5 Learnings From 5 Years At Ogilvy

I recently left Ogilvy New York after a fast five years working across multiple countries, departments and a wide range of clients. It was an amazing experience – Ogilvy was the Cannes creative network of the year for the entirety of my time there and I’ll never forget the talent and powerful work from the team.

I thought I’d share a handful of experiences that stood out:

1: Challenge platforms, ask forgiveness later.

As Facebook and Google become ever more dominant they often play the role of creative gatekeepers. Teams are constantly coming up with ideas to innovate where the attention is and this generally falls outside the walls of the ad products offered or T&Cs designed to assert control.

Two years ago we were working with the United Nations and came up with an idea to let people donate their social feeds to a humanitarian for twenty-four hours. With the way the FB algorithm is optimized, we knew it had huge potential but FB wouldn’t budge on a technicality in their T&Cs. So we did it anyway, knowing that if it took off it likely wouldn’t be shut down.

Naturally, this approach doesn’t work for all clients but with so much share going to the large players we have to constantly look for ways to draw outside the lines. Having campaigns pulled from Facebook can be a press strategy in itself.

2: Don’t expect client partnerships to be the exclusive domain of the account team

The best client/agency partnerships will always lead to the best work. I worked briefly at David, the South American offshoot of Ogilvy lead by creative Anselmo Ramos. His partnership with Burger King’s Fernando Machado has led to work such as the Proud Whopper and the Google Home stunt. Check out their session at Cannes last year for the secrets of cultivating this type of dynamic and ask yourself how you can start building something similar. Don’t dehumanize the process and leave it purely to those in the account team.

3: In a more complex landscape, explore simple and bold design based ideas

Some of my favorite work of the last year has been centered in design thinking. Not every brief comes with a media budget to launch a concept or guarantee some level of audience and its best practice to anchor a concept in something that is naturally shareable from the start. Design thinking lets us invent or reinvent something in an effort to appeal to an audience’s appreciation of positive experiences and innovation.

Check out Type With Pride & Refugee Nation for great examples coming out of Ogilvy – unique designs that will stop you in the feed and are naturally picked up by the media.

4: Respect that the creative process is messy, noisy and can be game changing for those involved

Everyone talks about ideas coming from anywhere and at any time but the reality is that on many projects you have a tight window to deliver and are working with a team in whatever space you can grab close by.

There is a time for quiet and space but some of the best work comes out of environments that are constantly buzzing. I was working down in Ogilvy Brazil when they won Cannes Agency of the Year in 2013, the building was jammed with people and it had some of the best energy I’ve experienced.

Getting to big ideas is a crazy process, one great campaign can transport a team anywhere in the world or fuel agency growth for years. When you are working with creative teams respect that it is them more than anyone else that will be hired based on the final execution of the idea.

5: While AI is coming for many jobs, we need more focus on AI for collaboration

With so many shows of force from the big four AI leaders it would be great to see more work exploring AI for collaboration. Working on IBM’s Cognitive Music it was interesting to get a feel for the variety of ways we can leverage machines within the creative process. From concepting by identifying trends and unlikely combinations right through to analyzing chord progressions. Rather than trying to showcase what computers can do by themselves I’m most excited by the new possibilities for collaboration.

By_Jeremy Wilson


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