WPP acquired Ogilvy & Mather in 1989, 29 years ago which is a long time in advertising. David Ogilvy died ten years later aged 88.
My guess is he stepped down from the leadership role once he had banked the cash from “that odious little shit” Martin Sorrel; DO’s words not mine.
This was pre-internet as we know it today and as a client of O&M for a short period of time the media options at my and their disposal were TV, press or posters, and possibly radio in some parts of the UK. O&M in those days was operating through a rear view mirror represented by the account men, dressed like city boys in double breasted pinstripe suits. A very different time.
Which brings me to the news of the latest re-launch of new Ogilvy announced this week.
I led Ogilvy in the UK from 1999 to 2003 and back then David Ogilvy (below) defined the generations.
Many of the lifers in their 50’s regularly referred to ‘David’ like he was their best friend whereas the under ’40’s rarely referred to the great man. A curious point was that the seminal book ‘Ogilvy on Advertising’ was never handed out to newcomers, rather odd when the seniors were known to quote him at the drop of a hat. Trilby of course.
In this latest announcement CEO John Siefert talks about new Ogilvy going to ‘blaze a trail forward’ as a result of their restructuring; well that is cultural change on a major scale, often seen as a 2-3 year job by leading change management experts. They talk a lot about leopards and spots.
I wouldn’t say Ogilvy has blazed too many trails in the last decade or more so a new attitude and approach is key to delivering the promise.
I felt back in my day, and I would observe the same is true today, Ogilvy didn’t practice what it preached, possibly true of most ad agencies. Ogilvy must decide on what it is providing and to who.
Here in the UK Ogilvy will find it very difficult to compete with top creative agencies Mother or adam&eveDBB or BBH or in the US agencies like Droga5, Anomaly, W&K et al.
However Ogilvy can provide wall to wall servicing globally for a client needing that coverage. So they are providing breadth and depth of resource on a large scale, definitely not a one size fits all strategy. When I announced in New York our £20m win of what became MORE TH>N it was ignored the moment it was understood as a domestic account only. The machine had and has a voracious appetite for global clients.
One danger of the multiple craft list is the cynical response of ‘Jack of all trades and master of none’. I understand the need to say “we have all of these skills” but in truth they are necessary but not sufficient. I bet Dan Wieden has a lot of clever people in Portland doing lots of clever things all supporting what Dan stands for, creative excellence. same for David Droga, John Hegarty at BBH plus others we can all recall. In the end it is all about ideas that are relevant, inspiring and fresh, wherever they originate from.
I’ve read a lot about John Siefert’s new ideas and I wish him every success with this bold move trying to change a juggernaut into to a speedier craft but I would suggest cheekily Ogilvy needs leadership that represents excellence in its delivery to their clients and avoids getting confused by well intentioned rhetoric.
David Ogilvy and many of his contemporaries, Bill Bernbach for instance, kept their minds focused on singular ideas, uncomplicated by extraneous influences. The challenge these days is trying to keep the pitch clear and simple, ignoring the numerous distractions that create blind alleys and wasted time.
Paul Simons joined Ogilvy as chairman of the UK group and CEO of O&M Advertising from a similar role at TBWA. He was also on the worldwide board.