Young's Big Challenge at Ogilvy: Following Legend Lazarus

Asia Pacific Chairman Will Need to Fix North American Region

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NEW YORK ( -- When Shelly Lazarus circulated a memo to staff last week revealing her successor -- subject line "The Next Chapter" -- more than a few heads were scratched over the news that Ogilvy & Mather's future will be written by a Brit who has lived in Asia for years and is little known in North America.
Shelly Lazarus
Shelly Lazarus Credit: Sebastian Mlynarski

The appointment of Miles Young to replace the legendary Ms. Lazarus was more evidence that the future growth of the ad world is all about emerging markets such as Asia -- a huge priority for Martin Sorrell, chief executive of Ogilvy parent WPP Group. And it was also notable for the people who didn't get the post -- namely, Carla Hendra and Bill Gray, who run Ogilvy's North American operations, and OgilvyOne CEO Brian Fetherstonhaugh, long thought to be the odds-on choice for the job.

"Everyone thought that Brian was being groomed for it," said an executive familiar with the matter. "In the end, Miles is a better person for the job," given that he has been overseeing the best-performing region. "He's been on their worldwide board, so he's had exposure to the needs and problems of the network everywhere, not just Asia."

To be sure, Mr. Young, who serves as chairman of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide Asia Pacific, has for some time been rumored a potential ruler of the red carpets at the WPP Group network. In just five years, Mr. Young doubled the Asia-Pacific business to $500 million in revenue.

But succeeding Ms. Lazarus as CEO effective Jan. 1, 2009, will mean relocating from his longtime home of Hong Kong to the agency's Big Apple headquarters by year-end -- a move many didn't think he'd agree to.

New-business slump
One of Mr. Young's top priorities will have to be to fix the North American region, where Ogilvy is often regarded as something of a sleeping giant. The agency boasts blue-chip clients such as American Express and IBM, as well as strong customer-relationship-management and digital operations, but it's been in a new-business slump for a few years and started 2008 with a round of layoffs. Ms. Lazarus often has been criticized for not doing enough to kick-start the region. (Ogilvy and WPP declined to make any executives available.)

Mr. Young, 53, started out not in advertising but in U.K. politics. After entering the ad world via stints at a number of London shops, including Lintas and Allen Brady & Marsh, Mr. Young joined Ogilvy in 1983. Much like Ms. Lazarus, he earned his chops on the direct side of the business, having run Ogilvy & Mather Direct, London, and later taking on regional responsibilities for direct operations across Europe.

The turning point in his career was establishing the European hub for IBM when Ogilvy won the global account in 1994; it was thereafter that agency management asked him to run Ogilvy in Asia.
Miles Young, chairman of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide Asia Pacific
Miles Young, chairman of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide Asia Pacific

Mr. Young is known for his Chinese-art collection and properties that include a home on Hong Kong's prestigious Peak district. He's involved with Tsinghua University, this year taking students on a weeklong train journey from Beijing to Russia to discuss environmental issues.

His departure from the region is prompting a shakeup of Ogilvy's Asian operations. Tim Issac, who has been with the agency since 1995 and heads the agency's Association of Southeast Asian Nations region, as well as OgilvyAction, will succeed Mr. Young as chairman. Paul Heath, who leads the agency's ad network, will become CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Asia Pacific.

Ms. Lazarus, 60, who has been CEO of Ogilvy since 1996, won't be an easy act to follow. After all, how many other ad-network honchos can boast a dedicated Facebook group like hers, "Shelly Lazarus is my Idol"? Ms. Lazarus has long been regarded one of the most powerful women in business, let alone on Madison Avenue. A mother of three and wife of a New York pediatrician, she has served as an American Association of Advertising Agencies chairman and on the corporate boards of GE and Merck. In fact, many industry executives regard Ms. Lazarus as peerless in the agency game, with perhaps only Andrew Robertson, CEO of Omnicom Group's BBDO, seen as having anything approaching her stature beyond the agency world.

For now, she will retain her chairman title, and dropping the CEO title isn't likely to render her a mere figurehead. She is expected to maintain relationships with clients she's known to be close to, such as American Express and IBM.

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Contributing: Normandy Madden
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