OPINION: Become a pirate and a private

Ian Perrin
By Ian Perrin | 11 December 2012
ZenithOptimedia chief executive, Ian Perrin.

I am sure that at some point in my life I have sworn off starting an article with a Steve Jobs quote, but unfortunately I am going to have to do it. “Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?” he asked. Quite ironic given that when it comes to technology nowadays, Apple is very much the navy. But I digress, the reason I like the quote is it talks to why many people choose our industry over the more boring corporate endeavours of accounting, law, finance etc. Thanks to the rise of the multi-nationals in our industry however, it often feels like we are becoming more of a navy.

Kerry Field argued recently (and well) that being a private in the navy is a great career move. I partly agree, because by doing so you get the opportunity to both grow and travel. In terms of growth most industry navies have excellent training and development programmes, they have sufficient scale to work in different divisions or companies and there are many more opportunities for promotions.  In terms of travel, there is a wonderful opportunity to work in far off and different countries. I have had the good fortune to work across Africa, in New York, across Asia and more lately in Australia. I like to think that I have learnt an enormous amount in each of these markets.

But let’s also acknowledge that pirates are really who power our industry. The independent  renegades that are prepared to go it alone, break with the status quo and genuinely drive change. The Monkeys changed the definition of content, Droga broadened the spectrum of ideas and Naked fundamentally changed how agencies solve problems. Without these pirates our industry would not be as strong or robust as it currently is. And by working in these places you get to learn from vastly different and divergent people, you have greater access to the senior staff, and a faster ticket to test yourself against the best. But perhaps most importantly, you get the chance to fail, and as individuals we learn more from failure than success.

We are fortunate to work in an industry that has both navies and pirates. Rather than argue over which is better, I think we should all use this to our advantage and spend our careers working in both. Get the best of both worlds.

Ian Perrin
Chief Executive

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