- Ogilvy’s global CEO Andy Main discussed his new direction for the ad agency he took over last year.
- He’s making a bigger push into PR and consulting, areas where he saw greater opportunity during the pandemic.
- He’s also shifting away from the longstanding way agencies have been compensated.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
Consulting veteran Andy Main took the helm of Ogilvy in July and is now trying to turn around the WPP-owned ad agency that has struggled to stay relevant as demand for big TV ads declines.
In his first interview since becoming global CEO, Main said while advertising remains the core of Ogilvy, he sees growth opportunity in five areas: advertising, public relations and influence, experience, growth and innovation (essentially consulting), and health.
Main is actively selling these five capabilities in new business pitches.
“When I first joined at the end of July last year, the first thing I did was to start on a new strategy,” said Main.
Main said he is also shifting Ogilvy to adopt payment terms reliant on performance — a move that is likely to spark controversy.
Agencies have largely opposed this model, preferring fixed fees and hourly billing so as not to be exploited by clients, but Main said agencies need to get with the times.
“It’s no longer good enough to charge time; there needs to be accountability in achieving growth in a partnership,” Main said.
Main is taking a consulting approach to clients
The agency, founded by copywriter David Ogilvy in 1948, became known for its long-serving, agency-of-record contracts that churned out big campaigns like Dove’s “Real Beauty” and “Don’t Leave Home Without It” for American Express. But those kinds of contracts have decreased in favor of single projects.
Main is taking a consulting-first approach to clients, evaluating and seeing what services to sell them. He said the pandemic has increased demand for areas like PR and consulting because clients are seeking agencies that can solve bigger business problems than brand marketing alone.
Some 200 Ogilvy executives came up with the new strategy centered around the five disciplines, Main said.
Main said he’ll look to Ogilvy Consulting Worldwide CEO and 25-year company vet Carla Hendra, who was part of that group, to expand the practice globally.
Main said he also wants to triple Ogilvy’s PR business, which he said is “mega important” as brands seek to communicate during turbulent times.
Still, Main said broadcast campaigns remain a priority and that he sees demand for that type of work.
He’s been a hands-on CEO. He proposed 10 alternate copy lines for a campaign for client IBM, saying he was “trying to express my inner David Ogilvy.”
Before Ogilvy, Main ran consulting behemoth Deloitte Digital. He led its expansion into advertising creative with the acquisition of several agencies, most prominently Heat in 2016. That trend has gained momentum with competitors like Accenture Interactive buying up high-profile agencies like Droga5 in 2019.
While the New York-based agency has shrunk dramatically over the past few years, Main said he’s not a “corporate” guy looking to cut costs and downsize more. The Boulder, Colorado-based exec said he is working to bolster the agency’s West Coast US operations and return to acquisitions once it’s in a good position.
“[WPP CEO] Mark Read basically said to get Ogilvy back to a great position in the world, and that’s what we’re doing,” he said.
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