Ogilvy goes BIG with Bates

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Ogilvy & Mather recently named Richard Bates the new executive creative director for its Brand Integration Group (BIG) in New York. Formed in 1997, the branding and design firm has worked on major brand and identity programs for Hershey, Motorola, Coke and BP, among others. Bates, a former senior vice president of creative affairs at Atlantic Records, has been working on a consulting basis with BIG for the last year. He left Atlantic in 2004 to focus solely on his work with design shop Bates Hori until 2006. Bates replaces Brian Collins, who left in April and had been ECD since 1999.
We spoke to Bates about the new job and his vision for BIG.

Richard Bates
Richard Bates
What attracted you to join BIG full-time?
I'd been here for about a year consulting and it's an interesting place because what BIG does so well is the level of design, in terms of the creativity and how challenging it is. There are a few studios doing that kind of work in the city but what I think is amazing about BIG is because of the relationship with Ogilvy and the clients they get themselves, we're able to create a level of work that's at that top creative level and challenging to a point that is rarely seen with these Fortune 100 and 200 companies. I think the opportunity to do that level of work for such global, iconic brands is really rare. I think it's also rare for them. I don't know where else one can do that so that was definitely the draw. Fortunately for me and my interests, where BIG was going especially in the last year I've been here, it lined up really beautifully. I'm at a certain point in my career, and I think many of the creatives here are, too, where we've had a lot of great experiences and now what could be better than having a complete, full brand experience where you can impact every possible level of how you're communicating to the consumer? I can't really think of a better direction to be going in and am really pleased with the opportunity.

What do you see as the biggest challenge ahead for you and BIG, in general?
It's not a bad challenge but since I've taken on this position it's been amazing to me, everyday between meetings and phone calls and emails, the opportunities are endless between working with the agency and clients from the outside contacting us. I think it's very important that we continue at the level of work we've been doing and even to accelerate that. There's this balance of finding the right partners and choosing the right projects that, in the end, are going to be really fulfilling for us and the client. There's so many opportunities that in my new role I really have the responsibility of navigating that and figuring out how we do choose those, how we do find out which projects will be the most fulfilling for both parties involved.

You're taking over for Brian Collins, what do you see as his legacy at BIG?
Brian's a brilliant guy and I really enjoyed working with him. Here we have a huge team of very creative talents, from architects to industrial designers, graphic designers and strategists and I think Brian was really great at drawing talent. Over the last year he really empowered these groups to take these projects and run with them and do phenomenal work. We already had a great machine in motion and he was instrumental in bringing in that really great talent, which I'm grateful for and we'll work to continue that on.

What's your vision for where BIG will go?
I think it's happening organically. We focus on brand identity in the biggest sense. We're very much a design-driven company. The first project that was a bigger environmental retail, brand experience was the Hershey store, which was a big one from a while back. Since then more projects have been coming in where they're these full consumer brand experiences where you get to affect every sense of that person when they enter that space, which is really exciting. It gives us a lot of arenas to play in which is also a lot of fun. We just recently finished a gas station for BP out in Los Angeles, where we functioned as the creative directors, brand keepers, we brought in a team of architects and designers to create that and it's an amazing place. We've got brand experience projects ongoing all over the world right now and obviously that affords a designer to dabble in an amazing number of things to impact the consumer in every possible way. I think we're doing more and more of those organically and will probably continue to do so.

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