David Blecken
Aug 23, 2018

UPDATED: David Mayo resigns from Ogilvy

The Malaysia CEO says the decision was "less about Ogilvy and more about me", but also has some thoughts about the big-agency model.

David Mayo
David Mayo

David Mayo, group CEO of Ogilvy Malaysia, is to leave the company at the end of August.

According to an internal memo sent by co-CEOs Kent Wertime and Chris Reitermann, Mayo “has decided not to renew his contract with the company from December in order to pursue a new direction that he will be announcing himself in due course".

The memo said Mayo was leaving at the end of this month to avoid any conflict of interest. It said Ogilvy would miss his “infectious energy”.

Mayo took up his current role in January 2017. He has also acted as group CMO since 2016. Prior to that, he served as CEO of Bates CHI & Partners, a reincarnation of Bates Asia, where he began his career in Asia in the 1990s. Mayo aimed to establish Bates CHI & Partners as an agency with the flexibility to collaborate with a wide range of external parties as needed.

Other highlights for Mayo include the launch of RedCard in 2000, which worked with clients such as Motorola and Nike. Mayo subsequently served as president of Ogilvy & Mather Advertising ASEAN, a position he held for over 15 years.

In a telephone interview, Mayo said he was leaving on a positive note—“with a slap on the back”. He said the decision to leave was “less about Ogilvy and more about me”. He said that despite his age, he still felt “youthful and energetic” and would “rather be a trailblazer than a follower”.

“I’ve done a lot at Ogilvy but I thought it was the right time to go,” he said.

But while he described Ogilvy as “a fabulous company”, he expressed some disillusionment with the typical big advertising agency model.

He said the lack of personal interaction between top-level agency staff and clients was a problem. “I feel that clients want to go back to the days where you could pick up the phone and talk to someone who knows what they’re talking about,” he said.

“The personal touch is what we’re missing. Personalisation and automation are two opposites. Clients want a lot more of the personal side.”

He added that swelling the front lines with junior staff did not make sense. “They can learn without the ceiling of experience, but species also evolve under seasoned leaders—people who know where the traps are,” he said.

Mayo said he could not discuss the specifics of his next move but said he hoped to find “a different way” for clients. “You can’t just chuck it all in the sausage machine,” he said. “You’ll get consistency, but consumers don’t want consistency, they want individuality on a consistent basis.”

Mayo reiterated that Ogilvy was “a fantastic company” but said that emphasis on consistency at big agencies can come at the expense of freedom and flexibility.

“There’s no room for mistakes at an agency,” he said. “I like the idea of having freedom within an organisation. We need to have a lot more R&D in the industry. The big boys can’t really invest in R&D—they have to defend what they’ve got.” Defending one’s turf requires a lot more energy than forging something new, he said.

Mayo said he will remain in Singapore for the foreseeable future.

This story was updated after initial publication, with additional comments from Mayo.

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