Agency Networks: Ogilvy’s bid to build a European community - As the newly-appointed European president of Ogilvy PR Worldwide, Paul Philpotts faces a tough task turning Ogilvy into a European network servicing major global clients

Until now Ogilvy PR Worldwide has remained a relatively small player in Europe, with 25 staff in London, 20 in Brussels and two in Paris. This contrasts with their four office, 300-plus staff, in the US, and 16 offices in Asia. One of the factors which has held the agency back in the last year has been its lack of either a London managing director or a European president, a situation which was finally resolved with the appointment of former B-M managing director Paul Philpotts last week.

Until now Ogilvy PR Worldwide has remained a relatively small

player in Europe, with 25 staff in London, 20 in Brussels and two in

Paris. This contrasts with their four office, 300-plus staff, in the US,

and 16 offices in Asia. One of the factors which has held the agency

back in the last year has been its lack of either a London managing

director or a European president, a situation which was finally resolved

with the appointment of former B-M managing director Paul Philpotts last

week.



The agency now has a chance to tackle one of the major issues facing the

international players in the PR industry this decade - finding the best

way to service big global clients. The challenge has seen some agencies,

such as Burson-Marsteller, adopting a practice structure, and others,

like the Weber Group, on a global spending spree to expand its network

of offices.



Ogilvy is joining the race at a fairly late stage and Philpotts has a

daunting task ahead. He puts it simply: ’My brief is to work out how we

build our capacity across Europe’.



His boss, international president and chief executive Bob Seltzer, hopes

that structures will be in place by the end of the year.



Fiona Driscoll, chief executive of the UK office until she was made

redundant last January, warns: ’Building a European network will be a

major task which can only be achieved if WPP gives adequate financial

backing.’



Ogilvy PR moved to unify its brand internationally in January by

abbreviating its name from Ogilvy Adams and Rinehart. The OA&R name was

used in the US and Europe, following the acquisition of financial agency

Adams and Rinehart in 1992, but was never applied to the agency’s Asian

network.



Now all offices go under the same name.



In growing the network, there are a number of options for Philpotts to

consider. Acquisition is a serious one, and he is gearing up to do some

heavy recruiting. And, confusingly, Ogilvy PR has a sister agency within

its WPP parent group, Ogilvy and Mather PR - a separately run offshoot

of the Ogilvy and Mather advertising agency. The Ogilvy and Mather PR

offices report to the O&M advertising managers in each country. The

network has offices in Spain, the Czech Republic, Russia and Austria,

which grew up in the local market places as the advertising agency

wanted to offer an integrated communications approach.



Neither Seltzer nor Philpotts are exactly clear how those resources can

be used to help the task they face. ’Ogilvy and Mather advertising has

offices where it doesn’t have a PR capacity and we will talk about how

we can work with them, even if it’s on an interim basis,’ says

Philpotts.



Ogilvy PR has set the precedent to follow that pattern, establishing

itself in Brussels from the O&M advertising springboard. Since Seltzer’s

arrival at Ogilvy last June, the agency has begun sharing resources and

information with the O&M PR offices.



Mike Walsh, chief executive of Ogilvy and Mather advertising, predicts

that new PR offices will be set up with equal reporting responsibility

to himself and Philpotts. ’As far as clients are concerned it’s a one

brand network,’ he says.



’We have to have a viable network of our own offices,’ says

Philpotts.



He is concerned that neither of the Ogilvy PR networks have established

themselves in France, Germany and Italy.



’The aim is to build our own capacity in those key markets, but continue

to service local clients and clients outside those markets by using

local agencies,’ explains Philpotts. However, he is also keen to build a

strong presence in London as ’it’s the market where the majority of

business is.’



Seltzer admits that there are some serious gaps in the European

offering.



’Health is a missing piece in Europe right now,’ he says. ’And the

marketing side - we haven’t being doing enough of that in London.’



He suggests that consumer marketing is an area that the Ogilvy and

Mather PR offices could be particularly useful in, because of their

strength in ’brand stewardship’.



Ogilvy PR also has a history of using local agencies, and acting as a

co-ordinator through its ’best practice’ system, which Seltzer describes

as the agency’s willingness to be flexible to the client’s needs.



’No agency is going to have expertise in every market - so you find who

is good and bring them to the table,’ he insists.



Seltzer cites the decision last year by database giant Oracle to appoint

the joint team of Ogilvy, Hill and Knowlton and US hi-tech specialist

Cunningham, as evidence of the agency’s flexibility.



Another example is Ogilvy’s relationship with IBM. It has been

co-ordinating a 20-strong roster of agencies for IBM in Europe, the

Middle East and Africa since 1995. While one industry source says the

IBM model is becoming a benchmark for the way big companies want to run

their PR, cynics say the best practice model is a way for agencies to

gloss over not having a network.



But it might be possible for Philpotts to learn from the experiences of

other large agencies. As he points out, he can build the agency to be

what Ogilvy wants it to be. ’We haven’t got to worry about

restructuring,’ says Philpotts - instead his job will be to build a

structure from scratch.



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