This past Halloween, Ogilvy PR’s Chicago office gave client AmericanGreetings.com a double treat. SCREAMail, which offered celebrity screams culled from television and movie clips, successfully re-launched the greeting card company’s Web site and gave the company a hipper, more contemporary edge.
This past Halloween, Ogilvy PR’s Chicago office gave client
AmericanGreetings.com a double treat. SCREAMail, which offered celebrity
screams culled from television and movie clips, successfully re-launched
the greeting card company’s Web site and gave the company a hipper, more
Besides earning national media coverage and driving traffic to the site,
it became an e-product all its own and spawned a follow-up - SMOOCHMail
for Valentine’s Day.
A blend of marketing and public relations, the above example typifies
Mark Curran’s approach. ’Marketing PR professionals must be media savvy,
and they should also understand the dynamics of marketing. In short,
marketing PR professionals must have a little Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in
them; one part media hound, one part marketer,’ says Curran, MD of
Ogilvy PR’s global marketing practice.
Since joining Ogilvy PR in September 1998, Curran has been applying his
18 years of marketing and branding experience (honed at Cohn & Wolfe and
GCI Group for brands like Marlboro, Gillette and Rogaine) to building
Ogilvy’s marketing practice. In doing so, he’s helped revitalize the
brand image of brandmaker Ogilvy PR itself.
Branding the brandmaker
’Ogilvy has a great heritage,’ says Ogilvy CEO Bob Seltzer, ’but we
weren’t as far along as we needed to be in our marketing practice. Mark
understands more than anyone does what the establishment of a brand
really means and how to use communications to get to that point. We
wanted him to reinvigorate the marketing practice and through that to
reaffirm Ogilvy PR as a leader in how to build brands.’
So far, so good: the marketing practice grew 65.6% percent in 1999 and
is now the third-largest practice worldwide with dollars 48 million in
revenues, according to figures from the Council of PR Firms. Recent wins
include Kimberly-Clark, Nike, Wingspan Bank, Surf Monkey, Paradise
Foods, the Italian Trade Commission, the USS Arizona/Pearl Harbor
Memorial and San Pelligrino mineral water.
’We want to develop 360-degree branding for Ogilvy as well as our
clients - a practice that insures that no matter where or how a consumer
interaction takes place - direct mail, or even how a receptionist
answers a phone - it’s all working off the same imprint,’ Curran says.
In Ogilvy’s case, that means a consistent approach in quality and
expertise, using proprietary tools like Brandz, an in-depth study of
product brands, and Ogilvy’s ’brand bonding’ approach.
As of January, Curran has been focusing on the global marketing practice
exclusively (he had previously handled the New York practice as
’I define approaches to how Ogilvy does business instead of managing an
office or group,’ he says.
Although Curran leads a 150-person team, he is remarkably low-key -
almost ’Gary Cooper-esque,’ according to former and current members of
When asked about major personal accomplishments, Curran demurs, choosing
to talk about winning work from Coke and Minute Maid, Ogilvy’s
proprietary tools and new hires across the globe. The
AmericanGreetings.com work, for example, was won by the Chicago office,
and a conference call brainstorm with the San Francisco office and its
Alexander Ogilvy technology unit generated ideas. ’It was a new way to
rally the troops,’ Curran says.
The call and the overall project also advanced Curran’s goal: to get
people ordinarily grouped by different specialties to be part of the
marketing practice, and more comfortable with calling on each other.
No ’I’ in Curran
If Mark Curran can’t quite get that this is a profile about him, it’s
understandable - the former Division III college basketball player has
been a team player for most of his life. As a boy growing up in New York
City’s Stuyvestant Town complex, he teamed with his brother to screen
questions to celebrities for a feature in Family Weekly, a newspaper
supplement edited by his father Bob, a veteran journalist and later PR
pro at NBC Sports. Later, as director of sports information at Yale,
Curran counseled some of the world’s leading sports associations,
including the PGA of America and Special Olympics International.
While at Cohn & Wolfe, Curran began to explore the relationships between
PR, marketing and branding. ’One of the first things I learned after
joining the agency world in 1988 was that Marlboro’s Indy Car racing
involvement, including full branding of the car, was a modern day
embodiment of the brand’s famous Marlboro Man qualities,’ he recalls.
Later at GCI Group, Curran tripled the size of the New York marketing
practice and was instrumental in developing GCI’s approach to brand
’On brand marketing, I subscribe to what David Ogilvy said many years
ago: successful brands are those that build bonds with their consumers,’
he says. If the same philosophy applies to people, the Curran brand is
in good shape. ’I’ve been working with Mark for four years now, here and
elsewhere,’ says Wendy Schwimmer, an Ogilvy SVP. ’He adds value to the
teams and does so in a way that’s not overbearing. He looks out for his
people, too; I’m a working mom and he made it work for me so I don’t
have to compromise my personal life.’
As SVP of brand marketing for Healtheon/WebMD, Larry Logan worked with
Curran on strategy: ’He’s very much a quarterback or conductor, able to
see the big picture and bring in the right people and resources. And
he’s fun to work with. I’m a serial client of Mark’s - as chief
marketing officer of Verde Media I asked for his counsel, too.’
A spate of new hires in London, Los Angeles and New York and the pursuit
of travel, lifestyle and kids’ marketing as key growth areas will likely
keep Curran busy in the near future. And if Ogilvy starts shopping for
Latin American shops, Curran may have to learn Spanish. ’The end game,’
he says, ’is to make Ogilvy the Ford of marketing.’ That may be a ways
down the road, but Curran at least has the firm pointed in the right
Managing Director, Global Marketing Practice
Ogilvy PR Worldwide
1980 Yale University Director of sports information
1988 Cohn & Wolfe/NY, rises from SAE to VP
1993 GCI Group/NY
Rises from VP to SVP to EVP/MD, consumer marketing
MD, global marketing practice.