If not quite akin to 1940s comedy troupe the Crazy Gang, the combination of Charlie Rudd, Mick Mahoney, Kevin Chesters and Clare Donald was a gang that, in a short time, made great strides in progressing Ogilvy & Mather’s creative and new-business reputation. In doing so, it helped rouse advertising’s collective cheer.
But just two years after Chesters wrote a piece for Campaign extolling those gang virtues – the sense of purpose, fun and confidence – that had helped them achieve that momentum, one half of that group has gone. Rudd is following Donald out of the door without a job to go to.
It was obvious that the merger of Ogilvy Group’s component parts was not going to be entirely painless – Jo Coombs, the capable chief executive of OgilvyOne, was an early casualty – but few thought that it would appear to unravel quite so quickly. Inadvertently or not, the old Ogilvy & Mather gang has been less hamstrung by the departures and more (and to use modern gang parlance) shanked.
Ogilvy UK chief executive Michael Frohlich took over from Annette King and drove through the changes. He didn’t make many friends internally when he put all of his management team on consultation while deciding on the structure Ogilvy UK would take. The resultant organogram didn’t look entirely satisfactory either. As well as diluting the Ogilvy & Mather gang with other members and other duties, Rudd was moved into the new role of chief client officer, while Mahoney became one of three chief creative officers along with Emma de la Fosse and Charlie Wilson.
Rudd had made no secret of the fact he only quit his job as managing director of Bartle Bogle Hegarty to become an agency chief executive (almost borrowing from another archaic comedy gang, the cast of Hi-de-Hi!, whose Peggy Ollerenshaw just wanted to be a Yellowcoat). So, for Rudd, the position of chief client officer looked to be a step backwards, particularly given how successful he had been at turning around the perennially problematic Ogilvy & Mather. But, unlike Peggy’s, Rudd’s aspirations were entirely deserved – it’s likely that his phone is already ringing off the hook with offers.
As for what this means for Ogilvy UK, the loss of Donald and Rudd is likely to be unsettling for staff (particularly those from the old Ogilvy & Mather faction) but not fatal for the business. If it can produce more work like the recent British Airways "Boarding pass" and if Frohlich can develop a new gang concept first espoused by Chesters to his wider team, then the agency will hopefully return to stability and its winning ways.
Jeremy Lee is contributing editor at Campaign