John Rose was one of the first advertisers to see promise in the newly open Soviet market, ca. 1989. Even after landing such major clients as Kodak, Coca-Cola, and Sony, many of his colleagues still thought he was crazy for investing in Russia. Today, however, Rose Creative Strategies is one of Russia’s top firms for advertising, consulting, and P.R. work, servicing many of the most recognizable brands and companies in Russia.
We caught John in the middle of a busy travel schedule to answer a few questions about business, advertising, and living in Russia.
SRAS: What is your job title?
John: There’s nothing under my name on my business card. I guess I don’t really have an official title anymore — though I am usually referred to as Creative Director.
SRAS: How would you describe your job description?
John: Basically I get paid to think and write. I consult with clients, develop marketing strategies. But mostly I write and often art direct ads and commercials.
SRAS: What is the most interesting/difficult ad campaign you have personaly worked on?
John: The most interesting ad campaign is always the “next one.” By the time a commercial appears on TV or an ad is published in a magazine, newspaper or installed on a billboard, I’m onto something else. But I am proud of work I’ve done for Sony, Pernod Ricard and several Russian brands. The challenge for me as an American, of course, is to translate my strategic thinking, cinematic sense and point-of-view into Russian. And Russian is not as flexible a language as English. I’ve been trying to “stretch” it for years.
SRAS: Speaking of language, we recall reading in a Moscow Times article that, at least in 2000, your then-3-year-old son could speak better Russian than you. Is this still the case?
John: Yes, my son John still speaks better Russian than I do – the little $%&#. I’m trying to convince his mother to stop speaking Russian to him so I can catch up, but she won’t have it.
SRAS: Has the language been a challenge in your day-to-day work (outside of the creative aspect)?
John: I actually have few language challenges in my work — outside of creative development — mostly because all of our key people speak English and other languages. And the execs at the clients with whom I communicate nearly all speak English. But remember, having my name on the door makes it a little easier for me. Any of the expats who have worked at the agency have had to be proficient in Russian. And I would doubt anyone traveling to Russia for employment will get very far without great language skills.
SRAS: Do you find that Russian clients have been receptive to your Internet-based customer service “iroom?”
John: Many of our clients are international brands with managers who spend much of their time outside Russia. They appreciate the iRoom most of all. But everyone seems to have embraced the system. We are launching a new room called “Press Room” for our public relations clients later this year.
SRAS: Why did you decide to work in Russia? Have you ever regretted the decision?
John: I regret it every day. I also love it every day. I came here in 1989 thinking I’d set up the office for our agency and go home. In fact, I ended up commuting to Moscow from our headquarters in Boston every two weeks for over six years before I figured out I was spending one month out of every year in an airport or on a plane. I finally settled here in 1998.
SRAS: What difficulties, if any, did you encounter in trying to establish a new business in Russia?
John: It would be easier to list the difficulties I didn’t encounter. But let’s not scare your students away. Next question?
SRAS: Are job prospects for students of your field growing in Russia?
John: For Russian graduates, yes. Only expatriates with experience and a specialization will find a paying job in advertising in Russia. Internships may be a possibility, though. Once here (if their Russian-speaking skills are adequate) they may be able to translate an internship into something more.
SRAS: In what other fields are job prospects growing/shrinking?
John: Well…everything is growing. The point is that jobs for foreigners represent a shrinking portion of those opportunities. Long gone are the heady days before the 1998 financial meltdown when expats were in high demand and salaries were soaring.
SRAS: Anything you would add for students looking to Russia for opportunity?
John: I would look for hot industries where Russians have little experience — particularly in the service sectors. The hospitality industry, for example, is ripe for explosive growth.