leo social@ogilvy partnerships and innovation

A New Chapter: Changing Roles at Social@Ogilvy

Recently I took up a new role at Global Head of Innovation and Partnerships, Social@Ogilvy. In this newly created role, I will be leading Ogilvy’s efforts to innovate in the social space, developing new products and services and partnering with 3rd parties from startups through to the established social platforms, to help give a commercial, strategic and creative edge to our clients.

I first joined Ogilvy & Mather Group in February 2012 as the Group Head of Social. At this point the entire team consisted of four keen kids in PR facing a lot of opportunity but with limited bandwidth. Over the the past three years we have grown to a team of more than 50 specialist across the Ogilvy Group with deep expertise in listening, content creation, paid promotion and socialCRM, with a Head of Social in each of Ogilvy & Mather Group UK’s operating companies. I’m extremely proud of our team who have been drawn from some of the best competitors in the market, but also media organisations, banking and academia. Across the Group this team now produces award-winning work for clients including American Express, BP, Anglo American, Expedia, Nescafe, Philips, British Gas, Baker’s Pet Foods, Old El Passo, Pizza Hut, UPS and many of the Unilever brands.

We have, as they say, come a long way baby. Three years later, it’s a good opportunity to see where we have come with Social@Ogilvy in London and reflect on what the next three might hold.

Launching Social@Ogilvy 

In March 2012 we launched Social@Ogilvy with a party on the London Eye. The objective then was to unite all of the disparate elements of social across the Ogilvy network into a coherent offering that provided uniformity and scale while supporting the discipline strengths of each of the Ogilvy agencies. Social@Ogilvy was built to be horizontally integrated, internally and externally collaborative and above all innovative.

The launch party was designed to be symbolic of what we wanted to acheive. We filled all of the pods with representatives from the different worlds that Social@Ogilvy hoped to embrace, fed them champagne and sushi and let it spin. From Ogilvy we had the representatives from the various social teams and their parent agencies and of course our key clients. We also included guests from all of the major platforms; Google, Twitter and Facebook along with founders from 25 London based social startups.

After an hour and a half what spilled out onto the South Bank was a crowd of enthused colleagues and conspirators. The air was filled with vows of future collaborations and bright eyed conversations of how Social@Ogilvy would be the model for how to be agile in a global network and how to bring scale and professionalism to what was then a fledgling industry.

For me one of the best demonstrations of how we have used the scale of the Ogilvy network has been in the development of the Facebook Zero, a research paper which was only made possible by being able to sample the reach and engagement figure of over 100 brand Facebook pages in 23 markets, comprising data from more than 48 million brand fans. That research and the subsequent advice to clients on how to leverage targeted media on social platforms is now a widely cited industry reference in an area that continues to grow in importance.

The flip side of the scale dimension for a network like Ogilvy is the specialist offers of the various agencies. Arguably if Social@Ogilvy has not been able to support these offers then we have demonstrably failed in our key mission of helping to transform the agency. There are no end of indistinguishable agencies playing in the generalised area of social and content and the attendant areas of monitoring and conversation management. While Social@Ogilvy needs to continue to provide these services as table stakes, what is key is how they ladder up to support the specialist offers and client needs of the market leading agencies of the Ogilvy network.

There are two specific social offers that have emerged from the past 3 years in London that serve as  great examples of this ‘social in service of a discipline’ approach;

The first would be The Social Value Navigator (or SVeN as he is affectionately known) from OgilvyOne. SVeN is a diagnositc tool and process for looking across the customer journey of a brand and identifying gaps in their use of social to engage customers at different stages in the purchase cycle and to highlight opportunities to do something unique across the competitive set. It’s pure OgilvyOne digital and direct thinking, but applied to a social landscape.

The other is Ogilvy PRs Content NOW model. The Content NOW model provides operational frameworks for three key types of content requirements that brands commonly face;

  • “N” Newsroom: This is classic PR territory. Newsroom content is about responding to the news cycle and using the emergent online journalism skills to jump on trending themes and engage with audiences in real time
  • “O” Ongoing: More aligned with magazine publishing this is a process of developing planned content that draws on the editorial skills that PRs frequently bring over from their earlier publishing careers
  • “W” Wow: Making the most of brand events through social activation brings together both the skills of realtime newsroom style activation and the careful development of planned content that the publishing model requires.

The other accomplishment that I’d call out is the Holmes Reports naming of Social@Ogilvy as “Digital Consultancy of the Year” in 2015 with a citation reading “Social@Ogilvy’s existing strength in earned and owned media is now complemented by deep paid capabilities from its Social Lab acquisition in Belgium, and an increasingly compelling analytics offering.” And just to be really clear, these are not MY accomplishments, but those of the team we have assembled in London.

So with this team of integrated specialists in place, what does the future hold?

Despite the length of the title, the job I have ahead of me is relatively straight forward; as the name suggests there are two main strands to the role:

Innovation is about matching the pace of our work to that of the most dynamic in the market and is largely about what we do: our processes and products. In regards to processes I work with our internal teams to integrate social media into our current ways of doing things so that it impacts our work. Our products are how we bundle these up in a coherent way to make it easier for our clients to buy and implement.

Partnerships is about who we do this work with. Broadly it covers how we partner with

1. The main social platforms who form the fundamentals of the social eco-system (Facebook, Google and Twitter) to ensure our clients are making the best use of them and getting unfair privileges.

2. The myriad of players in the startup universe. This starts with the startups themselves to accelerators and VCs as well as the various players in the social tech stack who enable all of this to stay connected.

If my role has any real impact it will see Social@Ogilvy become increasingly intwined into the daily operations of the specialist agencies. And as we increasingly work more closely with our partners the objective must be to frame those partnerships in the light of how can they help the broader Ogilvy agency family to continue to revolutionise our clients’ marketing and ensure it is fit for purpose in a disrupted social world.