Leaders

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Not a 9-to-6 job: How Chief Executive Nicolas Geahchan remains motivated

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Chief Executive Nicolas Geahchan is both a creative leader and a business head.

Nicolas has always considered advertising one of the most interesting jobs people could make. Creative professionals get paid to think creatively, and there's no way the mind is going to work the same way if we see our job as a burden. To keep his team motivated, Nicolas tries to prevent them from thinking about the office as a 9-to-6 job.

Nicolas sees inspiration like a torch to be passed down across the ages, and he certainly incorporates that thinking in every aspect of his leadership.

From his early years in content to his biggest sources of inspiration, today we are Getting to Know an inspirational creative leader who was shortlisted as one of our Annual 2020 Influencers of the Year.

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Tell us about your current role!

I am currently heading the communication and content practice at Mirum in the Middle East region. It is a role with dual hats of a creative leader and business head.

How did you get to your current position? What was the biggest challenge?

I spent 18 years at JWT jumping between offices in different markets. Then when I had the opportunity in 2018 to move to Mirum, I jumped on it because it was the kind of shift I was looking to do following the industry developments.

Looking back at it now, I can’t be happier with the choice I made then, especially after the dramatic effects of the pandemic on the communication industry in 2020 and the fact that spending in the digital ecosystem wasn’t affected as much as the other “traditional” or mainstream media.

My biggest challenge was to be able to do some kind of reset to my mind that was totally trained to solely put the creative idea at the center of the work, I had to learn how to integrate data in the ideation process. Another big challenge was to learn how to manage a totally new breed of creative talents coming from more diverse and unexpected backgrounds.

What is your personal background and what role did it play in your career?

I started my advertising and communication career in the year 2000 as a creative copywriter at J. Walter Thompson after getting a master’s degree in advertising from one of the most reputable Fine Arts schools in Beirut. So advertising was a career choice that I made very early in my life, it was an industry that fascinated me from a very young age as I remember being more interested by the commercials that the programs when watching TV.

What is your biggest career-related win? What is your biggest loss?

“The Good Note” a campaign and activation that I was the ECD on, it won every possible award in 2016. This is undoubtedly my biggest win.

My biggest loss is a bit unusual and slightly emotional, it is the day the J. Walter Thomspon brand was put to sleep, I totally understand the business prerogatives behind the move and the needed change to survive and thrive in unusual times. Yet, it stays the agency in which I started my career, where I spent 18 beautiful years and learnt everything I know about this industry, also it is the agency that allowed me to win a 100+ awards and accolades through out the years. 

What’s your secret to keeping the team inspired and motivated?

Not looking at your job as a 9 to 6 job. I always considered advertising as one of the most interesting jobs in the work. Technically, you’re paid to think and thinking is what differentiates us as humans from the other species sharing this planet with us. So advertising is a constant invitation to channel your thinking and to be a properly functional human being.

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Which individuals and/or agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?

Inspiration for me is like a torch that is constantly being passed on between different agencies and individuals, to every era its inspirational figure or entity. Lately, in my opinion the most inspiring work is coming from Wieden+Kennedy for big brands such as Nike or McDonalds. If I want to single out a hero in the advertising industry, my choice will go to Sir John Hegarty for everything he did in the past 5 to 6 decades. Also, one of the things he wrote is one of my favorite answers to the cliché “I am not Creative” statement that we hear day in day out; “We're all creative, it's just some of us earn our living by being so.” So well said!

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How has COVID-19 affected you?

I always considered that being a good leader can’t come without being close and having strong ties with your team. With offices closing during the lockdown and social distancing imposed, it wasn’t easy keeping constant contact and being able to discuss things beyond work with my team members, I think that managing older team members was easier because of the “credit” built throughout time, I can’t say the same with newer team members who only know you through a screen. I suddenly became a different kind of leader only focusing on the work and nothing else.

What is your one advice to aspiring creatives looking to be successful?

Never allow your ego to take over and always be open to constructive criticism, creativity is a never ending learning curve.

How do you recharge away from the office?

By going on a car ride to the outskirts of the city.

If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

A car designer in Italy. The automotive industry is my ultimate passion.

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What’s your one big dream for the future of the industry?

I dream of the day where we will be able to genuinely create communication or generate content that is customised to individuals and not groups, a real one on one communication between brands and their audiences.

Do you have any websites, books or resources that you would recommend?

The work website by Cannes Lions I think is the ultimate reference where we can find the best work done in the past 20 years in addition to insights, talks and stories. Needless to say that Creativepool is a great asset as well but everyone reading these lines knows it already.

Nicolas was shortlisted as one of our top industry influencers of 2020. Take a look at our Top 100!

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