“Research has shown that commercials which open with a dramatic visual hold their audience better than commercials which don’t. If you are advertising a fire extinguisher, open with fire. ”
David Ogilvy

What we believe and how we behave

“Superior service to our clients depends on making the most of our people. Give them challenging opportunities, recognition for achievement, job enrichment and the maximum responsibility. Treat them as grown-ups – and they will grow up. Help them in difficulty. Be affectionate and human.”

The corporate culture of Ogilvy & Mather, as set down by David Ogilvy

Some of our people spend their entire working lives in Ogilvy & Mather. We try to make it a stimulating and happy experience. We put this first, believing that superior service to our clients depends on the high morale of our men and women.

We help them make the best of their talents. We invest an awful lot of time and money in training — perhaps more than any of our competitors.
We treat our people as human beings. We help them when they are in trouble — with their jobs, with illnesses, with emotional problems, with drugs or alcohol.

Gentle Manners, Hard Work

We are opposed to management by intimidation. We abhor ruthlessness. We like people with gentle manners. We see no conflict between adherence to high professional standards in our work and human kindness in our dealings with each other.

We don’t like rigid pecking orders. We give our executives an extraordinary degree of independence, in the belief that freedom stimulates initiative. We dislike issuing orders; the best results are produced by men and women who don’t have to be told what to do.
We like people who are honest. Honest in argument, honest with clients, honest with suppliers, honest with the company — and above all, honest with consumers.

What we admire in people

We admire people who speak their minds. At the same time we admire people who listen more than they talk, and make a real effort to understand views that differ from their own. Candor is a virtue; arrogance is not.

We admire people who work hard, who are objective and thorough. Lazy and superficial men and women do not produce superior work.
We are free of prejudice of any kind. The way up the ladder is open to everybody, regardless of religion, race, gender, or sexual preference. We detest nepotism and every other form of favoritism.
There are, however, limits to our tolerance. We have little time for:

In promoting people at all levels, we are influenced as much by their character as anything else.

Earning respect of clients

We exist to build the business of our clients. The recommendations we make to them should be the recommendations we would make if we owned their companies, without regard to our own short-term interest. This earns their respect, which is the greatest asset we can have.

What most clients want most from us is great campaigns, with the spark to ignite sales and the staying power to build enduring brands. We put the creative function at the top of our priorities. The line between pride in our work and neurotic obstinacy is a narrow one. We make our recommendations clear. But we do not grudge our clients the right to the final say. It is their money.
Many of our clients employ us in several countries. It is important for them to know that they can expect the same standards of behavior in all our offices. That is one reason why we want our culture to be more or less the same everywhere.
We try to sell our clients’ products without offending the mores of the countries where we do business.
We try to create an atmosphere in which partnerships with our clients can flourish. We attach importance to discretion — clients don’t appreciate agencies that leak their secrets. We do not take credit for our clients’ successes. To get between a client and the footlights is bad manners.
We take new business seriously, especially new business from current clients. We have a passion for winning, but we play fair vis-a-vis our competitors

Antidote to smugness

We have a habit of divine discontent with our performance. It is an antidote to smugness.

We like reports and memos to be well-written and easy to read. We also like them to be short – and sent only to those who need to know what’s in them.
We are revolted by pseudo-academic jargon like attitudinal, paradigms, demassification, re conceptualize  suboptimal, symbiotic linkage, splinterization, dimensionalization.
We ask our top people in every office to represent our industry in their communities, to grasp the nettle on difficult issues, and to make their voice heard in interviews, articles, and speeches.
We use the word partner in referring to each other. This says a mouthful

Nine Obiter Dicta

Through maddening repetition, some of my obiter dicta have been woven into our culture. Here are nine of them:

  1. “Ogilvy & Mather — one company indivisible.”
  2. “We sell — or else.”
  3. “You cannot bore people into buying your product; you can only interest them in buying it.”
  4. “Raise your sights! Blaze new trails!! Compete with the immortals!!!”
  5. “We prefer the discipline of knowledge to the anarchy of ignorance. We pursue knowledge the way a pig pursues truffles.”
  6. “Never run an advertisement you would not want your own family to see.”
  7. “The consumer is not a moron.”
  8. “Unless your campaign contains a Big Idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.”
  9. “Only first class business, and that in a first class way.”

To find out a bit more about Ogilvy & Mather’s unique corporate culture and what our CEO, Abey Mokgwatsane, has to say about why you should choose O&M South Africa, click here.