Agency of the Year: Ogilvy Interactive
They work with some of the biggest, most recognized brands in the world: IBM, Coca-Cola, Shell, and American Express...even “Good to the last drop” stalwart Maxwell House.
David Ogilvy wrote in the opening of his 1983 book, Ogilvy On Advertising, “I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative,’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product [original italics]. When Aeschines spoke, they said ‘How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march against Philip.’”
The debates surrounding Philip of Macedon aside, what David Ogilvy was trying to say is that the object of advertising is not simply to win accolades from your peers or have fetching, memorable creative, but to ultimately sell product. As an agency, Ogilvy long ago proved it could successfully deliver on all accounts, winning plenty of awards, generating unforgettable creative, and measurably moving the needle on their clients’ businesses. And they were doing this long before it was ever clear that the Internet was going to be a viable advertising vehicle.
Proven medium or no, Ogilvy put the pebbles of an emerging media in their mouths and learned to speak clearly with them there. While the web as an ad vehicle remained the purview of young Turks, designers, and propeller-heads, Ogilvy got involved with some of the earliest interactive advertising campaigns done online. Though they look to experience placing advertising on kiosks in 1984 as their entrance into the interactive marketing realm, Ogilvy’s interactive capabilities really emerged in 1993 for IBM, when they were putting messages in environments that we would recognize today as “online.”
Today, they have 45 offices across 37 countries. And from Brussels to Seoul, Bangkok to Toronto, Ogilvy tries to consistently deliver on the promise of one-to-one marketing.
OgilvyInteractive offers an array of digital marketing services, from online creative, media buying and planning, websites, and even wireless applications to intranets and extranets. Originally part of Ogilvy’s nontraditional media group, the interactive division moved under the umbrella of OgilvyOne, the agency’s direct-marketing arm, in 1995.
Current interactive efforts being stewarded by Ogilvy are for the likes of IBM and Kimberly-Clark, makers of Kleenex, Huggies, Scott, and other consumer tissue and personal care products. So, what is it that distinguishes Ogilvy from other agencies in the digital marketing arena?
“We simultaneously carry the brand message through all of our online, as we do in all of our media,” says Susan Schiekofer, Senior Partner, New York Media Director, OgilvyOne. “We are preserving not only the value proposition as it is made in the different media, but the look and feel as well.”
OgilvyInteractive represents what agencies are doing best today: They are helping to move big established marketers online with innovative branding strategies, they prove that integrating with their traditional agency partners makes for a stronger agency, and they are experimenting with cutting-edge digital advertising products and services to position their clients for the future. Not to mention that they are one of the largest buyers of online media—vitality like that counts for something these days.
Ogilvy is constantly trying to do things in new ways for their clients with a medium that itself has still not developed a lot of “old ways.” Parent Stages, for Kimberly-Clark, is a good example. They didn’t just say “Let’s go out there a build a Huggies website,” but instead they built a site that had editorial directly relevant to the target audiences. “Working with online publishers...we are repurposing content from other sites that have affinity with Parent Stages as part of our media deals, which works out really very well,” Schiekofer says.
Stuart Bogaty, Integrated Media Director, IBM, says that Ogilvy worked hard this year trying to get online media to be more expansive and experimental. “In terms of doing new things,” he comments, “our creative team took on the newer units [IMUs, or Interactive Marketing Units] early on, starting with the CNET unit (300x300), and pushed to get that unit on other sites. We’ve incorporated creative with Flash and other interesting formats that also contain lead generation components.”
But the originality isn’t reflected only in creative approaches. “We have also come up with a new way of pricing Internet advertising. Instead of having locked rates for everything, we have developed formulas which help us to push for pricing on pages for a variety of units that are tied to past performance,” says Bogaty.
“The biggest distinction between us and some of the interactive agencies is how OgilvyInteractive is integrated with everything else that we do. Not only with OgilvyOne, but the rest of the divisions within Ogilvy,” says Nasreen Madhany, Global Media Director of OgilvyOne. “Clients come to us to build brands. One of the reasons we continue to succeed in the marketplace is because our clients come to us for branding and 360 degree communication,” Madhany continues. “American Express, Ameritrade, and others come to us because of all that we can offer.”
Unlike many of the standalone interactive agencies, many of which no longer exist, only around 20 percent of Ogilvy’s client base was strictly dot-com. This allowed them to focus on developing a strong and stable practice rather than being distracted by a precipitously shrinking client base.
Madhany sees Ogilvy as being unique in another way. “Our other distinction is, because we are focused on all forms of communications and media, we do a lot of work across a whole bunch of platforms that we integrate. It isn’t about just interactive. We hold other media to the same metrics and ROI goals as interactive is held. It is interdisciplinary and cross-media. We have done a great deal of proprietary development of metrics for all media platforms.”
There is no doubt that integration is going to be key, and shops best positioned to practice integration are going to be agencies like Ogilvy, with a vast network of advertising disciplines throughout the mother ship. “The most important decision we made, maybe three years ago, was to not position ourselves as a standalone interactive agency, but to incorporate interactive into everything else we do, which is one-to-one communication,” says Susan Schiekofer.
“Digital media in the last five years has been pretty well contained to when people refer to the Internet,” says Nasreen Madhany. “The digital world will eventually mean that all forms of media will be digitized. And we are well-positioned to take advantage of that. The Internet will drive the digitization of the other media. A company like Ogilvy is better positioned in a market when all forms of media are digitized. The future of the industry itself looks similar,” she believes. “To be the best at interactive you have to be part of a larger movement, that is called either branding or whatever it is you call your company. In the digital world, it is going to need to be focused on all forms of combination.”