Ogilvy Sydney: Mumbrella Creative Agency Review – A period of change in David Ogilvy’s centenary year

MCAR coverThe newly published Mumbrella Creative Agency Review examines Australia’s top 30 ad agencies. Today Robin Hicks examines how Ogilvy Sydney has fared over the last 12 months.

David Ogilvy, who if still alive would have turned 100 on June 23 2011, would probably have been disappointed with Ogilvy Sydney’s position in our survey. But given that his motto was ‘We sell, or else’ he could take comfort in that its highest rank is for effectiveness. Ogilvy Sydney ranks below half way down our list, which is a harsh reflection on its real influence in the market. The agency has 280 staff, some weighty clients in Coca-Cola, IBM and Qantas and is not short on talent with a 60-strong creative team built on the back of a highly regarded training set-up.

A long-copy ad to mark Ogilvy’s birthday, written by Ogilvy’s executive chairman Tom Moult, was a salute to the agency’s founder. But it could also have been read as a statement of intent from Moult.

Still less than a year into the role, the former Euro RSCG boss has a job on his hands to raise the humdrum profile of his Sydney office, and made a number of changes to ‘future proof’ the agency.

CEO Stuart O’Brien was moved to a new role of national creative strategy director, with a brief to launch new consultancy services. Melbourne CEO Andrew Baxter was promoted to replace O’Brien. Showing he is serious about his people, Moult even brought in an HR director from a psychological counselling firm.

But the restructure was overshadowed by the departure of Ogilvy Sydney’ highly regarded ECD, Chris Ford, in May. Ford’s replacement, Brett Howlett, could be viewed as a risk, having been out of the market for more than a decade. But then Ogilvy could use a fresh approach to give it the rigour an agency of its size and heritage should be gunning for. Howlett’s experience in the US could be a welcome tonic for Ogilvy Sydney’s big but boring creative department.

Two years after dropping the Singleton name from the agency, Ogilvy appears to be struggling to pin down its own identity.

One panellist notes: “Ogilvy Sydney seems to struggle somewhere between the legacy of David Ogilvy and the shadow of John Singleton. It delivers great commercial results despite its lack of interest in awards or, particularly, what other agencies think of it. This is admirable, but there is danger Ogilvy could get lost in the middle ground.”

To read more about Ogilvy Sydney, including full details on how it was scored by both our expert panel and Mumbrella’s own readers, to view examples of the agency’s work and read its own assessment of its performance, buy a copy of the Mumbrella Creative Agency Review priced at $75. The book features an assessment of the country’s top 30 ad agencies. To buy the book, click here.


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