by Rome Jorge
It's not every day that John Seifert, incoming Ogilvy & Mather worldwide chairman and CEO, and Miles Young, outgoing Ogilvy & Mather worldwide chairman and CEO, grace an occasion with their camaraderie and brilliance.
Ogilvy & Mather Philippines' transfer of office to the 14th floor of 8 Rockwell on Rockwell Drive in Makati City was one such momentous occasion. At an exclusive dinner held on July 13, 2016 at Chef Jessie at Amorsolo Square, just a short walk away from Ogilvy & Mather Philippines' new offices, Young and Seifert were joined by adobo magazine president and editor-in-chief Angel Guerrero.
Young appointed Seifert on January 20 this year as his successor. Seifert assumes the role with 37 years of experience at Ogilvy & Mather, having been O&M North America chairman prior to his new post. Miles, who joined Ogilvy & Mather in 1982, will continue to work with Ogilvy & Mather in a non-executive role and assumes the position of Warden at his alma mater, New College, at Oxford University this year. During Miles' leadership, Ogilvy & Mather won the Cannes Lions Network of the Year five consecutive times. Miles came to Manila after having recently accepted this year's trophy at the world's most prestigious creative awards.
Most recently, Young has been touring the globe with Seifert, who reveals, “It’s been busy. I tell everybody I feel like I joined the Rolling Stones. I’ve been traveling the world. I was appointed in January in Frankfurt. I went from Frankfurt to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum which was an amazing experience. Then, I had multiple trips between the US and Europe, to Latin America—Mexico, Bogotá, Colombia, Brazil—and then a number of different client meetings in between. Miles and I did a China trip—Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Hong Kong—meeting with various clients and staff. Then I was in the south of France for the Cannes advertising festival which was amazing—our 5th Network of the Year award. And now we’re doing this Asia, Australia, India, Middle East wing. So we were in Tokyo for the last couple of days and here today in Manila and off to Singapore, Australia for the next few days.”
Crisis as opportunity
Recalling how he first took the helm of Ogilvy & Mather at the height of the financial crisis, Young confesses, “The first lesson I learned was to resist the temptation to throw myself out of the window. The second lesson was one was the very strong sense that a time of crisis is a fantastic time of opportunity. I know very well that if I hadn't moved to New York at that financial crisis period, I would not have been able to make the changes in the agency that I had to make. There were changes crying out to be made and the situation around me made it possible to affect them. Crisis can be good. They shouldn’t be thought of as necessarily negative things.”
Learning to listen
Prior to being becoming CEO, Young had been chairman of Asia Pacific. This experience informed him as well. Young recalls, “In Asia you’ll learn to listen, you learn to be patient and you learn to bring people on the side gently, without forcing them. You’ll learn also the power and importance of the relationships, as opposed to transactions. I like to think that I have a relationship-based leadership style. It’s great to be back in Asia now because that’s where I learned how to be a better manager and I wouldn’t be here if I just stay in the U.K.”
Reflecting on what legacy he leaves behind, Young says, “I think, without doubt, it’s taking the agency back to its roots of being a creative place, valuing creativity and being prepared to go out and win in the best competitions in the world and all of your peers recognizes that you are very creative. So the journey which we’ve been on the past seven or eight years to restore that credible reputation. I think it’s been successful and I am extremely proud of that.”
John Seifert, incoming Ogilvy & Mather worldwide chairman and CEO
Investing in the future
Seifert now treads a road paved by Miles and appreciates the legacy he leaves behind. Seifert notes three initiatives responsible for Miles' success:
“The first is, Miles is an investor. He believes in investing for growth, investing in talent, investing in clients. When he came in, he came in at the height of the financial crisis and he had come from the Asia Pacific region where he was a chairman for 14 years and he grew the business way beyond anyone’s expectations. And so when he came to the US in middle of 2008 just when the financial crisis was upon us, he spend all of the equity he built over the success of fourteen years to invest. So the first is, no matter how difficult the world feels, don’t be afraid to invest for the future.”
“The second thing about Miles is, he is a huge believer in helping develop the youngest people in the company. He had an initiative called adaptive country where he would take the up and coming youngest employees about particularly developing market and bring them together and take them away for a week and give them the benefit of the smartest people on their company and let them participate in thinking about the future of the company. That has created the success we have in places like the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Myanmar. I feel that’s hugely important because we’re a global brand, and we’re global network and we need to be fostering the next generation markets, the next generation talent.”
“And the third thing about Miles is, he is a passionate leader when it comes to developing a point of view for the company. We just launched this new initiative called the V12 [The Ogilvy & Mather Velocity 12 Report: The Reshaping of Global Growth]. Miles has an innate view of seeing around the corner before others do. David Ogilvy was like that. He was insatiably curious and always wanted to find the next opportunity for the business. I think Miles has done an amazing job on that and I would carry that forward.”
Paying it forward
For his part, Seifert brings with him 37 years of experience of working at Ogilvy & Mather and the savvy of leading a portfolio of 25 global clients worth nearly $1 billion in revenue. Seifert enumerates what he bring to the global chairmanship:
“I’ve had the experiences of a fast growth reality of Asia where I spent eight years. I’ve helped them build their brands across the world. Then most recently, I’ve had the benefit of running in our North America business. That has given me a perspective that is very relevant for the company we have today because we are truly global.”
“I think I’m very close to clients. I’ve spent most of my career serving clients. so I think I have a pretty good sense of understanding what their needs are or what they expect of us.”
“And the third is that, I’ve had the benefit of being mentored and developed by the best people in the company. I was a college dropout. When I started in Ogilvy, I was a summer intern. I did not deserve the job that I got when I started with Ogilvy and the only reason I was able to spend my entire career in Ogilvy is I had amazing mentors who enabled me to have a variety of different experiences, who shared their knowledge and wisdom with me, and who basically gave me unconditional support to grow in the company. I hope I can pay forward. I now have a maniacally focus on the youngest generation of employees in the company. I also care about the diversity in the company. I want many more senior women to grow on the company and gender equality is one of my most important priorities.”
Fast into the future
Guiding Seifert forward into the future is The Ogilvy & Mather Velocity 12 Report: The Reshaping of Global Growth, published June 2016 as one of Miles' initiatives.
Briefly, it notes that by 2025, the greatest growth among the middle class globally will be in 12 countries: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, China, Egypt, Nigeria, Mexico, and Brazil, with the most remarkable growth in the Indian subcontinent. The V12 report notes that these new middle class populations will demand brands that align with their values and demand participation in brand building. It notes both the remarkable proportion of muslims within these new middle class populations as well as the rising economic power of women within these cultures.
Seifert asserts, “Brands have always have to adapt to the values and beliefs of the consumers that they seek, bond with and do business. Now we live in a world where global brands can’t grow if they’re not relevant locally. It’s never been more challenging to figure out how to be relevant, emotionally and compelling in a local context.” Seifert also notes, “The Muslim consumer—that thing to me is most striking about V12 report—this is a would be the fastest growing middle class. How much do global brands really understand about selling and marketing and being relevant to a Muslim consumer? But the problem is local brands always suffer from scale—to grow and be competitive against global brands. So it’s going to be, in my view, a big bottom-up to win the hearts and minds of the fastest consumer groups in the world.”
Collecting consumer data is necessary in understanding local consumers. Miles cautions, “Data gives us one problem, which is the obsession about measuring everything. It’s a very dangerous symptom of our times. We don’t need to measure everything. But measuring everything sometimes gives as ability to do something beautiful, something useful.”
Furthermore Miles declares, “It’s not data which is important but it’s the insight that comes from the data and the quality of that insight—the ability of that insight to be turn into idea and the quality of that data.”
In main photo are adobo editor-in-chief Angel Guerrero and Miles Young, outgoing Ogilvy & Mather worldwide chairman and CEO.