Catherine Ogilvie - The sound of Tinseltown

Dolby's marketing chief tells Mark Banham how the firm's Oscars partnership is highlighting its contribution to the cinema industry.

Joined-up work: Ogilvie talks about Dolby's approach to marcoms
Joined-up work: Ogilvie talks about Dolby's approach to marcoms

Those Brits hardy enough to make it through the night for the 85th Academy Awards this weekend will notice the films themselves are not the only thing updated for this year's Oscars.

The one billion-plus worldwide audience will see Los Angeles' famous Kodak Theatre now bears the branding from sound experts Dolby.

As PRWeek enters Dolby's new headquarters in the heart of London's Soho there is a subtle touch of Hollywood, as we pass the in-house digital cinema and listen to Dolby sound effects played in reception through the company's new sound creation, Atmos.

Catherine Ogilvie, general manager EMEA marketing at Dolby, gives PRWeek a guided tour of the former Tiger Aspect office with the seasoned approach of a tour guide. She is certainly informed and gives the impression she is like that in most aspects of her life - especially her career. She is perfectly welcoming, but you can bet she prefers that the brand is the star, not herself.

She becomes particularly animated when conversation turns to the Oscars rebrand, which will link cinema's ubiquitous sound system with Tinseltown's premier awards night. She is a passionate advocate for the brand, though having not one, but two, PR representatives in the room during the proceedings sometimes leads to the kind of careful message control that is emphasised when a later request for her age is knocked back.

She admits the comms strategy behind the event is 'rather US-centric', but explains it will 'look at Dolby's involvement in the cinema industry and how it has contributed to the development of movies and sound over the past 40-plus years. What this connection with the actual theatre has given us is to really position Dolby right in the heart of the cinema business in Hollywood.'

She says the partnership around the Oscars is a 'proof point' to Dolby's continued commitment to the cinema business.

Dolby's PR, she says, is based on the simple basics of storytelling - and Dolby's back story, from humble beginnings in a small sound laboratory in Hammersmith to global brand status, is more interesting than most. 'The Dolby brand has still got to have a great story and I believe in this really simplistic approach towards content,' she says.

Ogilvie took up her post at Dolby after running the San Francisco office of Edelman. It seems her stint in southern California, where she spent time at music download pioneer Napster, forged her thoughts on the future of the PR and comms industry. Of her time at Napster, she says: 'That really switched me on to the power of digital, the power of communities, the power of bloggers and how anybody could create an informed opinion and really have a platform to promote it.'

She certainly does not shy away from her current target audience; she knows that they are at the more techie end of the spectrum. It is an audience she will have to convince to license new product Atmos and back Dolby's partnership with consumer giant Philips for the roll-out of glasses-free 3D television this year.

Ogilvie is a firm believer that dual control of the comms and marketing disciplines leads to an enhanced offering for brands.

'On the comms side, from my perspective there's a development of this integrated strategy where we're bringing the comms and the marketing closer together. Thought leadership and the more traditional comms routes are still vitally important, but they do need to tie very closely into what we're delivering as our integrated message,' she says.

Like most schooled in marketing, there is a penchant for a portmanteau that does not take long to present itself: 'We have a strategy of working with what we would call "prosumers", or people who are passionate about audio, as well as the big influencers in the cinema and the entertainment and audio industry.'

Ogilvie says she is focused on the next generation of comms professionals and 'helping them in their careers'.

Stuart Smith, chief executive for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Ogilvy, had Ogilvie as a client during his time at Hill+Knowlton Strategies. He says she is focused on getting the best out of people: 'She gets the very best out of the team by spending a lot of time with them and creating the conditions where the team are able to have really good creative ideas.'

She has an unusual take on career progression that the ruthlessly ambitious would find obtuse, but like the brand she represents she is much more worried about clarity than who can make the most noise to get themselves noticed.

'Your career (in comms) is not a ladder, it's more like a scramble net. Too many people are focused on climbing this ladder in a very vertical way and actually I think the challenges that we face now in the comms world mean that you have to sometimes go sideways, sometimes have to maybe go down to go up.'

She insists she always looks for people 'who have a creative way of solving problems, or a creative way of approaching something new', and that there is nothing worse than sitting through an agency presentation 'which you just know they have cut and pasted the logos over'.

Wrapping up, it would be remiss of PRWeek not to ask if Ogilvie is going to the Oscars this year? 'Erm... no, it's the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona the next day,' Ogilvie says ruefully.

Oh, the glamour.

CV

2009 General manager, EMEA marketing, Dolby London and vice-president global corporate comms, Dolby San Francisco

2006 General manager and EVP, Edelman, San Francisco

2003 Global marketing and comms director, Almond Board of California

2001 Senior director of marketing, Napster

1994 Management consultant, Munich, Germany

1992 European marketing and comms manager, Motorola Cellular Subscriber Division

1989 Marketing manager, Harrods

1984 Head of advertising, Automobile Association

TIPS FROM THE TOP

What was your biggest career break?

Becoming marketing manager at Harrods. It was an opportunity to bring new marketing disciplines to a fabulous brand.

Have you had a notable mentor?

Pam Talbot, former CEO of Edelman US, brought me on board to run the San Francisco Edelman office. Her support and advice while I rebuilt both the client list and the team was invaluable. She's smart, a brilliant PR strategist and a terrific leader.

What advice would you give to people climbing the career ladder?

Look for opportunities horizontally in different disciplines and industries to build experience and skills.

What qualities do you look for in new recruits?

Creativity, enthusiasm and an open mind. Someone who has done their research about my business and its challenges and is prepared to roll up their sleeves and engage from day one.

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