Opinion: Perspective - Is Ogilvy's CEO hire a brave or desperate move?

If I had a pound for every time someone asked me who they should hire to fill xyz crucial role in their agency, I wouldn't be working here and would probably have used the money to set up my own headhunting business.

That's the thing with working on Campaign. You get to meet a lot of people and see a lot of talent among the frauds. So perhaps I should have known all about Hugh Baillie before his name emerged in connection with the CEO role at Ogilvy Advertising last week. I didn't. And I didn't know much about Ogilvy's new planning director, Rachel Hatton, either. The fact that they're both from Bartle Bogle Hegarty, where there were rather a lot of important people above them, perhaps obscured their talents. Anyway, I must admit that my first reaction to their appointments was lukewarm.

How much more interesting it would have been if the ad industry had played true to form and merely cannibalised itself again by shifting an already-CEO from one agency to another. Because then, we'd have one famous name leaving one agency in the lurch and riding into another as the Great White Hope.

Except that, of course, I would then also have written (again) about how there's not enough talent to go around, blah, blah.

Oh, and I was secretly hoping that Ogilvy would be forced into creating its own version of the Saatchi Saatchi Fallon group structure by putting Johnny Hornby in charge of Ogilvy and pulling CHI into its orbit. Wouldn't that make good copy?

Anyway, Ogilvy has done none of that. And has, actually, been rather bold. As I said, I don't know Baillie or Hatton, so don't know how good they are, though their BBH background is a kite-mark of quality. But I'm starting to like the fact that there are some new people to write about and that one of London's most established agencies is backing a couple of relative unknowns.

When Will Orr's departure from WCRS was finally confirmed last week, it was clear once more that agencies don't have a significant pool of top talent to fish from. But there's a lot to be said for discovering fresh talent and giving it the time to mature (time which, perhaps, WCRS's flotation-hungry parent Engine doesn't feel it has, hence the decision to bring the highly respected Debbie Klein back closer to the day-to-day management of the ad agency).

Hopefully, Ogilvy will allow its new hires that time to mature. I don't imagine the agency expects Baillie and Hatton to come in and quickly transform its fortunes. After all, Ogilvy has been performing very respectably as a bland local outpost of a global advertising machine for years and will continue to do so regardless of who's running London.

But medium term, the agency must be looking to its two newest recruits to begin to give the company some local flavour and attract domestic business.

In that, Ogilvy can take heart from Richard Exon's successes at Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, Chris MacDonald's new-business growth at McCann Erickson, or Russ Lidstone's holding-it-together at Euro RSCG; none of them at first seemed quite weighty enough for the role they were handed. And so perhaps, slowly, we are starting to see a new generation of CEOs emerging.

If Ogilvy can now also allow its new team to feel some ownership of the London office (as McCann has achieved with its young management tier), then the appointment of Baillie and Hatton might really start to make sense. Because that, at least, is where the untried and unproven CEOs can sometimes have an edge: they substitute the weary cynicism of their more established peers for an almost naive belief that they really are running their own agency.

Mind you, for all that, there's still a cynic in me that wonders whether - after all - none of the tried-and-tested CEOs actually wanted to work at Ogilvy.


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