‘WE ARE NEVER SATISFIED WITH HOW WE ARE PERFORMING…’
John Seifert, Worldwide Chairman & CEO, Ogilvy & Mather tells Srabana Lahiri that he is motivated by ‘divine discontent’ relative to the ideals that the company’s founder David Ogilvy had set for his colleagues
Q] It’s been a year since you have taken over the top job at O&M. What have been some of the high points of the year for you?
It’s been fantastic to engage the network on the
‘Next Chapter’ transformation plan for our future that is going to carry us for the next 20-30 years. The level of engagement across every region, all our major clients, across all the different capabilities within the Ogilvy group, everyone has come to play. We don’t necessarily agree on every detail, but the fact is that I have a palpable sense that people see the importance of doing this for our future, and are prepared to be bold. That’s probably the most rewarding aspect. The other thing I draw strength from everyday is reactions from our clients who could not be more consistently supportive of realigning the company. Q] You have said digital transformation is among your top priorities. How are you going about it, and on what other fronts will O&M focus, as new technologies, new market forces, shifts in consumer behaviour change the media landscape?
We have done three things in depth over the last 24 months. The first is led by Carla Hendra, Vice-Chairman of Ogilvy globally. We did a comprehensive analysis of the digital landscape, and got a very broad and deep understanding of digital capabilities and digital services in our industry sector. Secondly, we decided on the 10 core services that we thought Ogilvy needs to be highly capable in, and carefully defined what those services are, and the competencies required to deliver them. Third, we have now audited the entire system - all our markets, all our companies, both Ogilvy-branded companies and companies that we either acquired or brought into the group in the past five years that have digital skills and digital talent. We now have a very good assessment of where we are relative to the core services that we want to offer. We are now in the process of fine-tuning that to reveal to all markets before the year-end where they stand and what our plans are for future development. We are figuring out whether we will hire new talent, remix our talent or acquire new capabilities, how we will fill the gaps. The good news is, we have a very clear view of what digital transformation will mean over the next three to five years. Q] What are the emerging markets that look attractive just now?
It wouldn’t be correct to call India, China and Brazil as emerging markets anymore because of their scale and importance. But, I still consider them as very important markets that can develop further. Right now, 20 markets are 90% of the company. I am trying to figure out the next 20 - some of them are very exciting, fast-growing markets for the future, such as Colombia, Vietnam, Indonesia… It’s just a question of how we scale them up to their full potential. There is probably another six that have all the characteristics to be very important markets for the future. If you come back and evaluate us 10 years from now, we’ll probably have 25-27 markets in the network.
What will be the growth drivers for O&M, going forward?
The growth drivers are really simple - we are going to focus on building the world’s most valued brands. Making brands matter in this fragmented, turbulent, fast growing, digitally enabled world is our mission. There have never been more ways to build brands than there are today; and it does not mean only advertising. Brandbuilding touches on every experience - from employees to business partners to customers to end consumer, everybody who touches a brand needs to be thought of as important in the process of brand-building. We want to have the richest array of capabilities to serve the brand-building agenda. We will never claim to do everything that comes with the responsibility of building a brand, but we can have a unique role in helping grow the brands of our clients.
Tell us about your experience of working with O&M’s Global Brand Community of 25 key global clients – what are some of your main take-aways from there?
I wouldn’t be perusing ‘Next Chapter’ if it wasn’t for everything I have learnt over the last 20 years from this portfolio of global clients. These clients are the foundation of the company. We have been working with many of them - some of the best known, most valued brands in the world – for decades. I want to develop the future of Ogilvy around them. I’ve had the privilege of working on several of them personally – I worked on