Close-Up: The ex-BBHers taking on the challenge of Ogilvy
By Matt Williams, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 23 October 2009 12:00AM
Hugh Baillie and Rachel Hatton have to get the most out of the creative talent already at the agency.
Gary Leih left a rather gaping hole when he moved on from his position as the chairman and chief executive of Ogilvy Group UK earlier this year.
The South African had begun to instil some much-needed personality into the network, and had worked hard to successfully integrate the group's companies.
The decision on who would take on Leih's duties was, therefore, a hugely pivotal one.
The long-time Ogilvy employee Paul O'Donnell immediately filled the UK group chairman role, but a new chief executive for Ogilvy Advertising had yet to be found.
Three months down the line, and that issue has now been rectified. Hugh Baillie, the relatively unknown group business director of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, has been appointed as the man to take on the task, and with him also comes BBH's strategic planner Rachel Hatton to head the agency's planning department.
In the main, the feeling from the industry is that this is a bold decision: to hire a pair that may have a low profile, but should also have the enthusiasm and potential to take the agency in a different direction.
Baillie joined BBH in 1998 from Saatchi & Saatchi, and was promoted to the board just one year later. The "fiercely passionate" Scot went on to become the global new-business director in 2003, but not before helping to launch the agency's iconic "Keep walking" campaign for Johnnie Walker.
Since then he has worked on accounts including Britvic and Axe/Lynx, and was the agency's representative on the board of the BBH-owned music consultancy, Leap.
It's fair to say that all the experience that Baillie's accumulated will be greatly needed if he is to handle the challenges that will be thrown at him at Ogilvy. An agency of its size desperately requires a forthright leader, one who has the presence and the character to steer such a tanker forward.
The fact Baillie hasn't held a chief executive's position before shouldn't necessarily raise concerns. BBH's "second tier" management team has already shown through the likes of the Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R chief executive, Richard Exon, and WCRS's managing director, Penny Herriman, that it has very competent leaders.
But one former colleague suggests that Baillie struggles to "form an instant chemistry with people", which could cause problems.
"Hugh's not a revolutionary, and because of his low profile, there'll be a few Ogilvy people who used to be on a similar level to him who will have their noses put out of joint by the appointment. He will need to come in and assert himself quickly, and I'm not sure he has the presence to do that," the source adds.
Baillie also faces a challenge in that he'll need to change the perception that the agency struggles to produce consistently strong creative work. O'Donnell mentioned as much during his first interview with Campaign after taking on the chairman role. So, in Baillie, has he got the right man? O'Donnell thinks he has.
"During the interview process we made sure we had a commitment to finding people who could maximise the already outstanding talent that we have in our creative department," O'Donnell says.
"Hugh and Rachel don't just have the enthusiasm to do this, they have already proved at BBH that they can get results."
Baillie's track record, ranging from the aforementioned Johnnie Walker to the recent "be natural" campaign for Robinsons, is undeniably strong. And he gets the thumbs up too from the creatives that he's worked with in the past.
Russell Ramsey, the former deputy executive creative director of BBH and the current executive creative director of JWT, says: "Hugh's a team player. He knows how to provide the support to help a creative deliver."
Many feel that the only way that Baillie can do this is by installing a new executive creative director. Ogilvy's creative department is currently run by four creative directors: Will Awdry (also the acting managing director), Alasdair Graham, Greg Burke and Dennis Lewis. Work, while solid, has been unspectacular.
But Baillie has faith in his creatives and is confident that, with a bit of encouragement and a sense of stability, the existing set-up is the best option ... for the moment, at least. "The best way to get great work is to give creatives the space they need, but then also the support when they require it," he says.
"It's why, for the short term, at least, we don't need a new ECD; we've already got the talent there. We just need to give them the platform to develop."
One way to help give the creatives that platform will be through an increased emphasis on winning new pieces of UK business. For too long now Ogilvy London has been seen as little more than a cog in a bigger global machine.
But while Baillie acknowledges this, can he rectify it? As a former global new-business director, is there a danger he has just been hired because he is comfortable at toeing the global line?
"Hugh clearly understands the world and is used to working in different cultures and across networks, which will benefit us," O'Donnell says. "But he's always worked on domestic business too. Global and local aren't mutually exclusive, and he knows how to get the best out of both worlds."
Baillie can also be confident that he has Hatton to preside over the push for stronger domestic work.
The agency's new planning director, who has been described by one former colleague as "charming and approachable, but ferocious when she needs to be", headed up the planning on some of BBH's largest UK clients during her nine years there, including Barclays, Audi and Flora.
Last year, her work helped the agency record its best ever performance at the IPA Effectiveness Awards, where it won the Grand Prix and Effectiveness Agency of the Year. "Rachel makes the work significantly better on every account that she works on. She's a great judge of character and develops talent better than anyone I've ever known," Baillie says.
The fact that Baillie and Hatton already know each other could be key. The new set-up needs to be given time, but the agency hopes that the familiarity will help everybody hit the ground running when they both join in January.
Awdry, who also worked with the pair at BBH, says: "What's important is that this is not a blind date management group. It's a comfortable framework that's been set up."
It's also a framework that is finally beginning to feel complete. Despite Leih's obvious strengths, some suggest there appeared to be a sense of awkwardness between the managerial and creative departments during his tenure.
If Baillie and Hatton can bring a renewed sense of enthusiasm to the agency, while adding a dash of that BBH creativity and following through with the promise of increased domestic new business, then that "gaping hole" that Leih has left may have been filled very shrewdly indeed.
Age: Old enough to know better
Lives: Chorleywood, Herts
Family: Wife Melanie. Two boys, Angus and Euan
Career highlight: "Keep walking" for Johnnie Walker
All-time favourite ad campaign: Levi's "creek"
Last book read: Animal Farm, George Orwell
Favourite city: Beirut
Motto: Stuff happens. It's what you do about it that matters
Age: Five-and-a-bit dog years
Family: Three boys - partner, Phil, sons Fred (five) and George (three)
Career highlight: Actually getting the number one record we promised our
clients for Lynx Pulse
All-time favourite ad campaign: Cadbury's Smash
Last book read: Inherent Vice, Thomas Pynchon
Favourite city: Mumbai
Motto: Stay curious
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk
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