John Seifert. Picture: SUPPLIED
John Seifert. Picture: SUPPLIED

Enormous growth challenges face advertising agencies and the bottom line is adapt or die in this rapidly changing environment.

So says John Seifert, global CEO of Ogilvy, based in New York.

Seifert spoke to the FM while on a visit to SA, saying agencies need to change because the nature of the work has changed, offering new and exciting ways of operating.

While advertising agencies are facing growth challenges, so too are clients, who have less to spend and want every dollar to count, he says.

"Consumers are also now in the driving seat with all their devices, and agencies have to be up to this challenge. It didn’t happen overnight, but the emphasis now is keeping up with the changes with cutting-edge tools."

Speaking of then and now, Seifert says he has spent 40 years at Ogilvy and learnt from David Ogilvy, who founded the company in 1948.

"In the beginning there was just David, while there is now a global Ogilvy presence in 83 countries with 132 offices.

"David Ogilvy said change or die and he always looked around the corner, being prepared to change. I get up every day and think about how we [the company] can be more relevant in the future."

Seifert expands on the company’s mantra of "We are one doorway to a creative network, re-founded to make brands matter in a complex, noisy, hyper-connected world".

Gone are the days of marketing with traditional advertising, as modern-day consumers want an experience.

"Brand-building on television is alive and well, but the sensory experience that consumers crave that includes sound, music, and visual impact has become a lot more complicated," he says.

Two years ago Ogilvy embarked on an operation strategy called "brand world", which entails looking at the brand and how it operates on all levels over time, and helping clients see this.

Various capabilities of the agency — including customer engagement and commerce, public relations and influence, digital transformation and advertising — are then used to market and advertise the brand.

Speaking of advertising in SA, India and Brazil, he says these are "beacon markets", blazing the way contemporary advertising should be headed.

"Why? Because these countries have their finger on the pulse of change and a deep connection to the market and know how to bring advertising alive."

So what should advertising agencies be delivering if they are up to speed? "A holistic look at the client over time and how to help them see their brand worth right this second, combined with offering them the right tools to market their business on all possible platforms is how it should be done."

Seifert says a diversity of skills in an agency is now mandatory — and these various facets need to work together in an integrated way. "David Ogilvy is considered by a lot of people as the champion of advertising and this is because he would literally learn everything about a company and the product and what made it special. David was never one to see advertising through one lens," he says, attributing this approach to Ogilvy being a world leader with an "amazing portfolio of clients and successes".