John Seifert

Reports from our company leaders


John Seifert

Report by John Seifert
Worldwide chairman and chief executive officer


n 2016, I became the ninth chairman and CEO of Ogilvy since David Ogilvy founded the agency in 1948. The responsibility is one that I take on with both enormous pride and great humility. I have been with Ogilvy for 38 years, starting in the Los Angeles office as a summer intern. I stand on the shoulders of so many talented Ogilvy leaders who have come before me to serve this amazing company. I never want to let them down.

As I traveled the Ogilvy worldwide network this past year – meeting extraordinary staff, clients, and partners of the brand – I was constantly reminded of our assets. We have wonderfully talented people who represent a wide range of professional skills, diverse cultures and multiple generations with great values. We have an enduring creative culture that David Ogilvy personally built with a close-knit team of partners over decades. We have a portfolio of the world’s most admired clients. And we have a truly global presence that enables us to project the Ogilvy brand, and serve our clients, everywhere that matters in today’s world.

With this solid foundation, I started drafting a strategy, ‘Ogilvy – The Next Chapter,’ as soon as I transitioned into the role of CEO in January 2016. Before I go into detail about our ‘Next Chapter’ agenda, I want to share some highlights of our performance this past year and recognize a few of the leaders who were responsible for our success across the network.

2016 was an outstanding year for the company in terms of creative recognition, client portfolio development, expansion of services, and advances in workplace diversity.

Our relentless commitment to producing work for our clients that is both creative and effective (what we call ‘Twin Peaks’) propelled us to our fifth straight win as Network of the Year at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity, and helped us to regain our title as the Effies’ World’s Most Effective Agency Network. In recognition of this outstanding creative performance, we closed 2016 by being named, for the first time ever, Adweek magazine’s Global Agency of the Year. Adweek singled out the diversity and quality of our global creative product, and the seamless continuity of our network leadership team as the key reasons for selecting us.

I’m so fortunate to have Tham Khai Meng, worldwide chief creative officer, as my partner. We are deeply grateful for his stewardship of our ‘Twin Peaks’ creative mission, and his passionate leadership of our sparkling worldwide creative community. Ogilvy has scaled the top of the creative mountain over the past decade and we intend to climb ever higher in the years to come.

Our new business record in 2016 was equally impressive and diverse, encompassing some of the world’s top brands. Our high-profile wins included: Aldi in China and Germany; Perform Group’s live sports streaming service, Dazn, in Japan; Southwest Airlines in New York; Tesco in the UK, Czech Republic and Poland; Tyson Foods in Chicago; Unilever in the Philippines; Whaley Technology and Yili Group in China; and Lenovo, already a client in China, named us global agency of record, which includes the Motorola brand. After a 25-year break, we also won back Nationwide, a former client whose relationship with Ogilvy dates back 50 years.

... a comprehensive reorganization of our enterprise will shift Ogilvy... to a unified and single Ogilvy brand offering

For the third year in a row, we received a perfect score on the Corporate Equality Index, a benchmarking survey and report on corporate policies and practices related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workplace equality, administered by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. While there is a lot of talk in our industry right now about diversity and inclusion in the workplace, we have championed diversity in all its forms since our founding. This past year we put in place concrete performance measures globally to raise standards in our industry and accelerate the accomplishment of our own diversity and inclusion goals, none more important than realizing gender equality across our worldwide leadership ranks within the next five years.

Our specialist marketing services of Influence and Public Relations, Customer Engagement Marketing and Strategy Consulting performed particularly well in 2016, and will accelerate the delivery of even more ‘modern marketing’ solutions across our business.

  • Under the worldwide leadership of Stuart Smith, our influence marketing and public relations professionals performed brilliantly in 2016, growing the value of the top five clients served by these professionals alone by an unprecedented 41%, and the value of the top 20 clients served by 17% versus last year. We’ve expanded these client engagements to encompass other Ogilvy offerings including brand strategy and advertising, content management, digital and customer engagement marketing.
  • Our public relations professionals also enhanced Ogilvy’s reputation for creativity overall by contributing strongly to our performance in Cannes, and with Agency of the Year recognition in China, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Middle East. In addition, our thought leadership and delivery of ‘earned influence’ as a critical marketing practice won critical acclaim, topping the prestigious Holmes Report’s list of 2016 ‘best innovations in public relations.’ Our growing influence and public relations capabilities will increasingly drive a more comprehensive modern marketing offering for the company overall.
  • Under the worldwide leadership of Brian Fetherstonhaugh, our customer engagement professionals delivered strong business results in 2016. The strength of our creative product, led by precision targeting through data-driven customer insights and purchase behavior, enabled us to win new client assignments in key business sectors such as retail, consumer goods, financial services and airlines. A particular proud moment was being named a leader in global digital agency rankings by Gartner Research. Our new Social Customer Relationship Management (SCRM) and Marketing Automation offerings will remain key points of competitive differentiation and accelerate enterprise growth over the coming years.
  • Under the worldwide leadership of Carla Hendra, we founded a consulting practice six years ago with the idea that clients experiencing disruption needed advice and counsel from a trusted partner steeped in strategic brand and marketing knowledge. We delivered record growth through this practice in 2016, and will accelerate the momentum for our global enterprise in 2017 and beyond by expanding the practice throughout key markets in Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America.

In this fast changing and dynamic industry of ours, we have learned never to rest on our laurels. David Ogilvy instilled in all of us a core value of ‘divine discontent’ – a constant reminder that we can always do better, and must be vigilant in anticipating what is coming around the corner to deliver more value to clients. In this current climate of seismic change – socially, politically, economically and technologically – clients are demanding deeper connectivity across the full range of modern marketing capabilities that their brands and businesses require. In light of these heightened expectations, we must deliver better thinking, better work, and better delivery from the Ogilvy brand.

This [transformation strategy] will enable our global enterprise to be more client-centric and our people to deliver the most creative and modern solutions

It is with this context in mind that I have set out, with the enthusiastic support of Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP leadership and all of my Ogilvy partners, to transform our company under the ‘Next Chapter’ strategy mentioned earlier. Underpinning this strategy is a comprehensive reorganization of our enterprise structure, which will shift Ogilvy from a collection of individually-managed (vertical) business units and P&Ls (e.g. Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, OgilvyOne, Ogilvy Public Relations, and more) to a unified and single Ogilvy brand offering, which will be led and managed through an integrated financial framework and business operating system as one Ogilvy.

This new entity, with the shared purpose of making brands matter, will be comprised of deep capabilities of modern marketing experts and expertise – encompassing data, strategy, creative content and specialist marketing and media services – that work seamlessly together to provide the most creative, most effective, and most cost-efficient solutions for our clients. We will roll out the first phase of business transformation across our US operations in early 2017, with the rest of our markets following throughout the year.

This transformation strategy centers on our people, our work and our clients. Refocusing our leaders to these essentials, and away from financial and administrative management of an organization grown too fragmented and complex, has to be a good thing! We will break down the barriers of a legacy organization structure designed for a different era of client service and marketing. This will enable our global enterprise to be more client-centric and our people to deliver the most creative and modern solutions demanded of our industry.

Our clients expect their strategic partners and suppliers to create better work – with more accountability for business value – faster and less expensively than ever before. Understanding that there are no brilliant ideas or differentiated client experiences without flawless execution, we are also launching a new function, called Ogilvy Delivery, as part of our enterprise transformation. Ogilvy Delivery revitalizes our commitment to the art of making, focusing on the critical craft skills required to bring big ideas to life in all channels and touchpoints in the most agile, cost-efficient and effective way possible.

The Ogilvy brand has always been at the leading edge of change. David Ogilvy demanded it. For the next chapter of Ogilvy, we intend to ‘re-found’ the entire company in the spirit of David Ogilvy’s original business point of view and core beliefs, but with an expanded portfolio of specialist capabilities, new ways of working together and partnering across WPP, and with a revitalized determination to transform the Ogilvy brand experience for our people and our clients. This agenda will define Ogilvy for decades to come.

I could not be more confident in our collective ability to deliver our Next Chapter ambition. Our shared purpose and mutual commitment to work together as one organization will ensure our future is even brighter than our past. Most of all, I have tremendous faith in the incredible people of Ogilvy. It is their spirit, talent, resilience, and drive to win that will push Ogilvy into its next great age.

Our mission is clear: we are a founder-branded, pervasively creative, modern marketing organization that makes brands matter. We are Ogilvy.