Mike Fromowitz
Mar 11, 2013

Busy reinventing a troubled agency

Enough is enough. Let's set the record straight.

Busy reinventing a troubled agency

I just read an article on Adweek (a US website) titled “Ogilvy Chief Miles Young Is Busy Reinventing a Troubled Agency ...” By Noreen O'Leary.

The headline caught my eye for a number of reasons. Firstly, it noted Ogilvy as a ‘troubled agency”—which is utter nonsense. Secondly it alluded to “Miles Young” for whom I have always held the deepest respect for all that he accomplished at Ogilvy during his time in Asia.

Something else peeked my interest, or should I say, infuriated me.  These were some of the negative comments posted below the article—amateurish, immature, and highly discourteous remarks poked at Miles Young—one of the industry’s proven and highly respected professionals—and his agency.

(Above: Ogilvy's Chief, Miles Young)

It’s so easy these days to make comments using an anonymous name isn’t it? What little gutless wonders some people are.

Here’s an example of some of the barbs thrown:  “Big'ol Dum'ol agencies are going to be a thing of the past... not the future.”

“As more smaller, nimble shops chip away at the established Big Boys... Ogilvy (and the likes) will become less and less important in the world's adscape.”

Here’s another: “Ask any radio, TV, movie, producer how social media and the Internet are changing their business and keeping them on their toes. Big Wigs are a thing of the past.”

And another: “Isn't it ironic that you demonstrate his (Miles Young) break with the Ogilvy old boys' club by showing Architectural Digest-worthy photos of his posh, antique-stuffed digs and the (not) old boy himself in his finest H. Huntsman tweed coat. I do say, how very nouveau retro.”

The good with the bad

With “comments”  to articles or blog posts, the writer takes the good with the bad. It comes with the territory. Before blogging and social media, fans, readers, visitors or customers with negative comments picked up the telephone, emailed, or even wrote a letter. And that's if they even had time to do so. Now disgruntled readers, visitors and customers attempt to rock your world in seconds with one public comment.

Of course, the best way to react to negative and uninformed comments is to view the situation as you would a child who got caught taking something that doesn't belong to him. One thing the writer learns rather quickly is that when you put yourself out there online, you won't always please everyone.

The lack of maturity shown in the comments above really don’t add anything of significance nor help to create a proper forum for discussion with the writere, or other readers for that matter.  So I will assume that these comments come from people who are inexperienced and misinformed.

On that note, I’d like to set the record straight.

David Ogilvy once said that his ideal executive was a “gentleman with brains”. I think David O would have been most happy with Miles Young, because Miles fits that moniker admirably.

Miles helped build Ogilvy Asia into the dominant presence in the world’s fastest-growing market—doubling the region's revenue to $500 million between 2003 and 2008 and helped to build out operations in China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Thailand and Pakistan as he expanded practice disciplines.

Now that to me reads success.

Miles Young, who just marked his fourth anniversary as Ogilvy's worldwide CEO, is, in my opinion, the ideal “Englishman in New York” having brought with him that same aggressive ambition that made him so successful in Asia.  He has spent most of his time shaking up what some seem to think is a legacy network. That too, is bunkum.

Mr. Young leads with maturity, a deep understanding and respect for Ogilvy culture,  and is successfully balancing the shop’s past strengths with his mission of reinventing it for a changing industry. Young early on recruited Tham Khai Meng, his creative partner of eight years in Asia. I know Tham Khai Meng—and he is nothing short of brilliant. The two now share an office. Intense loyalty is one of Young's key traits.

(Above: Tham Khai Meng and "Smiles" Young)

And what of his most recent success?

Since his arrival at HQ, Ogilvy has won global business from UPS, Kimberly-Clark, S.C. Johnson and Philips. Meanwhile, Ogilvy Group’s worldwide revenue in that time has grown 15 percent to an estimated $2.3 billion.

While new clients have taken to the changes under way at Ogilvy, the agency's work has begun to attract industry notice. Last year, Ogilvy & Mather won 83 Lions at Cannes—earning Network of the Year honors—and was named the most effective agency in North America at the Effies. Colleagues say Young has a particular interest in all that creative output. In fact, Ogilvy became one of the most awarded agencies in Asia on his watch.

Now if that doesn’t read SUCCESS, and prove that Ogilvy is an agency for the 21st Century, where digital and traditional media are integrated to create brand engagement that gives clients a competitive edge, I don’t know what does.

Mike Fromowitz


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