AGENCY PROFILE: OgilvyInteractive Worldwide

The Ogilvy Group—the world’s eighth-largest agency network and a company with an illustrious brand image of its own, burnished by the trailblazing achievements of founder David Ogilvy—began providing clients with “electronic marketing services” in 1984.

Originally part of Ogilvy’s non-traditional media group, the interactive division moved under the umbrella of Ogilvy One, the agency’s direct marketing arm, in 1995. From initial billings of $100,000, OgilvyInteractive has risen to become one of the top interactive agencies, with $250 million in U.S. billings and a total of $300 million worldwide last year.

One of the few traditional agencies to penetrate the top ten list, “Ogilvy’s success stems in part from its ability to comprehend what works on the web, from media planning and buying to analysis of return on investment,” Jupiter Communications Marissa Gluck told Crain’s New York Business. “Most traditional agencies have failed miserably when it comes to understanding the Internet. OgilvyInteractive is one of the few that gets it.”

OgilvyInteractive’s client services are organized into nine primary categories: strategic planning, information architecture, site design, technical design, system integration, production, online advertising, database solutions, and media. In addition to its New York headquarters, there are offices in 40 other cities around the world, staffed by more than 900 employees.

Blue-chip clients include IBM (the agency’s largest account), Kimberly-Clark, Unilever, American Express, Ford, Ameritrade, and most recently, Motorola. Awards that underscore OgilvyInteractive’s accomplishments on their behalf keep rolling in: Top New Media Agency (from AdAge International), a 1999 Grand Clio and two 1998 CyberLions from the Cannes Advertising Festival (both interactive firsts), and the 2000 Best Branding award for IBM (Ad Tech) have added to the division’s luster.

OgilvyInteractive’s media department, one of the largest in the industry, consists of 100 staffers. Key executives reporting to worldwide media director Nasreen Madhany include a New York media director plus directors of Media Metrics and Analytics, Direct Marketing, Internet Operations, Media Consulting, Global Direct Response, and IBM. Below them are cadres of associate media directors, supervisors, planners, assistant planners, and coordinators.

According to Madhany, “We are a company that believes in 360-degree branding, where all media contributes to a campaign as a whole. So we think of the interactive medium not strictly as a new-media vehicle, but one with the ability to build brands and drive action.”

It was for IBM that the agency coined the term “e-business” and achieved a leadership position in that activity. “We use the web for a company like IBM for different objectives,” Madhany explains. “For a strategic campaign, we use it to build awareness. But for software and servers, we use it to drive leads.”

IBM’s recent “Magic Box” campaign imbued the little-appreciated server with personality. In one rich-media banner, the viewer “pilots” an airplane, while learning that IBM servers helped Gulfstream test a new jet and soar ahead of schedule. An animated pop-up details various server products while underscoring IBM’s technical expertise and e-business acumen.

Stuart Bogaty, senior partner integrated media director, who heads the agency’s interactive buying and planning for IBM, is already focused on that campaign’s successors: “The next generation of Internet media is coming: wireless, broadband, interactive TV, and the convergence of Internet and TV. We’re encouraging clients to get involved. Just as when the Internet exploded several years ago, this is going to explode. So we want clients to learn about it, experience it, and help shape what the advertising and marketing opportunities will be.”

Pure-play Ameritrade is one of OgilvyInteractive’s most visible campaigns across several media. Beginning in 1996, to establish the online brand and motivate consumers to open a brokerage account online, “We provided a 360-degree solution that included network TV, direct response TV, direct response print, direct mail, and banner ads,” explains Madhany. “The first year the highest proportion of spending went to network TV.” Internet spending was less than one quarter of the budget.

Now the Internet gets Ameritrade’s highest share of spending, based on the number of accounts opened as a result of ad dollars spent against the medium. Yet network TV remains a critical element: “It’s essential in building and reestablishing this brand. When we inject network TV, it drives the web and we get a 30 to 50 percent lift in the Internet conversion rate,” Madhany admits.

How has the dot-com downturn affected OgilvyInteractive? “It’s not affecting us in a large way, since not a lot of our business is dot-com business,” says Madhany. One unexpected benefit is a new ease in working with online firms. “Websites are becoming more responsive and flexible in terms of their readiness to accept new and innovative ad units,” she observes.

Nonetheless, the agency is realistic about business in 2001. “Clearly, we are not going to be able to grow at the same rate as we did from 1996-2000,” Madhany projects. “We think it’s going to be positive, a year of slower growth, but growth. I think this is true of the industry.”

Looking to the future, one of her goals is “to be the agency that evolves the Internet to become more accountable in a more disciplined manner. Accountability is no longer a measure of CPM or cost per click or cost per lead. In the end, the Internet’s biggest strength is if you can measure the cost per action, whether it’s to build a brand, sell a product, or generate leads.”