Setting out in his career in 1975, Eric Rosenkranz could be called the classic "ad man." Joining the Grey Global Group in 1983, today he is their President - Asia Pacific and manages their extensive portfolio of diverse marketing services companies in a region stretching from Japan to Australia and India.
Armed with a BA in economics from George Washington University plus an MBA from the University of Chicago, why did he pick advertising? "I was interviewing for jobs in corporate forecasting departments. [But] I decided I was bored with the people I was interviewing with, that I really didn't relate to them and that I really didn't know what I was doing."
Deducing that, if he was not stimulated by the people he met, their jobs might bore him, Mr. Rosenkranz abandoned his training. "I went for an interview with some advertising people and ... decided that I really liked them. So I accepted a job in advertising literally not knowing the first thing about what advertising was, but doing it out of my gut feeling that these were people I wanted to associate with." Twenty seven years later, Mr. Rosenkranz has never left the field.
The big picture ...
Mr. Rosenkranz emphasizes that advertising offers a wide range of specialization. "You could be what we call a client service person and work directly with clients and be in the marketing side. The career path there could, eventually, move into general management, in which you're running an organization. Or, it could move into a specialization focusing on one client, where you run that client on a regional or global basis."
Other disciplines include, for example, working on the creative side - either writing or art directing advertising. "Again, this usually leads to a senior creative position. Usually creative people don't have the business sense that it takes to actually run an agency and they prefer not to do that."
"One of the exciting things in our industry is that young people tend to get a lot of
responsibility very soon. After a year or so, you can really be leading big projects, developing your own advertising campaigns and going to the client on your own"
... and the nitty gritty
What kind of tasks can be expected? Mr. Rosenkranz believes that the first six months present a steep learning curve: "You might get assigned to a project ... let's say a shampoo. So you'll need to learn about the shampoo market - why people use shampoos, what the different types of shampoo are, what the different hair qualities are." Certainly, responsibility is fairly immediate. "One of the exciting things in our industry is that young people tend to get a lot of responsibility very soon. After a year or so, you can really be leading big projects, developing your own advertising campaigns and going to the client on your own."
Not for specialists
In Mr. Rosenkranz's opinion, personality traits are more important than academic qualifications. "You need to be pluralistic ... specialists do not succeed in this field." Indeed, working for a communications agency could mean that one day you are called on to advertise toilet soap and the next day a car, a mobile phone or a bank.
Nonetheless, advertising professionals should also possess leadership skills and be capable of presenting their opinions without aggression. He continues: "You need a strong personality, but at the same time be able to accept commentary and input - not only from clients but from colleagues, as we're dealing in an art and not a science, and there's no right or wrong."
Those considering an advertising career should note the global trend for advertising agencies to transform into communications companies. "What we're learning, and what our clients are learning, is that [being purely an advertising agency] is not a model for the future," Mr. Rosenkranz explains. "You need to have all communications activities totally coordinated and developed by one company." As a result, and similar to all advertising agencies, the Grey Global Group has transformed itself from supplying simply advertising to supplying the "total communications" package.
"So for somebody starting in the industry today it's a very exciting time - ten years ago, they would be called on to learn about advertising. Today, they're being called on to learn about all the different marketing communications vehicles, so it's a much broader field today."
In Mr. Rosenkranz's opinion, China has great significance for the advertising industry. "There's absolutely no question that China's the future [in Asia]," he comments. "I believe that Hong Kong is at the beginning of a slow decline over the next 20 years. I don't think this is a temporary thing: the jobs are going to China." In addition, he strongly encourages those setting out in careers in advertising and communications to "think of your job not as running a business or doing advertising in Hong Kong, but as doing it in the Greater China area."