“Ogilvy is a name synonymous with creative and strategic excellence and I am honored to become the company’s next CEO,” Main said in a statement. “We have a great opportunity to help clients deliver sustainable growth by using Ogilvy’s creative genius to transform not only brands but entire businesses.”
He added, “We must also be a company with a clear culture of belonging where talented people from under-represented groups are championed and supported throughout their careers, and given the chance to reach the very highest levels of the organization.”
Ogilvy committed last week to take the 12 actions toward achieving true equity for people of color—detailed in a letter to U.S. agencies by Nathan Young, a group strategy director at Minneapolis agency Periscope, and Bennett D. Bennett, who runs independent consultancy Aerialist. Among the actions Ogilvy said it will take are “providing more transparency into our workforce diversity” and goals for improving equal representation of people of color “at all levels.” Ogilvy said initial information will be released before July 31 and The Ogilvy Advisory Council “will maintain ongoing access to data and a formal progress report will be issued company-wide in June 2021.”
Ogilvy's stance came after WPP became the first holding company to announce a commitment to taking “decisive action on each of the 12 points in the 'Call for Change'” open letter. WPP also announced an investment of $30 million over the next three years to fund inclusion programs within the holding company and support external organizations fighting racism.
“Ogilvy will play its full part in implementing WPP’s clear and unequivocal commitment to anti-racism—with the recognition that we will be judged not by our words, but our actions,” Main said. “I look forward to working with the fantastic people at Ogilvy and the wider WPP team.”
Read praised Main in a statement on his appointment as “one of our industry’s most admired leaders.”
“He has demonstrated the effectiveness of blending creative, technology, and consulting services,” Read said. “His belief in the power of creativity to transform businesses and the importance of people and culture in organizations aligns closely with our vision for WPP and our agencies.”
Read also thanked Seifert for his “tremendous leadership.”
“I am so grateful to have spent the past 41 years with Ogilvy,” Seifert said in a statement. “I have been supported by so many generous colleagues and clients. It’s been a wonderful life. Andy’s personal and professional experiences could not be more relevant for the ongoing transformation of Ogilvy and WPP at a moment of extraordinary change and opportunity in our industry. My partners and I are very excited to have someone of Andy’s character and accomplishments join Ogilvy and lead our global creative network into the future.”
Greg Paull, R3 co-founder and principal, said Main's appointment is a "positive sign that Ogilvy and WPP are thinking digital first."
"Andy has built a strong operation and brought in some outstanding talent from Heat and other areas,” Paull told Ad Age. “If you can’t beat them, hire them. This might be the first of future consultants crossing the pond back to the agency side.”
Seifert first joined Ogilvy as an intern in 1979. He took over as worldwide CEO and chairman of Ogilvy, succeeding Miles Young, in 2016. When he took on the CEO role, Seifert inherited a host of legacy issues at Ogilvy similar to those that have plagued most traditional creative agencies in recent years. In 2018, Seifert led a rebrand of the agency, changing its name from Ogilvy & Mather to just Ogilvy. A year earlier, Seifert appointed a new global leadership team that included naming New York CEO Lou Aversano to CEO of the U.S.
In January of this year, Seifert announced in an internal memo obtained by Ad Age that Ogilvy would be undergoing another large-scale restructuring that would place more responsibility with regional leaders. As part of that effort, Ogilvy parted ways with U.S. Chief Creative Officer Leslie Sims. At that time, the agency laid off 80 employees across nine offices due to “a challenging second half in 2019 and a cautious financial outlook for full-year 2020,” Seifert said in the memo.
On an episode of Ad Age Ad Lib that same month, Read acknowledged the pressures unique to the holding company, as well as those affecting the larger industry. “If I have one frustration, it’s still somehow that we’re seen as an old-fashioned advertising agency that’s being disrupted by Google and Facebook,” he said.
Read said 2020 would see WPP focusing on returning to growth in North America—surely a goal that has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic—and on championing a new creative strategy to sustain the company for the future. He noted that creativity, across its various brands, has not been WPP's strong suit.
In July of 2019, Seifert came under fire, including from the agency's employees, over Ogilvy's work with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. According to recordings of a July 9 meeting with employees leaked to Buzzfeed, Seifert defended the work after employees complained that children had died in CPB custody. Buzzfeed reported that Seifert said the government contract is a “prestigious piece of business” and that the CBP “itself is not a bad organization.”