Ogilvy SA’s Pete Case is the 2023 AdFocus Industry Leader of the Year
When the agency was losing its spark he was approached by the board to come back as CEO
Pete Case, CEO and creative chair of Ogilvy SA is this year’s recipient of the AdFocus Industry Leader of the Year Award. One of the industry’s most awarded leaders, and previously ranked in the top 10 best performing chief creative officers globally by Warc, Case was also voted one of the two most admired agency leaders for 2022 in the annual MarkLives poll.
The AdFocus judges said Ogilvy SA’s return to its former heydays is largely attributable to Case, adding that it was a masterstroke on the part of Ogilvy’s board to get him back to the agency as CEO. His determination to return Ogilvy to the A league, they said, speaks volumes about his determination and talent.
A leader with an unusual blend of both creative and business skills, Case never intended to conquer the ad industry. Severely dyslexic, he decided to embrace dyslexia as a superpower rather than a hinderance and went on attain an honours degree in graphic design. He taught himself how to code and developed a skill for film, typography and motion graphics.
He started his own company at the age of 22 and soon found work directing and producing music videos, short films, commercials and motion graphics, quickly developing a good reputation in a competitive market and even winning two prestigious Emmy awards for his design and directing work.
After falling in love with a South African, he followed her back to South Africa from the UK, fully expecting to carry on with his blossoming directing career. What he had not factored into his move was that his burgeoning reputation in the UK as an up-and-coming film director meant nothing in South Africa. He therefore pivoted into a different industry, establishing a digital design business in 1999 that was, in hindsight, way before its time for the local market.
Far from seeing AI as a threat, he says its potential needs to be embraced
A meeting with Network BBDO founder Mike Schalit led to a joint venture with Network to establish a new digital agency called Gloo. The business grew from seven people to more than 140 and, to all intents and purposes, pioneered the digital agency category in South Africa. For seven consecutive years Gloo was named AdFocus’s Digital Agency of the Year.
Case attributes much of Gloo’s success to the people he employed. Some of his proudest moments to this day, he reveals, are when he meets up with people who used to work for him and learns that they have gone on to do even more impressive things with their careers.
In 2014, Case merged Gloo with Ogilvy, assuming the position of chief creative officer, helping the agency to evolve its creative product to meet the needs of more digitally enabled consumers.
He led the agency through one of its brightest periods, during which time Ogilvy SA won four Grands Prix at Cannes, five Grands Prix at Loeries and some of the highest awards for creativity and effectiveness around the globe. Ogilvy SA frequently topped the local creative rankings and was voted the most integrated agency by its peers for five consecutive years.
Case left the agency at the end of 2019, intending to take a break from the industry. Choosing to work with a few start-ups, Case was then invited to take on a temporary creative role for the global Ogilvy network to assist with implementing its latest strategy across various offices. A fully remote position, the mix suited him perfectly.
While Case was thriving, Ogilvy SA was losing its spark and its way. Case was subsequently approached by Ogilvy’s board to come back as CEO and reset the tone, culture and course of the agency. He returned to Ogilvy SA as CEO and creative chair in early 2022 with a goal to attract, grow and nurture talent and unlock value.
The results of some of Case’s initiatives and energy have been apparent. Ogilvy SA won the agency of the year award at the 2023 Loeries Awards, as well as two Grands Prix and four golds. It was also the most awarded agency at Cannes for creativity for the second year in a row and the most awarded South African agency at The One Show, where it won 16 awards. It has been just as successful when it comes effectiveness awards, winning the Grand Effie, three golds and four silvers at the 2023 Effie Awards across four of its biggest clients: KFC, Volkswagen, Mondelēz and Carling Black Label.
“Winning awards for both creativity and effectiveness is central to our ambition — creating big impact for big brands,” says Case.
Case is determined to position the agency for even more success. Far from seeing AI as a threat, he says its potential needs to be embraced. Ogilvy is putting every employee through AI training to ensure that the entire team understands how to use it as a tool to create greater efficiencies and opportunities.
“This is a hugely fascinating time to be part of the advertising industry, and increasingly technology will be part of the creative process to create maximum impact for our clients.”
The big take-out: “Winning awards for both creativity and effectiveness is central to our ambition — creating big impact for big brands.” — Pete Case, CEO Ogilvy SA
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