Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy & Mather South Africa

The Story Of David Ogilvy begins with a door-to-door age stove salesman in scotland. our Company’s founding father sold lots and lots of stoves. In fact, Mr Ogilvy had such a passion for selling, and such an insistence on results  that he ended up starting an agency in 1949 with a very clear rallying cry:


His wisdom and teachings made him a legend in advertising – but advertising was just one of his many passions. He was a pioneer who understood brand building and 360° marketing long before the terms became ubiquitous.

He believed in the power of brands, and was the first advertising man to encourage the careful art of brand building across all disciplines – from advertising, to promotion, to direct marketing and beyond. Little wonder that the company he formed became a global powerhouse, and also gave the world its first interactive agency.


He was a man who believed in effectiveness above all else. “If it doesn’t sell, it’s not creative,” he said. He wrote rule books that have been followed, studied and copied across the world. His dress sense, however, didn’t catch on – he’d often arrive at the office in a kilt and cravat.

But Mr. Ogilvy was always a gentleman who believed consumers should be spoken to intelligently, famously saying: “The consumer isn’t a moron. She’s your wife.” This respect for people filtered into Ogilvy culture – and to this day we are a company that believes in intellectual rigorousness without arrogance, and in creating an environment where people are treated with respect.

Although Ogilvy Worldwide had an association with a company in Johannesburg, Van Zyl Lundt & Tredoux dating back to the 1950s, Ogilvy South Africa’s origins lie with a little hot shop in Cape Town founded by Bob Rightford, Brian Searle-Tripp and Roger Makin in 1976. They arrived on the South African advertising scene with an energy and passion that made them our industry’s hottest property. Their company joined Ogilvy in 1984, thus becoming a part of the Ogilvy Worldwide group.

In its first decade, Ogilvy & Mather RS-TM dominated the local creative scene. Even the receptionist was an exceptional talent – imagine having to say “Good Morning, Ogilvy & Mather Rightford Searle-Tripp and Makin” every time you answered the phone!

Over the next twenty years, Ogilvy continued to stack up new clients and pick up countless industry accolades. In the business community the company was recognised as a brand-focused agency that acted with integrity. In creative circles, it was envied for its incredible hit rate.


Robyn Putter became the creative director of O&M’s Johannesburg office. Under his creative leadership the company flourished to become one of South Africa’s biggest, and most admired, advertising agencies.

Over a number of years, the company produced some of South Africa’s most loved and iconic advertising – for brands like Volkswagen, Old Mutual, M-Net, Sun International, Nedbank, Sales House, 702, Castle Lager, HTH – and many, many more.

In the 1990s, under the guidance of Robyn Putter, Ogilvy began to follow a philosophy of Brand Stewardship, an ethos that was created to create consistency in all communications. The idea was adopted by Ogilvy Worldwide, and Robyn Putter would eventually go on to become the creative head of the whole WPP Group. He passed away in 2010, leaving a legacy to be proud of.

True to David’s vision, we still see ourselves as a company that does more than ads.

Today, Ogilvy Worldwide and in South Africa, is a leader in the industry, focused on building and transforming brands with all the tools and technology available. We strive to remain a hothouse of innovation, to embrace new channels and ideas as soon as they become available, and keep adding them to our arsenal of tools. Collaboration and innovation help us unlock the potential of the brands in our care and liberate them in the market, making them relevant and desired by their consumers.

We encompass disciplines that range from brand advertising and activation, to content creation, CRM and direct marketing, design, eventing, promotions, public relations and a focus on expanding our digital offering in all our agencies. Then there are our legendary bar nights and red-hot parties.

To our clients, this means a passionate, liberated workforce, capable of delivering integrated ideas that are consistent across all disciplines, and our value is evident in our relationships. SAB recently celebrated their 50th Anniversary as clients with us. Unilever and Nestle are passing the halfway mark of their fourth decade with us. We have over 18 clients who’ve passed the magical ten year mark and the average length of our client relationships is currently at an incredible 15 years.

The past decade has been particularly kind to us, with iconic work for KFC, VW, SAB, Defy, BP, DStv and Cadbury to name just a few. We’ve helped to keep cash registers ringing at Pep, Cashbuild and Dischem, and we have launched and boosted brands both old and new to embrace new consumers and new technologies. Accolades and new client wins have kept pouring in. Our dominance of APEX over the past years has been a clear indication of our effectiveness. Creatively, we’ve stayed at the pinnacle of performance, with consistently impressive wins at local and international awards shows.

Today, we’re no longer the moustachioed white blokes of the 1970s, intimately familiar with corduroy and the words of “Ag Daddy won’t you.” Today, we’re a company that reflects the energy and diversity of our country. Our chairwomen, Nunu Ntshingila, is one of our industry’s most respected talents and has recently been appointed to the Ogilvy Worldwide board in honour of her achievements – making her the first African to serve in that capacity. Our CEO, Abey Mokgwatsane, has a formidable background in integrated communications that spans advertising, brand experience, digital media and broader communications, you can read more about him at http://abeymokgwatsane.com.

We may be a large agency steeped in a successful heritage. But we’ve proven that by maintaining our humility and an almost divine discontent at our past successes, we can do more than stay relevant. We can be nimble, and let our size lead rather than impede us, adapting before our competitors to the marketing landscapes of the future.

So though the times they have a-changed, and we’ve embraced new media that David could never have predicted, we like to think our philosophies are the same. We may not wear kilts or cravats, but we’ll keep living by his credo: We sell… or else.