East as areas where they can achieve growth, even if it is only single digits,” he says. “Our first goal is to carry on growing what we have. I don’t think any of our offices are the size where we would sit back and say ‘fantastic’. We want everything to keep growing.” Iran and Qatar are being examined as possible new additions to the Leo Burnett regional network, Pinder says. But he concedes that the nature of advertising has evolved from his early days in the industry. “My first boss, an ex Leo Burnett managing director, said that we would be the first generation of communications executives, not advertising executives,” he recalls. “We were all very disappointed. We thought we had joined the advertising industry. “But it is exactly what has happened. We have moved from the 30-second TV commercial to being an industry that focuses on ideas that are executed on every form. “The simple way to think of it is, we used to be in the age of interruption, now we are in the age of engagement. You need to have big ideas that people want to spend time with,” he adds. Although at the helm of Leo Burnett for EMEA, Pinder still relishes mixing with his clients and takes an active role in winning and retaining work with global accounts such as Philip Morris, Proctor & Gamble and Kellogg’s. “My goal is to put 50% of my time towards clients. In the first year of this job I probably failed at that goal. When you are more established that is what you hope to do because, if you are not doing that, what the hell are you doing? “I love playing with the clients. It is the best bit of the job.”||**||

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