Ogilvy Group : advertising and marketing profile at Adbrands.net

Ogilvy Group (US)

Profile subscribers click here for full profile

Ogilvy Group - the "& Mather" tag is being phased out - is one of the lead marketing networks housed within marketing giant WPP. The agency was originally created in 1948 by British-born advertising legend David Ogilvy, virtually from scratch, and its subsequent success established Ogilvy himself as one of the industry's most influential and recognisable ambassadors. His photograph and words of wisdom still regularly adorn the network's promotional material. The Ogilvy Group now offers an extensive range of marketing services beyond traditional advertising, having established a collection of partner groups including below-the-line network OgilvyOne, healthcare specialist Ogilvy CommonHealth, PR agency Ogilvy Public Relations and others. It was in fact arguably the first advertising agency to offer a fully integrated global service, for which it coined the term "360 Degree Brand Stewardship". In keeping with that guiding concept it rebundled almost all of those different satellite units back into the main agency during 2017 to provide a seamless all-round service under a single Ogilvy banner.

Selected Ogilvy advertising

Ogilvy & Mather clients? Find out more from the Adbrands Account Assignments database

Ogilvy & Mather competitors? See ranking of Leading Agency Brands Worldwide

Subscribers only:
Adbrands profile
Account assignments & selected contact information

Adbrands Company Profiles provide a detailed analysis of the history and current operations of leading advertisers, agencies and brands worldwide, and include a critical summary which identifies key strengths and weaknesses. Adbrands Account Assignments tracks account management for the world's leading brands and companies, including details of which advertising agency handles which accounts in which countries for major markets. See also our pages for:

Recent stories from Adbrands Weekly Update:

Adbrands Weekly Update 12th Jul 2018: Ogilvy CEO John Seifert announced the dismissal with immediate effect of Tham Khai Meng, worldwide chief creative officer for the past ten years, as a result of complaints from staff of inappropriate behaviour. A number of creative directors at different agencies have been fired over the past year over harassment issues, but Khai's is the most senior scalp so far. In a memo to staff, Seifert said he had been informed of complaints from employees two weeks ago. "I found these complaints serious enough to appoint external legal counsel to investigate the matter. After carefully reviewing the investigation's findings with several of my partners, we concluded that Khai's behaviour was a clear breach of our company values and code of conduct.... Each year, we ask every employee in the company to read, authorise, and fully commit to a code of conduct that each of us is responsible for living up to.... This is an important moment to reaffirm that no individual in this company is too senior or too important not to be held accountable for their actions."

Adbrands Weekly Update 5th July 2018: Ads of the Week: "Bodybuilder". Here's an outrageous concept from Ogilvy Singapore for Unilever's global skincare brand Pond's, now extended to men's grooming products. Very funny, but also more than a little gross. Even better, it's two ads in one: the one aimed at bodybuilders teaches them new ways to get that perfect gleam! 

Adbrands Weekly Update 24th Jun 2018: Cannes Lions 2018: And so Cannes Lions 2018 draws to a close. Ogilvy collected two further Grand Prix in the second half of Cannes week, in Creative Effectiveness and Product Design. The first of those two trophies was awarded to Ogilvy Mumbai for its innovative 'Healthy Hands Chalk Sticks', produced under the Savlon antiseptic brand by local licensee ITC Foods. India is still struggling to come to terms with good hygiene, especially in rural areas. In many parts of the country, soap is not readily available for handwashing, but chalk sticks are used every day in rural schools. These Savlon chalk sticks can be used exactly like ordinary blackboard chalk, but the chalk powder acts like soap when mixed with water. There was a similar theme of social responsibility in the other Grand Prix, in Product Design, for Kingo, a clever initiative to bring affordable solar energy to rural communities in Central America. The entry was sponsored jointly by Ogilvy's offices in Colombia and Guatemala.

Adbrands Weekly Update 21st Jun 2018: Cannes Lions 2018. The first batch of winners were announced from Cannes Lions 2018. (See the full run-down, including all the Gold, Silver and Bronze winners at the Cannes Lions 2018 website). By the halfway point, Ogilvy had already collected two Grand Prix. AB InBev was the top winner in Radio & Audio as well with a social responsibility campaign for Carling Black Label from Ogilvy South Africa. This adapted the words of the country's most popular soccer anthem to highlight the issue of domestic violence. Incidents of gender-based assault spike dramatically after football games, fuelled principally by alcohol. The agency arranged for a choir of mothers and daughters to appear on the pitch before the country's biggest soccer event singing the national football anthem. Halfway through the lyrics were altered: "His team lost and he’s been drinking. What excuse will he give if this ends in a fight?" The other was one of two awarded in a new category, Industry Craft: Ogilvy Chicago's clever campaign for - of all things - SC Johnson's Kiwi shoe polish. (Probably Kiwi's first ever Grand Prix award anywhere!). The winning execution was led by an old-fashioned text-heavy print ad featuring Muhammad Ali's boxing pumps, "the greatest shoes in the history of the world". But the crucial element was the accompanying podcast that served as an online audio guide to Ali's career and evolution as an athlete.

Adbrands Weekly Update 14th Jun 2018: Ads of the Week: "Must Be". Top-selling global champagne Moet & Chandon launched its first worldwide marketing campaign for three years with this rather lovely film from Ogilvy Paris. The campaign is intended to mark Moet Grand Day, which the company says is an annual holiday celebrated in 80 countries around the world on 9th June. Well, we've never heard of it - in fact we could swear they just made it up - but if it's an excuse to crack open a bottle of Moet we certainly won't complain. We're also definitely looking forward to that Mars landing... perhaps best not to keep your bottle on ice till then, though. 

More on Ogilvy from Adbrands Weekly Update


Subscribe to Adbrands.net to access the full profile and account assignments


Client Gains & Losses

see full profile

Brands & Activities

see full profile

Management

see full profile

Background

Free to all users | see full profile for current activities: David Ogilvy is generally regarded as the second most influential figure (after Bill Bernbach of Doyle Dane Bernbach) in the creative revolution which transformed American advertising during the 1960s. A brilliant adman as well as a relentless and unapologetic self-publicist, he was described in his heyday by Rosser Reeves of Ted Bates as "the most spectacular man in the agency business today".

This Englishman abroad had drifted into New York's advertising industry almost by accident, launching his career at the comparatively advanced age of 38. Yet he quickly established himself as one of Madison Ave's most unusual and outspoken characters during the 1950s and 1960s, articulating an approach to advertising that remains enduringly influential to this day. Unlike Bernbach, whose work was most influenced by graphic design and New York's cultural melting pot, Ogilvy drew heavily on more traditional advertising styles. However, he created a melting pot of his own, blending together what had previously been considered to be conflicting styles to form a more impactful whole.

Although he always referred to himself as being Scottish, David Mackenzie Ogilvy was actually born just outside London in 1911 to a modest but upper middle class family. His parents were unusual and somewhat eccentric intellectuals, and their influence on their son was lasting. Ogilvy's father was a classical scholar whose business career had been notably unsuccessful, and young David was sent off to boarding school from the age of eight. Eventually, he won a scholarship to Oxford University, but was expelled soon afterwards for doing no work. Instead, he spent a year or two travelling around Europe, where he spent some time working in the kitchens of the Hotel Majestic in Paris. That position won him a job back home as a salesman for Aga cooking stoves, largely because the company needed someone able to pitch its products in French to chefs at London's top hotels. For Aga, he also turned his hand to marketing for the first time, composing an extremely effective sales brochure for the company. This in turn allowed Ogilvy to secure a junior position at the venerable London advertising agency Mather & Crowther, where his older brother Francis was a senior account manager.

With a heritage dating back to the mid-19th century, "Mather's" was one of Britain's most prestigious advertising companies. Originally founded in London's Fleet Street in 1850 by Edmund Mather, it became Mather & Crowther in 1888 when the founder's son Harley Mather recruited Herbert Crowther as his partner. But typically the restless Ogilvy bored quickly of this new life. A childhood obsession with America continued to fascinate him, and in 1938 he persuaded the agency to send him to America to learn US ad techniques at source. Freshly arrived in New York, the 27-year-old Ogilvy used his boyish charm to win introductions from colleagues, friends and family in Britain to a large social circle in New York. One such figure was Rosser Reeves, later to become the key proponent of "unique selling point" advertising at Ted Bates. At the time, Reeves was a copywriter at Blackett-Sample-Hummert. The two men became friends, and it was Reeves who first lent Ogilvy a copy of Claude Hopkins' enormously influential book Scientific Advertising. Having devoured that text, Ogilvy also picked Reeves' brain of everything he already knew about American advertising, and later cemented their friendship by marrying Reeves' wife's sister.

At the end of his temporary placement, Ogilvy declined Mathers' invitation to return to London and instead secured a job as a researcher for George Gallup compiling national opinion surveys. This allowed him to travel the country for almost three years. His career in marketing was then interrupted by World War II. Ogilvy remained in America, serving in the military intelligence department of the British embassy in Washington. As soon as peace was declared, he then gave up all such traditional roles and moved instead with his wife and young son to a 100-acre rural farm in the heart of Amish country in Pennsylvania. Here he grew a full Amish beard and started afresh as a tobacco farmer. But the restless and impulsive Ogilvy was not cut out for the hard manual labour of farming, and quickly hankered after more challenging intellectual pursuits.

Throughout his period in America, he had kept in close contact with his brother Francis, who by 1947 had risen to the position of managing director of Mather & Crowther. That year, David Ogilvy proposed to both Mathers and another large British agency, SH Benson, that they jointly fund the creation of an American office which Ogilvy promised would be "a British advertising agency in New York". This seemed like a sensible gamble to the two London agencies, but both felt that Ogilvy himself lacked sufficient experience in the industry to run it. Instead, Anderson Hewitt, an executive who had worked at JWT and the J Sterling Getchell agency, was recruited as president. Ogilvy was given the title of vice-president in charge of research, and Hewitt, Ogilvy, Benson & Mather opened its doors for business in September 1948.

Despite the other names in the title, Hewitt, Ogilvy, Benson & Mather quickly turned into a one-man band. Hewitt brought with him the agency's first two American accounts, but he fell out with Ogilvy and left the business in 1952. Meanwhile Ogilvy managed a small coterie of Mathers and Benson's British clients, including Wedgwood China, Guinness and British Travel. Inevitably the agency's key asset turned out to be Ogilvy himself. As he later recalled in an interview with Ogilvy's inhouse magazine, "I had a terrific advantage... With so many agencies, so much competition, I'd got a gimmick - my English accent, which helped to differentiate me from the ordinary... There are an awful lot of English over there in advertising now, but in those days there were only about two of us."

Keenly aware of the attributes which made him stand out socially in New York, Ogilvy employed the same tactics on behalf of his clients, and this led to the creation of two campaigns which put the agency firmly on the map in America. The first was for The Hathaway Company, a small clothing firm from Maine which sold modestly priced tailored shirts. Seeking a gimmick which would resonate with readers of the magazines in which the ads would appear, Ogilvy came up with an idea of portraying the typical Hathaway customer as a romantic adventurer in the Hemingway or Faulkner mould, "a very real and interesting person, instead of a conventional dummy". He settled upon a distinguished looking acquaintance, a middle-aged Russian emigré by the name of George Wrangell, who claimed to be a member of the aristocracy and cultivated a splendidly photogenic moustache. To add to Wrangell's mystique, Ogilvy stopped off at a corner drugstore on the morning of the photo-shoot and on a whim bought a $1.50 eye patch for him to wear in the pictures. (Wrangell himself had perfect vision).

The first ad appeared in the Sept 22nd 1951 edition of The New Yorker magazine and caused a sensation, triggering an immediate increase in the sales of Hathaway's shirts. With a keen awareness of how to ride this interest, Ogilvy took the decision to limit all the advertising only to the New Yorker for four years, and began producing a new image each week in which "The Man in the Hathaway Shirt" tried his hand at a different sophisticated pastime, examining a Purdey shotgun, playing an oboe, painting a copy of a Goya masterpiece, conducting the New York Philharmonic. It eventually became a feature of the New Yorker for readers to see what the Hathaway Man was doing this week. Wrangell remained the centrepiece of the campaign for several years until he was replaced by other, similarly eyepatched models. The campaign finally ran out of steam after a quarter of a century in 1976.

The popular success of Hathaway inspired a similarly eye-catching campaign for Schweppes, then an obscure relic of the British empire, foist upon Ogilvy Benson & Mather by its British agency partners. According to one version of the story, it was the Schweppes chairman himself who encouraged a reinterpretation of Hathaway campaign, suggesting to Ogilvy that he use their advertising manager, Commander Edward Whitehead, as the central figure in the ads. Just like the Hathaway ads before them, the exotic appearance of the luxuriously bearded Commander, the "Man from Schweppes", gave the ads precisely the personality which Ogilvy was seeking. The double whammy of Hathaway and Schweppes secured Ogilvy's reputation.

A succession of similarly character-led campaigns followed: including a kilted Scotsman for Thom McAn shoes, and Tetley's "Mr Tea", in reality genuine taster Bert Dimes. Meanwhile David Ogilvy himself served as the equally effective "brand image" for his agency, an exotic, cosmopolitan and cultured figure in New York's otherwise humdrum advertising fraternity. By the end of 1953, just five years after the agency opened its doors, trade magazine Printers Ink gushed that Ogilvy's "place among the great advertising writers of all time is practically assured".

By now, Ogilvy's relationship with his brother-in-law Rosser Reeves had turned into an often bitter rivalry. Instead he sought out a new mentor, getting in touch with retired legend Raymond Rubicam, and commencing a long correspondence and friendship. He began to develop a new idea to establish Benson Ogilvy & Mather "in the great Y&R tradition – a tradition which defies stereotypes, but does so with perfect manners, and with no sacrifice of 'sell'". Ogilvy set out to construct "the most favourable image, the most sharply defined personality" for clients, and to ensure consistency he compiled extensive and detailed guidelines for all new employees to follow. In 1957, Advertising Age paraphrased these rules for advertising rather more succinctly than even Ogilvy had done: "Include the brandname in the headline, don't try to be clever, avoid analogies and superlatives, write sentences of less than twelve words, make at least fourteen references to people per one hundred words, avoid humorous copy, use photographs instead of artwork".

By the mid 1950s, Benson Ogilvy & Mather was one of the most talked-about agencies in New York. Yet for all the admiration bestowed upon the wit and refinement of his ads, the business remained small. By 1955, JWT's billings were $175m, Y&R was at $166m and even the other personality driven agency Leo Burnett was just under $70m. Yet Benson Ogilvy & Mather was still scraping along with billings of less than $12m. Despite Ogilvy's claim in 1958 to be "the biggest agency founded since 1948", it was even overtaken that year by Doyle Dane Bernbach, which had opened its doors a year after Ogilvy in 1949.

One problem was that the agency had quickly become typecast for handling aspirational brands, packaging comparatively ordinary products as exclusive or out-of-the-ordinary. This was not an approach that worked well beyond a few select brands. By 1956, Ogilvy had managed to secure clients like Dove soap and Maxwell House coffee, but it was still pigeonholed as shop which specialised in "snob appeal". In 1957, the agency secured another carriage trade icon in the form of Rolls-Royce. Ogilvy initially turned the account down on his partners' advice because it would encourage further typecasting, but Rolls Royce was so determined to place its business with Ogilvy that it improved its terms. Ogilvy could hardly refuse, especially since the win of Rolls-Royce would further strengthen the parallels with early Y&R, who had held the account in the 1930s when it too was a comparatively new start-up. For Rolls-Royce, Ogilvy crafted another timeless classic, which promised "At 60 miles per hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock". Like Hathaway and Schweppes, the large photographic image and headline were accompanied by densely packed, detailed, almost scientific, "reason why" copy. It was another big critical success for the agency, but commercially it was, as Ogilvy's partners had warned him, comparatively insignificant. Billings were little more than $250,000 a year, and in 1961, Ogilvy resigned the account.

The agency's billings gradually began to improve in the latter half of the 1950s as it picked up larger clients including American Express, and the first national campaign for Sears Roebuck. The clincher came when Shell moved its entire North American account from JWT to O&M in 1960, virtually doubling the agency's billings to $50 million. Ogilvy opened its first international office in Toronto to service the account. In 1963 Ogilvy wrote the book Confessions of an Advertising Man, describing the first years of the agency and expounding his style, which favoured large amounts of fact-heavy explanatory copy. Ogilvy's timing couldn't have been better, as advertising was then coming under intense scrutiny from the business world in general. Against all expectations, the book sold 400,000 copies, becoming an international bestseller and the best-selling account of the industry ever published. Clients too were attracted by the publicity generated for the agency, and billings rose steadily in its wake.

In 1964, Ogilvy's brother Francis died. Under his management, latterly as chairman, Mather & Crowther had established a reputation as one of London's top two or three agencies. For more than 20 years, its large creative department was run by Stanhope "Shelly" Shelton, a legendary figure of the British industry, who had overseen a series of enormously popular generic television campaigns for the government, promoting healthier eating ("Drinka Pinta Milka Day" or "Go To Work On An Egg") and for utilities such as coal and gas. Other clients included Schweppes (for whom it had introduced a long-running, James Bond-influenced campaign under the slogan "Schhh... you know who!") and Player's cigarettes. The London agency had also assembled a wide-ranging international network, with outposts as far afield as Asia. Eight months after his brother's death, David Ogilvy engineered a merger of Ogilvy Benson & Mather in New York with the London agency, adopting the abbreviated name of Ogilvy & Mather for the resulting business. That arrangement also catapulted the company into the rankings of top ten agencies worldwide, with combined billings now topping $130m. The fledgling empire went public the following year.

Funding allowed international growth to flourish, and by the time Ogilvy retired to France in 1973, the agency was established as one of the giants of the ad industry. It had also begun to expand, buying a number of secondary agencies including in 1976 the admired New York creative shop Scali McCabe Sloves. The latter became the base for a second-string international network, which acquired a number of agencies in Europe, including a majority stake in Abbott Mead Vickers of the UK in 1979. (For a while it also owned another London agency, Davidson Pearce, later part of BMP). The main O&M brand also diversified, adding additional marketing services arms including Ogilvy & Mather Public Relations in 1980 and the Electronic Marketing Needs division in 1984 (later to become Ogilvy Interactive).

In 1989 the group was bought by WPP for $864m, becoming a second cornerstone to Martin Sorrell's growing marketing empire, alongside JWT. Ogilvy was initially outraged, referring to Sorrell in an interview in the Financial Times as "that odious little shit". However, their relationship later improved, and Ogilvy agreed to return to the agency as as non-executive chairman until 1992. He remained in regular contact with the agency he built until his death in July 1999.

Meanwhile, in 1994, Ogilvy & Mather had made history by winning what was then the biggest ever consolidation of a brand account, when IBM shifted its advertising out of 40 different agencies around the world and placed it all with O&M. In 1998 O&M's Australian arm merged with local agency the Singleton Group to form Singleton, Ogilvy & Mather, operating in Australia and New Zealand. It also took an initial 20% stake in Memac, a network of eight agencies in the Middle East. Late in 1999 O&M triumphed over a group of its rivals to win the consolidated global account for oil giant BP Amoco, worth $200m in billings. O&M resigned the $40m US account for rival Shell in order to take the business.

The agency's UK office was plagued by management problems in the late 1990s, and then again in 2002 after the ousting of local management. At around the same time, the US agency became involved in an embarrassing wrangle with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Having awarded its drug prevention account to O&M in 1999, the government later initiated a civil and criminal investigation over the agency's billings procedures after a disgruntled ex-Ogilvy employee alleged fraud. The agency was fully cleared of the charges, but paid the government $1.8m in reimbursement and damages in early 2002. Many were surprised when O&M retained the account a few months later after a review. However, the controversy refused to go away. In 2003 the account was under pressure once again, with the introduction of a Senate bill designed to shift a chunk of policy and marketing control of ONDCP to pressure group The Partnership for a Drug-Free America. The agency was subsequently informed that its contract to handle the account would not be renewed when it expires in September 2004. (The account eventually went to FCB).

More dramatically, at the start of the year the US Attorney filed charges against two senior O&M executives for scheming to overcharge the government during the original contract. Shona Seifert (the wife of John Seifert, now Ogilvy North America chairman) had been head of the agency's New York office in 1999, when the fraud was alleged to have taken place (she subsequently left to run TBWA New York). Thomas Early was Ogilvy New York's finance head. Both vehemently denied the charges, but other O&M executives were also charged and pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Seifert and Early in exchange for lenient sentencing for themselves. The agency itself was not charged, having already voluntarily disclosed discrepancies and settled with the government. Seifert and Early's trial commenced in February 2005, with several Ogilvy staff alleging that the pair had pressured them to pad timesheets, apparently in order to make up a $3m shortfall in the income they budgeted to generate for Ogilvy from the ONDCP account. After two weeks of evidence, a jury found Seifert and Early guilty on all counts. In July 2005, Early was sentenced to 14 months in jail, followed by a two year probation, and a $10,000 fine; Seifert received 18 months and a $125,000 fine.


All rights reserved © Mind Advertising Ltd 1998-2018