Emily Tan
Feb 16, 2015

Turning Ogilvy HK around with respect: CCO Reed Collins

Continent-hopping creative Reed Collins believes a softer, nice-guy approach beats breaking heads for getting results in today’s non-stop, high-pressure environment.

Chill pill: Reed has learnt to eschew arrogance and to “hate assholes” as the basis of a more efficient creative process.
Chill pill: Reed has learnt to eschew arrogance and to “hate assholes” as the basis of a more efficient creative process.

Advertising is no longer interested in the terrifying, arrogant and stormy creative head. The Don Drapers and Charles Saatchis of the world are stepping aside to make way for the nice guys, because the creative department now has to work with everyone.

“Maybe ‘nicer’ isn’t the right word,” disagrees Reed Collins. “‘Respectful’ is better. I like tenacious, respectful people, not aggressive belligerent creatives. The team has to work so fast and produce on an hourly basis, there’s no time for arrogance; it gets in the way. I hate assholes.”

Soft-spoken and patient even while dealing with a raging head cold, Collins was brought in a year ago as Ogilvy Hong Kong’s first CCO to partner with local CEO Adam O’Conor to “reorganise, restructure and reintegrate the disciplines, forming one creative department across disciplines”, explains Collins.

“There are a lot of very smart people who are experts but their expertise isn’t getting shared. You get more when you integrate the creatives and combine different skill sets so they can learn off each other.”

As someone new, not just to Ogilvy Hong Kong but to the region, Collins’ first move was to listen and observe. Rather than looking for immediate fixes, he set about proving himself in the new setting.

“People who come in and swing a bat and axe around are doomed to fail. It’s important to discover what people are good at or not, and to establish the culture you want to create going forward. Those who don’t buy into the new ideas tend to move on naturally.”

Over the course of his career, Collins has worked in Europe, North America, Australia and Africa. The Hong Kong move came from a feeling that Asia was “another notch I had to do”.

“This role was a chance to really achieve something as Ogilvy Hong Kong has never had a CCO position before. And, as a hub for the region, it really isn’t a small market.”

Creatively, Collins aims to be the “glue” that binds Hong Kong’s local teams to its international ones. “We have extremely valuable local creative with a knowledge of the market and teams of creatives flying in from around the world. The risk is for the groups to stay apart and not learn from each other.”

Currently, local hires account for about 80 per cent of the Hong Kong creative team, and half of its creative directors. “Next year, I want to establish a more rigorous search for local talent and the growth of young creatives. It’s incredibly important that we start building up this resource.”

Collins also sees local culture as a source of creative inspiration, particularly the former colony’s ongoing identity crisis. “Through it all though, there is a willingness to reinvent themselves with a hard core of practicality even in the midst of idealism. There’s solidarity, creativity and passion here.”

The recent pro-democracy movement, Occupy Central, is a clear example of this but Collins traces it back further, to the height of the SARS crisis of 2003. “There were these stickers all over the place that read ‘bounce back’. That spirit is still alive and well.”

Many of Hong Kong’s most successful brands resonate with these ideals, he continues. “These brands are doing extremely well around the globe but have not forgotten their roots. There are also brands that are purely local, that survive by being relevant only in this market.”

Collins feels his approach has been validated by the agency’s “best performance at the Kam Fan Awards ever in 2014”, netting 15 awards to rank second in the city.

And Collins’ ambitions for this year, now he has a proven record and a creative leadership team he knows he can trust?

“A lot of the same — just better.”


CV

  • 2013 CCO, Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong
  • 2011 National CCO, The Campaign Palace, Sydney
  • 2002 SVP ECD, Leo Burnett Chicago
  • 1999 Senior art director, Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York
  • 1997 Art director, Lowe Howard-Spink, London
  • 1995 Art director, Hunt Lascaris, TBWA, Johannesburg

 

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