O&M Direct claims to have responded to client needs by rebranding.
What’s the difference?
OgilvyOne, the below-the-line agency formerly known as O&M Direct, says
it has restructured itself to meet client expectations into the
millennium. But just how far does the makeover go - is it a quantum leap
in strategy, or merely a new lick of paint?
Over the past three years, the London office has seen a rapid turnover
of senior staff, including three managing directors and some
high-profile creatives. The flagship New York office has also suffered
its share of instability.
However, the OgilvyOne UK chairman, Nigel Howlett, dismisses the
suggestion that this month’s restructuring marks an attempt to paper
over the cracks.
’Change was necessary for internal and market reasons,’ he says. ’O&M
Direct faced the risk of becoming product focused, not client focused.
There was also a need to integrate the business, to develop closer
working relationships between different disciplines with O&M Direct and
between O&M Direct and Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide.’
The relaunch, unveiled on 1 July, is more to do with long-term strategic
vision, the OgilvyOne Worldwide chairman, Reimer Thedens, insists.
’It’s to do with long-term business planning for client needs,’ he
’We had a very successful business model in all major markets, but it
was for an 80s business. When you look at the next step for direct
marketing - bigger clients working in bigger markets facing more complex
problems - we knew we had to restructure.’
Until this month, O&M Direct’s offices in major markets were divided
into separate business units and profit centres, each offering a
specialist consultancy service, such as loyalty or telemarketing. Under
this model, however, different skills within the agency were hard to
access. ’Clients wanted a service that was more streamlined and
accessible,’ Howlett says.
The restructure was shaped by client demands. The agency commissioned
the Henley Centre to conduct a survey of client attitudes, expectations
In fact, O&M Direct was already half way through a process of
self-examination prompted by Thedens in the early 90s. ’In 1990, he
asked all regional heads to consider what would be the major issues for
the 21st century,’ Howlett explains. ’The process threw up four or five
key issues, fundamentally concerning customer loyalty.’
O&M Direct had already begun adjusting its services accordingly -
shifting from selling direct marketing as a tactical tool to a strategic
one. It had developed software tools to understand better the
relationship between cost and the quality of brand.
Luckily, the Henley Centre findings endorsed the management’s thinking,
which spurred O&M Direct on to take the next step: the restructuring as
’The move is designed to redress the previously fragmented approach to
customer relationships,’ Howlett says. ’Customer recruitment, customer
retention and cross-selling had previously been tackled as separate
The new name reflects the realisation that there is, in fact, only one
relationship between consumer and brand. ’Now our focus is on the
on-going relationship between the two, and the need to target consumers
over time. All of a sudden it’s about long-term partnerships - a very
important change for us,’ Howlett explains.
The change is more than just rolling back into the agency the previously
segmented consultancy units. ’We’ve combined these with other aspects of
our business, such as planning,’ he says.
The aim is to allow the agency to work faster and place a greater
emphasis on creative solutions. Other developments include the
establishment of a proprietary process, ’customer ownership’; the
introduction of a network ’brain’ or information delivery system,
’truffles’; and the launch of the OgilvyOne Institute, an in-house
training facility serving the network.
’This has not been a reaction to competition from other direct marketing
agencies,’ Thedens insists. ’Their effect has, in fact, been very
It’s a response to our clients and to the realisation that in the
future, direct competition will come from less obvious sources - such as
business consultancies and IT specialists.’
It is an approach that is in tune with O&M Worldwide’s philosophy.
Thedens explains: ’O&M has championed the idea of ’brand stewardship’.
We are simply extending this through the line. The concept of ’customer
ownership’ allows us to take on the private face of a brand and enables
us, as a group, to build brands holistically.’
Over at Canary Wharf, this is endorsed by the O&M chairman, Tom
’While we are not forcing integration on our clients, it is something
that is already happening more and more as clients demand single
solutions. (O&M Direct) involved us very early on in its thinking. We
stand by its strategy; the execution has been entirely up to its
people,’ he says.
As a group, O&M has ’learned to go beyond the face of integration’,
according to Thedens. ’That’s why it would never have occurred to us to
do anything out of tune with the agency (group) as a whole,’ he
’Clients want to build client bases and develop the value of those
We hope to deliver solutions that go beyond response rates. We want to
be measured by our ability to deliver customer equity - it’s a shift
from communications solutions to business communications.’
Few question his logic. ’It’s certainly the way the industry is going
and I would say this move would put it anything up to two years ahead of
its competitors,’ a former associate observes.
However, just how this will affect the quality of work produced on a
day-to-day basis, and whether a period of greater stability will now
follow, will only become apparent in coming months