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David Miller: why Ogilvy’s Annette King is my ad hero

The boss of The Red Brick Road chooses as his ad hero a high-flying executive who began her WPP career at Wunderman before moving up the ranks at Ogilvy, Famously, she was twice promoted on maternity leave.

My Ad Hero

When I was a grad, I had a whale of a time. I joined OgilvyOne, the ‘direct and digital’ part of the Ogilvy Group. The application process was onerous, the interview process inspiring (a day in a Covent Garden hotel having coffees and chats with Mike Dodds and Rory Sutherland). I got the job offer and seized it with both hands.

Ogilvy has always been the University of Advertising – many try to develop graduate programmes, but to my mind, none can match Ogilvy for its rigor, breadth and commitment, not to mention its alumni (Magnus Djaba, Johnny Hornby, Hannah Matthews, Aimee Luther, Matt Ross…). I had three months of training when I joined. My only criticism is that the honeymoon ends rather abruptly after those three months, when the reality of contact reports and account admin hits!

I was put onto the agency’s American Express account. It was fast-paced and furious. And headed by a fearless Annette King (below). Newly returned to the UK after a stint in the US with Wunderman, Annette was on a mission to make the account great. I was a mere grad and she was the client team leader running the account – I don’t think she noticed me, let alone acknowledged me for some weeks, but I was in awe immediately.

She was laser-focussed and ambitious, a winning combination. Like me, she is no Oxbridge grad, just a straight-talking, glasses-wearing grafter (okay, so she’s since ditched the glasses, but who am I to judge). For Annette, the boundaries between ‘BTL’ and ‘ATL’ were there to be broken – she ran the agency’s first integrated team with Ogilvy & Mather and OgilvyOne colleagues sat together (and symbolically, the team was based within OgilvyOne’s part of the office).

She didn’t suffer poor performance (or fools), and she rewarded hard work and commitment. She was always fair, and she always listened. She was always going to become CEO of OgilvyOne London, and that she is now CEO of Ogilvy Group UK is no surprise to any of us who have worked with her.

Annette always led from the front, with team BBQs at her flat, and her credit card always behind the Ogilvy bar. It made for a winning agency team – all in it together professionally and personally. Some of my closest friendships were formed and forged during the two years I spent under her wing.

Annette taught me about focus, and about ambition. Decide what you want to achieve in your career, tell everyone, and take accountability yourself to get there. She also taught me that without a winning team around you, you are nothing. And whilst it was a relatively brief period that I worked for Annette, I still value her advice and direction. And I’m still slightly in awe!

David Miller is CEO of independent London agency Red Brick Road.

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