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Agency Profile: Ogilvy Toronto

Posted on May 3, 2011 and read 5,869 times

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brettcreditpic Agency Profile: Ogilvy TorontoBrett McKenzie
Chief Writer, SBN2
ihaveanidea


Somewhere between ‘minor oversight’ and ‘crime of the century’ lies an indisputable fact about ihaveanidea. Over the years we have visited tons of agencies in various cities and countries all over the world. Many of those visits resulted in our ever-popular Agency Profiles, where we showcased what it’s like to work in various advertising agencies. We’ve written about big shops, small shops, famous shops, obscure shops, and just about everything in between.

But somehow, in all our years of doing this, we’ve managed to miss one agency in particular, an agency that unofficially served as the ‘nursery’ of this crazy thing we call ihaveanidea. This shop was the first (and only) agency that ihaveanidea founder Ignacio Oreamuno ever worked, and the guidance of its Co-Chief Creative Officers helped make this site what it is today: a go-to place for information, inspiration and advice.

Oversight? Crime? Whatever the case, it gets rectified today. May we present… Ogilvy Toronto.

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We are sitting in the offices of OgilvyOne, the direct, interactive and social marketing division of Ogilvy Toronto… only it’s not much of a ‘division’ these days. “This is a very transformational time here at Ogilvy,” says Nancy Vonk, Co-CCO of Ogilvy. “Not too long ago, we, like most agencies, were very siloed.” Ignacio concurs. “Wow, back when I was here in 2003, none of the divisions really worked together,” he reminisces. “We never even really talked to one another. It was as if traditional advertising was king, and interactive and DM and pharma and so on were on different planets.”

Today, those divisions pretty much non-existent, thanks in part to the efforts of OgilvyOne’s recently appointed Chief Creative Officer Matt Hassell. “Integration of different mediums and skill sets is very important to what we are trying to achieve here,” he explains. “We don’t hire people who want to work only on traditional work, or only on digital. We only want creative people who want to do more. Thankfully, the latest generation of creatives is anxious to do everything. We still have our departments, of course, but we are quickly losing the sense of who does what around here.”

Ogilvy Toronto has maintained the traditional copywriter/art director pairing that has worked for so long, but it’s a far less rigid structure than it has been in years past. There is always the potential to work with just about everybody in all of the creative divisions, as well as on all of the different brands. And although sometimes the departments are too busy to implement this perfectly, Ogilvy Toronto likes to have multiple people working on the same brands in order to get a variety of perspectives. “The more ideas the merrier,” one creative says. “Even if you aren’t assigned to a particular project, you’re usually more than welcome to join in and share your creative take on things.”


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Because the creatives at Ogilvy now work on so many different things and in so many different mediums, the approach to creative solutions has also evolved. “We’ve sort of trained our clients to not tell us what they think they need, but rather tell us the business problem,” says Nancy. “That way, we can start from a media-neutral base. Of course we might have a project where, say, TV will be needed, but even then we start media neutral. If we started off the bat saying that we need TV, every idea we have would have us looking through the lens of ‘yeah that will make a great 30 second spot,’ rather than ‘hey, anything’s possible!’ The Diamond Shreddies campaign was originally expected to be grounded in TV. Meanwhile an intern working on something “interesting” for the back of their new box had the idea to turn it into Diamond Shreddies. Because we didn’t start the creative process attached to a medium, we could see this was actually the big idea that would work in every space.”


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As can be expected from the creators of ihaveanidea’s Ask Jancy column, Janet and Nancy are champions of junior talent, and enjoy giving even interns the chance to work on the big brands and opportunities. What you might not know, however, is that this desire to let juniors shine extends across the boardroom table to the client side. “We love to get junior clients involved in the process,” explains Nancy. “When they are, they get excited and take ownership of the idea, and in that excitement they are far more passionate in selling it to their superiors, in their own client language.”

Even though the creatives at Ogilvy Toronto work closer together than ever before, there is still one big feature that seems rare in agencies in 2011: most of the creatives have their own offices with doors, as opposed to the open concept that many agencies subscribe to today. While many of the creatives aren’t against an open model, they all seem to appreciate being able to close their door to the world at times. “With open concept, people tend to hold their tongues more, and emotions get pent up,” one creative explains. “With a closed office, I’m able to vent and let out frustrations a little more before they build, and then get on with my day.”


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When you combine all of the different divisions of Ogilvy, the agency has about 200 staff members, but the agency’s vibe feels considerably smaller, especially within the creative departments. “Some small clients hear the name Ogilvy and think that we are too big for their business,” mentions one of the creatives. “Then they come in and see we are just like a little family.” And just like real families, there are quite a few traditions within the office, most notably a ‘birthday cake budget’ for those celebrating another year on this planet, Bagel Fridays, a once a month Thirsty Thursday, and even quirkier things. Apparently not long before our visit to Ogilvy, the a handful of employees participated in a ‘tiramisu-off’ to see who could make the best version of the Italian dessert (that title went to Janet and Nancy’s longtime assistant Marina.)

For those who have been living under a particularly heavy rock over the past few years, Ogilvy Toronto shot to international superstardom after the phenomenally successful Evolution viral video for Unilever’s Dove For Real Beauty campaign in late 2006. The video earned tons of global press, raised positive feelings about the brand, and raked in lots of industry awards, including two Grand Prix trophies at Cannes. We would be remiss if we didn’t ask what Ogilvy Toronto was like in a post-Dove Evolution world. “Dove Evolution was incredible.” Says Nancy. “But now we find that our clients, as well as the clients of friends at other agencies, are all asking for their own Dove Evolution. The trick is getting them to understand what it took to get Evolution. It took a lot of things going right, it took a client who was willing to get into trouble, willing to push back with their organization. Many of the clients who want Evolution aren’t ready to replicate these things. We often find that clients who are the most open to fresh solutions, who may even risk getting in some trouble, are dealing with brands in trouble. That’s when the challenge can be the most fun.”

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Ignacio has been gone from Ogilvy Toronto for nearly seven years, and even with remarkable changes that have taken place during that time, it always feels like going home to him. “Janet and Nancy are like sweet but tough moms, and the whole agency is in their nurturing arms. What can I say? This is an awesome place for any young creative to be.”

Thanks to Janet, Nancy and Matt for taking the time to speak with us at Ogilvy Toronto.


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