Open eye: opening up Globetrotting ad-man still seeking Zelda

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The Independent Online
Paul Arnold, 40, completed his MBA in 1991. Last year he joined Grey Advertising to look after a major account on an international basis. This involves a fair degree of travel - last year alone he went to Australia, New Zealand, America, India, the Philippines, Dubai, Brazil, Japan, Taiwan, Poland, Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Belgium and France. Before that he spent 14 years at Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising, where he first started as a graduate. Paul has 4 children, and lives in Harrow.

What was your family background?

One of three boys. Mother was a drama teacher, father, sales director of a car company.

What was your earliest ambition?

Apart from wanting to kiss Zelda Smith, my childhood ambition was to be a racing driver.

How were your school days?

At a strict boarding school up till my O-Levels. We were constantly monitored, with no room given to develop your own individuality. I then left to go to a London grammar school in Highgate. I rejected completely the 'orderliness' of the previous 5 years, and spent my time playing rugby, partying and attempting to chase girls (they were still alien to me, having come from an all boys' school).

It comes as no surprise that I did no work for my A levels. I remember the day before my first exam, staring at a set of text books, thinking to myself "Should I skim read or choose some subject areas?". I scraped through my exams, and managed to manoeuvre myself into a Psychology degree at Cardiff University. I learned a valuable lesson - the need to properly prepare.

What was your first job?

When I finished my degree, I decided advertising was what I wanted to do. To help improve my chances, I did a year's post grad course in marketing. Rather than applying conventionally, I donned a sandwich board, and stood outside the top 20 advertising agencies, getting lots of press coverage, but more importantly a job at Saatchi's. I remember the MD at the time saying "You will be taken on for a six month trial period at pounds 2,750. During that time we will get our money's worth out of you!" I stayed for 14 years.

What made you start to study with the OU?

Career progression - I saw having an MBA as a competitive advantage. I felt if I understood all aspects of a client's business, I could offer better solutions for their problems.

I chose the Open University because I had calculated the lost opportunity costs if I did a full time course, and decided the benefits of a full time MBA would not outweigh the cost. It was the OU rather than the other institutions because I felt the OU had the most experience and success in setting a course that could fit in with home life and work.

What difference has the OU made?

As expected, it has helped me to understand how communications fits in. I also believe it helps me present my arguments better as I can tie my proposals back into their corporate strategy.

What does your current job involve?

My vision is to produce the most effective advertising in the category for my client, around the world. I am in essence a quality control person, ensuring our operations around the world are delivering super-optimal creative work.

How did you get it?

I was headhunted for it.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The people I work with.

And the least....?

The politics of 'not invented here' (someone once described the job as 'herding cats').

Would you do more OU study?

I would like to (but time is currently so precious). If I did, it would be a refresher course in the latest strategic developments.

To what to you attribute your success?

Never giving up. The mantra at Saatchi's was that "Nothing is impossible" and.the motto at my old school was 'perseverance'. I guess this has sunk in!

What do you most regret?

Other than not kissing Zelda Smith, I suppose it would have to be not working hard enough at my A levels.

What are your goals for the future?

In my personal life: To help my children be confident and content in themselves. To have made a difference

At work: To be an effective 'agent of change'.

How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who has inspired people to reach higher.

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