Before Christmas a story was leaked to Campaign that both Ogilvy &
Mather’s managing director, Richard Pinder, and its creative director,
Marcus Vinton, were leaving the agency to run OgilvyInteractive.
The story had important implications for both the advertising and
digital worlds in the UK. For the first time we were seeing senior
advertising executives take their skills into the interactive arena.
As Pinder puts it: ’You could portray the advertising community as a
cluster of penguins standing at the edge of a cliff wanting to jump into
the water but afraid that a killer whale might get them. It takes the
first penguin to go in and prove to the others that there is no killer
For Vinton, it was about taking the lead already established by business
where executives have had the dotcom bug for some time. ’The advertising
industry is reactive. In leading businesses, chief executives are
migrating to dotcoms. In advertising, no major creatives or account
handlers are jumping in,’ he says.
Pinder and Vinton believe they have a market advantage by being the
first senior admen to join the UK digital arena. They can take their
knowledge of branding and apply it to new media.
Vinton, who will retain responsibility for some Ogilvy ad accounts,
stresses that it is not about a change of career or jumping on to the
digital ’brand wagon’, but a change in the number of communication
Some might ask if the two have anything different to offer. Vinton is
convinced their knowledge and experience of brands makes them better
placed than others to succeed in the race for what he calls
This is not about abandoning the old, it is about embracing the new.
They are taking contacts with existing O&M clients with them. Pinder,
who moved to O&M from Grey in early 1997, has always stuck very close to
large, lumbering accounts, including Unilever, Procter & Gamble and
These global giants are starting to realign their marketing budgets
towards new media. The moves by P&G, with its Reflect.com beauty brand,
and Unilever, with Wowgo.com and iVillage.com, highlight this move
Vinton has been active in new media for some time, but together the
pair’s interest dovetailed in 1998 when O&M won the account for Open,
the digital television broadcaster. The pair saw how their branding
know-how and good contacts would be an advantage in the digital arena.
They also persuaded Van den Bergh, a division of Unilever, to hand the
agency its interactive account.
At first, the talk was of a start-up, but then they were offered the
OgilvyInteractive helm and the promise of a war chest to build the
agency into a serious UK player. With that there was the security of
knowing how seriously WPP, O&M’s parent company, and its chief
executive, Martin Sorrell, takes digital media.
’Martin is a visionary. He’s prepared to invest and he understands our
equity. If you’re in WPP and want to make an acquisition that will add
to the service, Martin and the crew will take it seriously,’ Vinton
Both believe that, to date, digital is lacking creative and branding
excellence. Pinder believes the web world has not yet gone creative.
’If you put British Airways on the web, you wouldn’t be competing with
Lufthansa but with Amazon. Brand owners have to ask themselves how a
brand lives in this world.’
Although they are very different people - Pinder is rarely out of a
suit, Vinton rarely in one - the two complement each other. Pinder has a
pragmatic approach to problems and a strict regard for order. Vinton has
a passion for all things digital. Both are workaholics. Each
acknowledges and admires the other’s approach.
’For many sceptics, interactive TV is still underwhelming, and they are
right. It’s more inactive than interactive, but so was the internet
three years ago, and look at it now,’ Vinton says.
Internal politics following the leaked story has, so far, delayed the
finalisation of details for the relaunch of OgilvyInteractive. The
agency was formed last June when OgilvyOne acquired the new-media
company, Noho Digital. It already has around 70 people, but the
appointment of Pinder and Vinton should mark the start of some rapid
They are in an enviable position, running a cash-backed company in an
arena which is about to take off, but it has taken guts to get
It is their total belief that their expertise and contacts will offer
something new to digital that is driving them. It will be interesting to
observe if other senior advertising figures follow suit.
Vinton says: ’It is vital to adapt our thinking beyond the conventional,
otherwise we will see our business slowly eroded or swept aside by the
diversified, seductive talents of quicker thinking organisations that
have already reacted to new areas of specialisation such as the
internet, wireless application protocol and interactive TV.’