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News Plus 27 Sep 2021 - 3 min read

Tech versus creative tension: Ogilvy's CEO Sally Kissane on CX, loyalty, data reinvention as big targets loom after WPP shake-up

By Josh McDonnell - Senior Writer

New CEO for Ogilvy Australia, Sally Kissane, is backing CX, loyalty and tech investments to drive double-digit growth targets for the creative agency's experience and innovation units over the next 2-3 years. She's working to deliver Global CEO and former Global Head of Deloitte Digital Andy Main's remoulding of the agency – but insists that creativity remains a powerful draw for marketers increasingly demanding tech fixes.

What you need to know:

  • Ogilvy Australia is chasing double digit growth in its experience and innovation units, as it aligns with global CEO Andy Main's big play.
  • Locally, the experience unit already accounts for a fifth of Ogilvy's 550 staff headcount.
  • New local CEO Sally Kissane said its CX, tech and digital investments are already paying off and are the fastest growing source of new revenue.
  • However, she said the business remains a "creative powerhouse" – and is confident the new Ogilvy can blend both tech and creative disciplines.

We've heard that 30 per cent figure thrown around and I'm not sure if Ogilvy will hit that, we're somewhere a bit below. However, it's still the leading source of new revenue for the business.

Sally Kissane, CEO, Ogilvy Australia

Velocity versus acceleration

Six months into her role as the new boss for Ogilvy Australia, Sally Kissane is working to re-engineer the business as an experience and digitally-led agency, the plan drawn up by Global CEO and former Global Head of Deloitte Digital, Andy Main.

Executing has required some changes. Earlier this year, Ogilvy merged brand strategy and creative with opr’s PR and Communications alongside Ogilvy Health, creating the Ogilvy Australia Network. The company said it made those decisions without involving WPP.

Speaking to Mi3, Kissane said CX, tech and digital solutions were key drivers of new revenue streams for the business, with the experience business making up for a fifth of the network's 550 headcount.

But while Australian execs have indicated up to 30 per cent of the company's revenue will be derived from tech and digital capabilities over the next 2-3 years, Kissane is more conservative.

"We've heard that 30 per cent figure thrown around. I'm not sure if Ogilvy will hit that, we're somewhere a bit below. However, it's still the leading source of new revenue for the business," Kissane said. But she insisted Ogilvy's overhaul has not come at the expense of its heritage.

"This also isn't about one or the other, experience becoming bigger than content, it's about using tech and digital capabilities to turbocharge the proposition that Ogilvy has as a creative powerhouse across all of our business units.

"It's a perfect storm and the culmination of changes from a global and local perspective that will see Ogilvy become a more streamlined and advanced business."

Kissane said one of the key areas of success within the experience business unit has been the re-emergence of interest from clients in rewards and loyalty schemes.

She said multiple "traditional clients" are upping their investment in data-led marketing solutions, including CRM, analytics and app development projects.

That growth has led to the recent hire of Mark Albert, former head of data consult at Virgin's Velocity business, as Chief Data and Analytics Officer.

It's a very differentiated proposition – all of the large agencies are somewhat generalist in their core offering, and their specialist offerings tend to be add on business units.

Sally Kissane, CEO, Ogilvy Australia

Growth through integration

The restructure required some changes, but Kissane said the majority of the affected roles were within admin, finance and back-end areas of the business.

Kissane said the focus of the decision wasn't to create efficiencies but open "borderless" talent and capability sharing across each business, with the intention of providing "single source solutions" for clients.

"We want to be in a place where clients are having discussions with us around growth strategies, and we're working out how best to deliver on a growth strategy versus an advertising campaign, website development or digital solution," Kissane said.

"It's a very differentiated proposition – all of the large [creative] agencies are somewhat generalist in their core offering, and their specialist offerings tend to be add on business units," she suggested.

"They might have a digital offering or a social offering but they're not all fully integrated into a core and I think that's a position that we have that is quite unique in this model."

Kissane admitted there may be a lag in clients fully adopting the new model, with work still split across specialist agencies outside of the business, especially in the digital and CX space. 

She said there would also be a process of synchronising with brands' procurement cycles to ensure Ogilvy is wooing marketers with the right service at the right time, especially as the network continues to expand its remit across social and performance media buying.

Falling under the experience unit, the media buying aspect is also implemented at scale through dedicated off-shore service hubs for the ANZ region, located in South Africa and Bali.

But she reiterated that all of the new capability serves to underline, rather than replace, Ogilvy's traditional business.

"There is going to be a different starting point for every conversation, but ultimately we want to be going into client conversations having solutions for every element of their business," Kissane said.

"It's always going to be creative upfront but backed by capabilities that can really drive that across every touchpoint."

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