When the Society of American Florists realized that it lacked the resources for a national advertising campaign this year, it became concerned. Could PR adequately convey the society’s message?
When the Society of American Florists realized that it lacked the
resources for a national advertising campaign this year, it became
concerned. Could PR adequately convey the society’s message?
Then, after meeting with its PR agency, it left feeling much more
One big reason will become public next fall, when the results of
research conducted by a psychology professor are released proving that
an emotional boost comes from receiving a gift of flowers. ’We expect
this will be a trademark program for years to come’ says Jennifer
Sparks, the florist group’s director of consumer marketing.
Behind the wheel
So who’s the inspired thinker behind the idea? Well, someone once said
that his mind was like a roulette wheel - you never know where the ball
The ball must have landed on the right number more often than not over
the past 13 years because Steve Dahllof was recently promoted from
corporate creative director at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide to
managing director of the DC office.
Dahllof’s work as creative director has helped power long-standing work
by Ogilvy PR for the American Forest and Paper Association, Chemical
Manufacturers Association, Pfizer and the International Sleep Products
It’s Dahllof’s belief that ’creative thinking has to go on all the
time.’ Forty years ago a statement like that may have made some
tradition-bound PR execs think what a gamble it would be to put a
creative guy at the helm of a 150-person, dollars 21.5 million
But when the time came to choose a successor to Marcia Silverman,
president of the Ogilvy DC office for nearly eight years and a constant
presence since its start as a six-person office nearly two decades ago,
Dahllof was the consensus choice. ’We wanted to leave it in the hands of
someone who reflected what we built,’ Silverman, now Ogilvy’s president
of the Americas, explains. Adds Ogilvy prexy Bob Seltzer, ’He’s been
able to integrate the creative department into everything that office
Watching the amiable but low-key Dahllof eat his oatmeal during
breakfast at the Mayflower Hotel one morning, he appears to be anything
but the stereotypical wild, ruffled inventive thinker.
Dahllof himself concedes, ’My promotion is really an acknowledgment that
a creative individual doesn’t think solely execution because if I was
just going to execute great creative product then I couldn’t have this
job. It’s because creative is really about the entire communications
process, from research to strategy to execution.’
Maybe that’s not so surprising because in the mid-1980s Dahllof was the
marketing guy at the National Restaurant Association when Ogilvy on
Advertising, written by the founder of Ogilvy PR’s big sister agency,
became his lunchtime reading. He soon learned Ogilvy PR was looking for
creative help. He got the job and his assignment was to build a creative
department for Ogilvy.
Dahllof started developing strategy at a time when the agency was
stepping up activity on a big AIDS campaign for the Centers for Disease
His role evolved into that of chief strategist, and the once-fledgling
department now has almost 40 people dealing with writing, graphics,
interactive and video.
That in itself is unusual, and David MacKay, senior counselor at Hill &
Knowlton in Washington, credits Ogilvy with having ’defined the standard
for in-house creative in a major DC PR firm. Now, PR firms are starting
to realize that it’s very profitable to do all the collateral
’Whatever vehicle we need to get that specific message across to that
specific client, we’ll do,’ Dahllof insists.
Beth Ruoff, a trusted Dahllof co-worker and now his successor at the
creative department, and Ogilvy VP Michael Briggs demonstrated that
creativity in a campaign for the Washington Department of Health that
won a PRWeek Marketing to Minorities award. Condoms with information
about AIDS and an 800 number in a beauty case were distributed to women
who were patrons of beauty salons with a primarily African-American
clientele. Results showed more 800 calls were made from African
Americans in the targeted area. Advertising has also been produced, and
one interesting campaign, called ’DC Does It,’ used ads on subways and
bus stops showing everyday kind of people urging the use of condoms.
Dahllof contends there even are more creative PR pros than he at Ogilvy,
and one of his roles has been to make account managers think more
imaginatively about how to meet the client’s goals. Briggs notes that
under Dahllof, and now Ruoff, there has been no wall of separation
between the creative and account teams. ’Good ideas are welcomed
regardless of where they come from,’ he says.
Dahllof eventually became part of the network’s senior management
While other firms have chief creative strategists, they may not always
perform the hands-on role that Dahllof did in linking the strategic with
the creative execution.
Dahllof’s been able to do that. He admits that his original thinking
comes from being able to examine problems from many perspectives, which
stems in part from his exposure to different languages and cultures
while growing up. Exposure to new phrases and ideas in Japanese, French
and Dutch taught him that simply knowing one language can be
Playing his hand
Right now, Dahllof is concentrating on making the transition from
creative director to managing the office’s rapid growth. Seltzer credits
Dahllof with being a ’consensus builder,’ and Dahllof cites Silverman as
having influenced his own understanding of how to manage. Many of the
office’s senior members have been there as long as he has been, and the
DC market has been hot, factors that should work in his favor as the DC
office strives to post 20% revenue growth this year.
Dahllof’s primary concern right now is helping the office deal with its
growth in a smooth manner. Then, the tests will really start. Wherever
the ball lands, odds are Dahllof will do the job with his characteristic
GM, Ogilvy DC
Food Marketing Institute Manager of communications
National Restaurant Association Manager and communications editor
Joins Ogilvy, rises to worldwide creative director 2000
Managing director of Washington, DC office