Ogilvy & Mather is on a fearsome roll at the moment, displacing BBDO as the world’s most awarded network and even helping Unilever’s Dave Lewis become the new CEO of Tesco thanks to its highly successful Dove personal care campaigns. So we asked Gerry Human (left), CCO of Ogilvy & Mather London, what’s changed at the old ‘Ministry of Advertising.’
1/ Ogilvy has won the ‘most creative network’ prize at Cannes for the past three years, displacing BBDO. How did you make this happen?
We just tried to do more good work than before. And of course there was a step change in direction when Miles Young and Tham Khai Meng took over. They’re ambitious themselves, so they expect the same from everyone.
2/ Ogilvy in London has always been known as a hub for a number of big global accounts. Is it possible to combine this with a strong local presence?
Doing great work for local clients is definitely important and it’s something we’ve tried to do more of in the last few years. Our work on Expedia is a good example of this. So is the campaign we did last year for Kronenbourg 1664 with Eric Cantona. It was recently named by the public as one of the UK’s top ten football-relevant ads of all time.
3/ Accounts such as Dove and Expedia have won many effectiveness as well as creative awards recently. Has the way clients and others judge advertising changed with the explosion of digital?
Clients are definitely looking for ideas that connect the dots, more so than before. Our Expedia campaign has won awards in TV, print, outdoor, social and direct as well as marketing and effectiveness awards. So it’s actually a very good example of what we are best at: giving brands a platform for integrated campaigns – in this case, “Travel yourself interesting”. Same goes for Dove, all the work is developed around a single brand idea.
4/ Ogilvy still references David Ogilvy to a greater extent – arguably – than other famous agencies reference their founders. Is what DO stood for still relevant in a much-changed world?
Obviously it’s a bit cheesy when people cling on to hackneyed old phrases and clichés and use them as crutches in meetings etc. But I think Ogilvy (left) was unique amongst the Mad Men, because he carefully crafted a legacy not only for himself, but also for the company. He left behind a vast reservoir of writing about advertising, business and life – not just an advertising portfolio.
I think it’s helpful for a very large global organisation to have such well-considered guiding principles to draw from. He believed in stuff like curiosity, courage and candour – personally, I don’t think values like those are any less relevant today.
5/ Ogilvy London is moving from Canary Wharf to the South Bank. How would you describe the Canary Wharf experience?
Hey, I’m just a boy from Joburg, what do I know? Being positioned as separate from everyone else in the industry can have its advantages and maybe that was the thinking 20 years ago – it worked for W+K in Portland. There was a time when agencies thought they needed to compete with management consultants (we’ve always been a fragile lot) so maybe it made sense then. But I don’t think there’s a benefit for a business that sells creativity to have the same image as a bank. I guess that’s the part people didn’t anticipate when they moved to CW.
The reality is that recently we have been doing some brilliant work, with fantastic clients who don’t seem to give a shit where we are. Sometimes you just have to get on with it.
I think the South Bank move will retain Ogilvy’s distinctiveness, but the agency will be in the heart of one of the most creative locations on earth. That’s got to be a good thing.