Ogilvy & Mather Group’s executive partners

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Ogilvy & Mathers' partnership team

Annette King and Emma de la Fosse, chief executive and chief creative officer respectively of advertising giant Ogilvy & Mather Group UK, discuss 16 years of partnership, pitches and ‘purple squirrels’

Annette King Emma and I are responsible for the Ogilvy business in the UK. Ogilvy is the master brand, with advertising, marketing and communications disciplines under that. We strike a balance between global and local business. We are as proud of our business-to-business capability as our consumer.

Emma de la Fosse Ideas are our currency and that’s what’s enabled us to scale and win fantastic business. We’ve worked closely together for 16 years in various roles here. There was chemistry from the start. There have been challenging times but we have fun and share the same sense of humour. Ultimately Annette respects the creative and I respect the business side of things.

King That’s very true. Some years ago, when I was CEO at [subsidiary] OgilvyOne, we’d had a very, very good year. Emma and Charlie Wilson [now chairman, OgilvyOne] were the creative leaders. I told them to choose a fourth person to join us for a celebratory lunch. Without hesitation they chose the finance director.

De la Fosse He made a lot of the creative things we did possible. Things work when money and creativity are aligned. When we’ve won awards we’ve dragged him on stage because he’s a key part of the team. Likewise you should involve creative people in conversations about business models. You need to understand how time is used in the creative process to make sure you’re sufficiently remunerated.

King We trust each other. There’s nothing like a high-adrenaline pitch in a competitive marketplace to bond. We’ve developed language and behaviour that might be indecipherable to others but gives us an advantage. 

De la Fosse I totally trust Annette’s judgement in getting to the root of a brief and what’s missing in a presentation. We don’t always agree on everything creatively. If we did it would be a weaker partnership. You need that tension, it forces a conversation.

King But we always end up somewhere we’re both happy. We’ve never walked into a room with a client not believing what’s on the table. You thrash it out. The friction will inevitably lead to better work. How you resolve the friction, that is the magic.

De la Fosse If we both agreed on everything we’d be one plus one, but because we don’t we are greater than the sum of the parts. It’s that third thing you’re looking for.

King In challenging times things happen that are out of your control but what is in your control is how you run the business. Don’t shy away from tough decisions; see it as a way to reset the company for the next chapter. Keep talent focused on doing the best work and be brave in hiring new talent that might not fit into preconceived roles. We call them purple squirrels, we always make sure we’ve got some waiting in the wings.

De la Fosse One of these is Gary [Bonilla] a strategic maker, whose background includes journalism and product development. He sits in a new team called Makerspace where anyone with an idea can accelerate it to something tangible in 30 days – be it TV pilot or prototype software. Time was when planners would just plan and give you a deck [visual presentation]; he gives us something tangible we can put in the clients’ or public’s hands.

King This should mean we get things done more quickly. It’s our job to innovate. We have to experiment with technology, data and creativity.

De la Fosse People who are good at having ideas are the rarest. It’s easier to train an ideas person in practical applications than the other way round.

King We’ve another experiment in creative talent bringing in fresh, diverse, non-graduate talent of all ages. We hired 14 out of 750 applicants on a six-month internship with fair pay. It’s really refreshing and they’re doing great, innovative work.

De la Fosse We’ve got shelf stackers, poets, a forensic scientist, a singer, a special needs teacher. They’re not cookie-cutter ad school people. Creative departments used to be where you got all the misfits and that’s what made them brilliant. It’s important not to be afraid to experiment. We need to keep having great ideas – for our clients, our brands and ourselves.

Ogilvy & Mather Dove campaign

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About author

Richard Dunnett

Richard Dunnett

Richard Dunnett has been the associate editor of Director magazine since March 2013. He writes about entrepreneurs, SMEs, FTSE 100 corporations, technology, manufacturing, media and sustainability.

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