What I learned... in the House of Commons, with Prashant Yadave of Keko
Talent in the marketing industry comes from some pretty surprising corners. In our series What I Learned... we explore the surprising origin stories of some of agencyland’s biggest characters and brightest stars.
Prashant Yadave is head of strategy at London-based creative agency Keko. In a varied career, he’s spent time at Karmarama and Edelman – but before all that he spent time at the Palace of Westminster as a parliamentary researcher. We sat down with him to figure out whether you can ever truly leave politics.
Hi! Tell us a little about who you are and what you do.
Hi! I’m Prash – Croydon born and bred (and proud). I have the honor of heading up a team of awesome strategists at Keko London – a global integrated creative agency that specializes in affluent consumers. We like to say that we’re experts in how people spend their disposable income.
I’ve heard that you had an interesting journey to Keko?
It’s been quite a ride up. Political consultancy, advertising, PR and then Keko London.
Before all that, my first ‘adult’ job was at the House of Commons working as a parliamentary researcher for the Rt Hon Simon Hughes MP. I’d studied politics at undergraduate and master’s level and then realized, as a naive 22-year old, that after studying you actually need to get a job.
I was one of 350 applicants and was completely shocked that I got picked. That said, after working with Simon for a short period I understood why – he was all about giving people who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to work at or experience parliament the chance.
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It sounds like a challenging job for a 22-year-old.
My word – yes, it was a challenge. Parliament is steeped in hundreds of years of procedure and process, and I had absolutely no clue about it.
I also came to appreciate the sheer speed with which the political agenda or topic of the day changes, testing your ability to react. We think in the agency world things move quickly – try spending a week in politics.
Then there was the challenge of ‘where do I fit in?’ Back in 2005, there weren’t a huge amount of people ‘like me’ in the Commons so it was difficult to judge if it (or politics in general) would be an environment I’d see myself staying in for the long-haul – turns out I didn’t.
How did the job go down with friends and family?
I’ll never be as popular than I was back then when I had my parliamentary pass. I could take friends and family around parliament unaccompanied and grant them access to the many (heavily subsidized) bars and restaurants in the Palace of Westminster.
I’d imagine even a few years in an environment like that would stay with you forever?
There are so many things I learned. For one thing, communication strategies can look good on paper but the real world is super complex and multi-dimensional. For another, the public are naturally skeptical of anyone (such as an MP) or anything (a brand) that is trying to sell something.
What else? Values and beliefs are important but holding true to them is difficult. Nothing of substance can be achieved without a good and honest team around you.
And do you consciously use your political nous in business decisions today?
Working in politics, you realize that many of the roles are heavily specialized and require expert knowledge, which has informed the way I’ve built teams at Keko. Multidisciplinary teams help tackle problems, challenges and opportunities from all angles. You need many different minds, cultures and personalities around you.
Would you recommend a varied career (or a baptism of fire in politics) like yours to a young colleague just starting out?
If politics is your thing then there’s no better way to get experience than working for an MP or party, either at a local or national level. It will give you a good grounding and set of skills that are 100% transferable in other sectors.
Overall, and I say it all the time to people starting their working life; a career is a marathon not a sprint, so you don’t have to be defined by one job or sector – move about, try different things. It will make you better at whatever you do next. The other thing I would advise is to always have an eye on developing skills and experiences that are highly transferable in other sectors as that will be your route into making your career ‘squiggly.’