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Off to See the Little Five

By Alistair Mokoena, managing director, Draftfcb Johannesburg

For bush lovers like myself nothing beats escaping the city madness and spending a weekend surrounded by nature’s very best. I love that the air is fresher and the sky clearer in the bush. The eclectic mix of sounds, smell and colour constantly remind you that God was smiling when He created the earth. 
I’ll never forget a lesson I learnt from one Elvis, a game ranger in the Waterberg region of Limpopo. The setting was one of those red-eye game drives that are a pain if you love sleep like I do, but are a real gem when it comes to sightings.
On the Landcruiser was myself, my wife, a South African couple from Durban and two American families. Off we went in Elvis’ vehicle. Armed with my trusted Nikon D5000 and a newly acquired 400mm telescopic lens, I could not wait to spot the first of the Big Five. My assumption was that we were all there to see the Big Five. Boy, was I wrong.
Firstly, the Durban couple had a strange interest in butterflies and spiders and insisted on stopping everytime someone spotted a spider web. The one American family had a passion for birds and would stop at every turn to admire feathery folk. The husband kept referring to that volumnous Sasol-sponsored bird book for interesting facts about the various bird species we came across, like the champagne bird!
All this time I’m thinking “can we hurry up and go looking for the Big Five before it gets too hot and they all disappear into thick bushes.” My wife, sensing my rising irritation levels, kept tapping my lap in a plea for calm and patience.
The final straw came when Elvis pulled over to show us a dung beetle rolling its “score” across the road. I lost my cool and said to Elvis, “the Big five baba,” while pointing at my watch. Elvis turned around and stood up to address the whole vehicle. I suspect I had finally given him a platform to express frustration that had been building up over the years as a game ranger.
“Folks, the bush is not just about the Big Five. Yes, we know you all want to see the Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and the much threatened Rhino, but allow me to teach you something you didn’t know.
“We also have the Little Five and the Ugly Five. All of which are important. The Little Five consists of the Leopard Tortoise, the Ant Lion, the Elephant Shrew, the Buffalo Weaver and the Rhino Beetle. And the Ugly Five consists of the Hyena, Warthog, Wildebeest, Vulture and the Marabou Stork.”
Definitely a slap on the wrist for me, but one that taught me a valuable lesson about hierarchy.
Hierarchy and rank are common features in our line of work. We refer to clients as junior and senior clients and we refer to our own colleagues as junior suit or junior creative or senior planner.
These references have become more than just an innocent, objective title, but rather a code for one’s position in the pecking order. They determine the respect and attention you receive from your colleagues. They even determine what meetings you attend.
One of the worst mistakes you can make is ignore or overlook junior clients. Here’s five little reasons why:
 Junior clients draft the agency revert – Acknowledge and build rapport with the junior client in the meeting. When you summarise the client’s feedback and way forward, address the junior client in the room to ensure that what she captures for her revert to you is an accurate account of what was decided. Remember, a misdirected revert wastes everyone’s time and the agency’s resources. You also would like her to feel free to pick up then phone and get further clarity from you before she sends you the revert.Junior clients process your payment - So best you endear yourself to them. Acknowledge them, show them you value their opinion and care about their development.Junior clients contribute to your performance review - Every interaction you have with them shapes what they think of you. Show them your value as a business partner and make them fall in love with you.Junior clients are unencumbered by baggage – One of the benefits of youth is childlike naivety, optimism, resourcefulness, an eagerness to learn and lack of baggage. Junior clients are not jaded like the rest of us older folk, therefore they are not quick to kill ideas. The world has changed drastically since you were their age. Tap into their insights and allow yourself to see the world through their eyes.Junior clients are future marketing directors - How would you like your future senior client to remember you and your agency? As that supplier that didn’t bother to know their name or as someone who respected them and helped teach them what they now know?
The same lessons apply to our junior colleagues in the agency. You don’t want to create enemies in the people that work for and with you. One day they will be your competition and we all know how vicious an ex-employee can be as a competitor. We see it all the time with professional soccer players. It’s called “the immutable law of the ex.” This phenomenon suggests that pIayers play unusually well against their former teams. 
The simple lesson is, treat others like you would like to be treated and remember that the Little Five can be as interesting and as beautiful to photograph as the Big Five.
Originally posted onMarkLives on October 10, 2013.