On the creative floor: Ogilvy & Mather, Johannesburg

Ogilvy & Mather has 450 offices in its worldwide network, but only its Johannesburg offshoot boasts an unfeasibly large Lego wall comprising 10,000 toy bricks that spell out the word "play".


The agency, which has around 420 staff, pumps out popular TV ads, earning three entries in Millward Brown’s 20 Best Liked Ads of 2013 in the country (behind only FCB South Africa).

The idea behind the "playwall" is to make the Johannesburg office a more fun and exciting place to work. In particular, the management team wanted to manifest "playfulness" and "idealism" – two of the eight traits required to run a successful creative agency, as laid down by the network’s founder, David Ogilvy.

The other six, for those unaware, are: courage, curiosity, candidness, intuition, persistence and free spirits.

In the same vein, the Johannesburg team assembled large, colourful magnets on its campus roof to spell out "dream humongous", which is another Ogilvyism. Indeed, the founder’s influence, aphorisms and image are present throughout the office as much as they are anywhere else in the network.

The office campus is located on the outskirts of South Africa’s largest city in former farmlands in Bryanston, an upscale suburb that is also home to Microsoft. Ogilvy & Mather Johannesburg chose to establish its office there since the area was reminiscent of the Cape farmlands, where the South African arm of the network originated.

At the time, the former chairman Robyn Putter was quoted in a local newspaper as saying: "This is an appropriate choice since our agency was started in Cape Town."

The standout architecture is an original Cape Dutch house, which was used as the main entrance and a meeting room. The campus received a revamp in 1992 and, since then, the agency has resided in the fittingly named Brand Building.

Using simple and inexpensive designs, the Cape Dutch theme was incorporated into the whole office. There have been numerous updates since the first revamp to embrace more open-plan designs.

Outside the office, there are two fishponds and picnic tables where, according to Ivana Naidoo, an account manager at Ogilvy’s public relations division, staff can "linger or commune with nature for a while before heading back to their workstations".