CAMPAIGN DIRECT: ISSUE - How far-reaching is the revamp of O&M Direct?

O&M Direct claims to have responded to client needs by rebranding. What’s the difference?

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

and requirements.

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


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