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Ad giant Ogilvy unveils global company rebrand and reorganization

With more than 16,000 employees across 450 offices in 120 countries, the agency network announces significant structural changes.

Ad giant Ogilvy unveils global company rebrand and reorganization
[Photo: courtesy of Ogilvy]

It doesn’t take a lot of digging to know that the advertising industry is in a seismic state of flux right now. It’s been happening for the last decade and only getting more intense as new technology, platforms, consumer behavior, and competitors seem to reveal themselves in waves. You know it’s officially a thing when The New Yorker‘s Ken Auletta writes a whole book about it.

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Today, global ad agency network Ogilvy is unveiling a global company rebrand and reorganization, more than two years in the making, to better tackle these new challenges. When John Seifert was promoted to become chief executive of The Ogilvy Group in January 2016, this was his objective. After spending his entire 38-year career at Ogilvy, watching it expand into more than 450 offices in 120 countries, with 16,000 employees. While part of holding company WPP, Ogilvy is one of the larger agency networks, with a wide array of businesses and practices, including advertising, public relations and public affairs, branding and identity, shopper and retail marketing, healthcare communications, direct, digital, promotion, and more. Increasingly, the agency looked more like a holding company of its own, as opposed to the nimble, seamlessly integrated business that modern marketers need.

“In a world that’s questioning the relevance of brands–from big data making brands irrelevant to consumer experience in a digital environment making brands irrelevant–we’re sailing in with the view that brands have never been more important,” says Seifert. “The way brands are built, managed, and how audiences engage with them is changing, not the brands themselves. We’re reaffirming our commitment to brand building, but in a new modern marketing environment.”

Ok, so what does that actually mean? Beyond the new paint job of a redesigned logo, it means that all the separate offices and areas of expertise, previously run as largely separate business units with their own financials, will now operate as one company. The idea is to deliver on the initial promise of a global network of expertise, while cutting out the business bureaucracy preventing it from truly tapping in to its collaborative potential.

After starting the rollout among its U.S. operations last year, the company is going from a matrix of sub-brands to one, represented by 12 crafts and six core capabilities along with a new operating system. The crafts are creative, strategy, delivery, client service, data, finance, technology, talent, business development, marketing and communications, administrative, and production. The capabilities are brand strategy, advertising, customer engagement and commerce, PR and influence, digital transformation, and partnerships.

“The unintended consequence of our past actions was that, as clients were going through this evolution, in terms of their marketing competencies, how they engaged consumers, distributed content, and even how they sold their product, the initial agency response to fulfill those requirements was to either buy or build a business around the individual piece parts,” says Seifert.

As a result, two things happened, unintentionally, that Seifert says have been holding Ogilvy back. First were those individual parts carrying their own financial framework, only doing things of interest to their own P&L, and not interested in doing something for the greater good of the company. Second, they started attracting people who would only view the world through a specialist lens. “What we’re trying to say now, as a brand, is that if someone from Ogilvy is at the table with a client, that client should be able to depend on the company looking at their needs in the most integrated, most holistic way possible,” says Seifert. “It doesn’t mean we have to do everything, but it should mean we can make it happen.”

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The new company organization also includes a new internal digital platform called Connect, designed for more efficient knowledge-sharing, professional development, and customized community-networking, all in an effort to bring the right teams together to best serve clients. If that sounds familiar, then you’ve likely read about Publicis’s new AI platform Marcel, which has many of the same goals.

Another new development announced today is the launch of Ogilvy Consulting. Essentially a direct response to the encroachment of global consultancies like Accenture and Deloitte in the ad business, the new practice is actually just a newer version of its existing consulting business OgilvyRED, launched in 2012, but better aligned with the new company structure. Ogilvy Consulting will focus on digital transformation consulting, growth, business design, and innovation. “We’re not becoming a consulting business that will have thousands of consultants racing around the world to major business infrastructure transformations,” says Seifert. “It’s more about questions that have brand and business issues at the heart of the problem.”

As much as this new organization is about addressing client needs, Seifert says it’s just as much about the company’s own talent. Redefining business units and job descriptions may make some of the company’s 16,000 employees uncomfortable, but it’s not nearly as bad as losing top talent as a result of being stagnant. “The bigger worry is the number of people who have decided to leave Ogilvy to pursue their career somewhere else because they felt we weren’t moving fast enough,” says Seifert. “That is a much bigger threat because it’s those people who tend to have the modern skills we’re desperately in need of, and they have many more options to choose from. And they’re not just going to other agencies, they’re going to places like Apple, Google, a consulting firm, starting their own businesses. Agencies seem to be the least of our worries. Much bigger is losing a generation of talent to others because they’re prepared to offer a more dynamic, more rewarding environment.”

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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