With PR finally in the Ogilvy fold, the group's 360 approach is now at its fighting weight
Ogilvy & Mather (O&M) won the global Lenovo business in May 2005. Together with its sister agencies OgilvyOne, OgilvyInteractive, and Mindshare, the advertising agency was charged with handling advertising, and direct, interactive, and other marketing activities for the Chinese company, which had just acquired IBM's PC division. Absent in the initial mix, in large part, was PR, though Ogilvy PR in Asia was Lenovo's lead in IR and handled the transaction communications for the acquisition.
Now that is changed, with news that Ogilvy PR has joined the global team, after a competitive pitch. Shelly Lazarus, chairman and CEO of O&M, says the PR firm will play a leading role in the business.
"Lenovo is a great example for PR," says Lazarus. "Here is a huge opportunity for Lenovo to present itself to the world. It's of great interest now because it's a Chinese company that bought a piece of IBM, and so it's obvious, when you... think about the opportunity, that PR has to take the lead.
"It's not only a question of how many print ads are you going to run in The Wall Street Journal - not that that's not a part of it," she continues. "But here, the opportunity for the media, the press to come in and get to understand Lenovo and see what it's all about, should be PR-led."
A straight reporting line
Lenovo is the most recent example of what Ogilvy calls its 360-degree brand stewardship approach, the idea that all the tools in the company's arsenal should be geared toward building the client's brand. Until last October, Ogilvy PR had been outside the structure, reporting into WPP, though still a part of relevant 360 accounts, like Dupont.
But last October, PRWeek reported that Ogilvy PR had started reporting into Lazarus at O&M.
The news sent skeptics into small frenzy of speculation - that Ogilvy PR would be subsumed, or even spliced into O&M, or at the very least marginalized. In some quarters, the move was seen as one signifying weakness, that Ogilvy PR is merely a "derivative brand," as one PR agency competitor put it.
But neither Lazarus nor Marcia Silverman, Ogilvy PR CEO, sees it that way. "Ogilvy has opened a window for us on the big brands of the world. We have access to tremendous resources," says Silverman, who adds that the majority of the firm's business will remain independent of the Ogilvy network.
The underlying point of naysayers is that PR is subordinate to advertising and its high fees, and the 360 approach will, in reality, be dominated by that discipline. "The history of this is that PR is the tail on the dog," says Richard Edelman, CEO of independent Edelman and known to be skeptical of the holding company model. "I do believe  a wonderful idealistic version of the future. But when ad campaigns are paying $50 million and PR is one-twenty-fifth of that, I don't know."
But Lazarus says the former structure was nonsensical. "From the beginning when I became head of Ogilvy and I saw how we worked with Ogilvy Direct and OgilvyInteractive, I saw how this made no sense," she says. "It took a little time for me to convince everybody. But I think the reason it has so many positives and no negatives... is that we are a company of equals. There is complete respect between disciplines."
How integration works
Beyond the role of PR in the mix, the real question is how to achieve true integration for clients. John Seifert, chairman of Ogilvy's global brand community, is charged with assembling teams across disciplines and geographies for the top 21 global accounts. "No two accounts want the same mix or the same service model for how we support them," Seifert explains.
He says the model is less focused on geography, more on expertise. "You have to be able to deliver in every corner of the world. [But] what these 21 clients... expect from us is, 'Are you going to put the top talent on our business?'" Thus, a core account team might include individuals from interactive, PR, advertising, and a strategic planner from different locations around the world, provided they know how to work together.
The 360 model has now been integrated in Ogilvy worldwide, with the final pieces being New York and London. New York brought all the brands into one building, while London had common offices, but not a common approach. Lazarus credits Gary Leih, now UK group chairman, who moved from Ogilvy in South Africa to take the helm, with making it work. "I think it took an outsider to come in," Lazarus says. "He literally went out and said, 'Listen up. We're all coming together, we're going to start working together the way Ogilvy does everywhere else in the world, and that's a good thing for all of us.'"
From the client perspective, a key point is that needs will change over time. A 360 model is supposed to anticipate and accommodate that evolution. Dupont, for example, has been a PR-led account since May 2004. But the company has now started to incorporate an advertising campaign, which will be a test of the integration's strength.
"The challenge and the opportunity now is that we are doing some paid media and PR in association with that. How do we keep the integration going?" says Kathy Forte, Dupont's VP of global public affairs. "We will be more visible. Having been a bit low key, we now have an opportunity to put it together and show how it works."
Forte says Ogilvy has been sensitive to Dupont's transformation, which has been a product of its own internal mindset change. "The approach we were taking at that time for a total company standpoint was looking at 'the power of one Dupont,'" she explains. "The selection of one agency was to give us everything to push that mindset along."
Stephen Gardner, MD of communications at the American Chemistry Council, says he found the 360 approach to be a "lifesaver" for the organization, particularly because it was launching its campaign from scratch. "If it hadn't been integrated on the agency side, it would have been much harder to do," he explains. Even so, Gardner says it still brings in expertise from outside Ogilvy. "Periodically, you do need to insert fresh blood."
As Lenovo grows its brand in the US, Ogilvy's 360 approach is once again put to the test. Lazarus, for one, sees no downside to the model. "The only thing that can go wrong, potentially, to me, is that somehow the individual disciplines lose their edge," she says.
"I don't understand why, in so many companies, PR is separate from other skills and disciplines. We struggle without PR. We need what PR people know how to do."
Shelly Lazarus, chairman and CEO, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide
"[PR] has always been the discipline that thought about all the stakeholders of the brand."
John Seifert, chairman of Ogilvy's global brand community
"It's always tough when you get into the big bucks with advertising to make sure that PR doesn't take a bit of a back seat. But then there are people like us [in-house] to make sure there is always room for PR."
Kathy Forte, Dupont's VP of global public affairs
"With Dupont, for issues management, public affairs, and other things, PR has led the way. Now they are ready [for] more advertising. [It's about] whatever is the appropriate channel for the current situation and what comes next."
Marcia Silverman, CEO, Ogilvy PR