WHY INDIA IS KEY TO OGILVY’S NEXT CHAPTER
John Seifert, Worldwide Chairman & CEO, Ogilvy & Mather, talks of India as the fastest growing market in the network, his ‘Next Chapter’ strategy, target of a 50-50 gender balance in critical leadership ranks and journey from intern to CEO in his nearly 40 years with the company
In January 2017, four months after taking over as Worldwide Chairman & CEO at Ogilvy & Mather, John Seifert announced ‘Next Chapter’ - his transformation plan to consolidate all Ogilvy brands under one P&L and take the company back to being a single-branded, integrated enterprise. For someone who had grown from intern to CEO in the company, known it from close quarters and internalized the Ogilvy culture for nearly 40 years, it was a move signalling change demanded by the volatile world, while at the same time safeguarding the heritage value of the brand. Today, as Ogilvy’s ‘Next Chapter’ is in the process of being rolled out across markets – including India - Seifert is a happy man, confident about the outcome and the prospect of giving the best possible brand-building services to his clients. He gives India a prominent place in the entire exercise, and bets big on it as the network’s fastest growing market. “I draw great strength from the legacy of the Ogilvy India leadership, and I marvel at their ability to build brands in that market. I am also very excited about the next generation of leaders. We are going through the Next Chapter transformation in India right now and it will take us to a really great place,” he declares.
On the timeline for the transformation, he says, “India is in the same position as other top markets in the world; they need to be doing the things that will make us ready and running at full speed in 2018. So, 2017 I have called the messy year - we declared the changes, and are doing them as quickly as we can. We are organizing the business, putting our new leadership team in place. All of that takes time, but I am very confident that India is right on track to go full speed by the year-end.”
WHAT MAKES INDIA SO IMPORTANT FOR OGILVY
“India is probably one of the five most important markets in the world for Ogilvy for a number of reasons,” says Seifert. “It’s a market that has produced some of the best work in Ogilvy’s history consistently over time. David (Ogilvy) loved India. He loved Indian people and the rich diversity of Indian culture, and he spent a lot of time there. So, it’s always been important to me because I recognize the importance that India played in the network as a whole.” Seifert has spent eight years working in Asia, and for him, India has “always been a beacon within the Ogilvy network”. “India is the fastest growing market in the network right now. It’s dynamic, it’s changing rapidly. It’s not without its issues and challenges, but as one of the most populated countries in the world, it’s a country you cannot ignore. It will define our agenda for a long time to come. We need to pay special attention to India, and as long as I am around, it will be one of my biggest priorities,” he says.
Seifert admits that India is a challenging but complicated market. “We work with many of our top 50 clients and we have an extraordinary base of local clients in India. Our brand reputation in India is stronger than it is anywhere else in the world. We are famous in India which you don’t easily see in our business. We are moving quickly enough to build the capabilities, talent, tools, ways of working that are going to keep us as a leader in the market. But we are not growing as fast as we would like to, and principally because we are up against the issue of conflicts. We are struggling to figure out how to grow when we have so many client relationships, and