PERSPECTIVE: Why it's going to take more than one man to turn O&M around

Ogilvy & Mather apparently trawled the globe for its new creative director. It certainly can't have taken eight months to dismiss or, more pertinently perhaps, be dismissed by the creative stars of London.

Women have conceived and laboured in the time it's taken O&M to find its man. And that the agency should have found its new creative torchbearer in Australia is about as predictable as a tickly throat in a Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? scam. Are there any good creatives left in Sydney?

In O&M's case, the delay was less about the well-rehearsed difficulties of finding great creative leaders and more about the difficulties of attracting serious talent to O&M right now.

Nevertheless, Malcolm Poynton this week stands revealed as O&M's great creative hope. It's quite a burden for the executive creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney to bear; heck, O&M needs a creative renaissance like George Galloway needs a hole to crawl into.

After the upheaval of last year, cleansing though it was, O&M now has to start the turnaround in earnest; creative momentum is at a standstill, the chief executive, Paul Jackson, has yet to make his mark on the marketplace and while there has been much re-ordering and refining behind the scenes, the Ogilvy brand has stalled. Insiders say that O&M is slowly once again becoming a place that aspirational people want to work, which, if true, is no mean feat after the disillusionment that has characterised the agency for too long now. Then again, the appointment of a relatively unknown creative director such as Poynton will do nothing to speed that process up.

But where the agency has made real strides is in its place in the unified group structure. With all Ogilvy brands now under one roof, the aim is to break down the barriers between the different operating cultures. From this year, Ogilvy graduates will not join an Ogilvy ad agency or a direct marketing agency or a PR agency, but will instead join the Ogilvy group.

All will go through the same cross-discipline training in the on-going drive to offer a seamless service to the likes of IBM and Ford. It's a positioning that could fuel the creative agency proposition once it's motoring.

But for all the talk of integration and happy, ego-busting co-operation, the Ogilvy & Mather creative agency will wither or thrive on its creative talent. What the agency now desperately needs is a strong creative culture, local new-business wins on which to rebuild its reputation and redefine its creative product, and - crucially - a vibrant UK personality. None of these have been visibly addressed in the year since Paul Simons was ousted, but the creative director vacancy has been a plausible brake; once Poynton is up and running there can be no excuse.

- Caroline Marshall is on maternity leave.


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