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How to get a job in advertising: “The threat of redundancy assumes we’re all victims – I don’t accept that,” says industry giant Robert Senior

In the first of a new series with twistorstick, The Drum meets leading industry experts to find out what it takes to make it in advertising, design, digital and media

Interview by Marc Shelkin

Boasting a stand-out career in advertising in London and credited with one of the most successful adverts of recent times, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi EMEA and Fallon Group, Robert Senior, takes a no-nonsense approach when it comes to the fiercely competitive battle for industry jobs.

“The threat of getting fired is different from the threat of redundancy,” said Senior, one of the industry’s biggest hitters, although he does admit part of his own success in the London advertising jobs world is down to getting lucky. “The threat of being fired in advertising is every single day because it’s a deeply, deeply meritocratic brutal industry. The threat of redundancy assumes that we’re all victims - poor little us, there’s a worldwide recession on, I’m now a victim.

“I don’t accept that. I do accept that you’re as good as the last meeting you had, you’re as good as the last piece of work you did, you’re as good as the last year you had.”

The strong words of advertising industry wisdom come from the man who brought the world the Cadbury’s drumming gorilla advert – one which increased the company’s sales of the Dairy Milk brand by a massive nine per cent, and the 48-year-old’s passion for the power of advertising has not mellowed: “It’s possible that we can make things better, it’s possible that ideas can just lift a mood, change an attitude, from the big stuff down to the small stuff, making a difference. If you apply yourself in advertising, it’s possible.”

In 1998, Senior became one of the founders of Fallon London, the company which would mastermind the Cadbury’s ad, as well as other favourites such as the Sony Bravia multi-coloured bouncing balls advert and the Sony Walkman orchestra.

“We started out with a mobile phone, a mountain bike and the name Fallon,” he continued. “There were three of us, we had no creative directors, no building, no offices and no clients. I’m more terrified looking back than I was at the time. At the time it was just exciting.

Just over 10 years before, Senior began his career as a graduate trainee with Burkitt Weinreich Bryant and Clients in 1987 and began moving up the advertising industry job ladder. It wasn’t all plain sailing, as Senior found himself caught up with the industry lifestyle of the eighties.

“I then found myself in situations where I wasn’t very good at all at doing the job at the beginning. When I look back on it now it was just a massive laugh and it was quite easy to get caught up in that aspect and forget there was a job to do.”

Moving on to DMB&B in 1989, Senior became account director and worked on the Proctor and Gamble brand for five years. He later joined Simons Palmer, now also known as TBWA after a 1997 merger.

Senior cuts a very engaging, enthusiastic and driven character. He lives for ideas and creativity and is always ready for a challenge. In his spare time, sport is his hobby of choice, which is no surprise for a man who thrives on competition.

He’s a man who’s game for anything – including answering a few quick-fire questions to round off the interview.

Olympic gold medal or an Oscar?

Gold medal

Who is the most creative person you’ve worked with?

Richard Flinton

Who is the best looking person you’ve worked with?

Robert Senior [laughs] Kate Stanners

Creatives or suits?


Money or happiness?


Apple or Android?

Don’t care

Degree or no degree?


Art directors or copywriters?


Retained work or pitched work?

Don’t understand

Facebook or Twitter?

Don’t care… Twitter

Ant or Dec?

Don’t care

Independent agencies or networked agencies?

Both can be terrible, both can be great

Outsourced production or onsite production?


Don Draper or Roger Sterling?

Roger Sterling

And lastly - Twist or Stick?


To view job opportunities in advertising, visit The Drum’s job section

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