Fiona Gordon joined Ogilvy as a graduate trainee in 1992. In what she describes as a career path drawn in “squiggles, not straight lines,” she worked across the global powerhouse, doing stints in the UK, the U.S. and Asia, where she served as group chair of Ogilvy Singapore. Along the way, she’s been obsessed with building business; for instance, she grew the London-based WPP Walgreens Boots Alliance team from five to 130 people, assembling an award-winning cross-WPP group that led to the retention and expansion of the account during a recent global review.
In May, she was elevated to CEO of Ogilvy UK from chief client officer for EMEA. “It’s been great to be part of shaping our new narrative,” she says of her previous role, “and learning from other offices’ CEOs across the network. Ogilvy is an active learning network, so I feel really lucky to have great tips from top talent as I start as UK CEO.”
What advice would you give your younger self?
Life and careers go in squiggles, not straight lines. So enjoy the squiggles and learn from them; they will serve you well later.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
Moving to New York at 29 on my own to work at Ogilvy New York. It was only when I got there that I thought, “Oh, I came on a one-way ticket, so I had better make this work.” I think it gave me the self-belief to make things happen. I arrived on July 4th and went to the Empire State Building and looked out at Manhattan and thought, “OK, let’s do this, New York.”
If you weren’t doing your current job, what would you be doing and why?
I have a fantasy of being a movie producer, as I love the creative process, love realizing a vision and love being surrounded by talented “ideas people.” And I quite fancy the idea of a house in the Hollywood Hills, too!
What should the industry do to encourage more women and people of color into its ranks?
We need to look in different places than we have done historically. Our apprenticeship program, The Pipe, has made a big difference to our talent mix at Ogilvy, really committing to investing in young, diverse talent from all backgrounds. Having launched initially in 2016, last year saw 14 new apprentices join our ranks across both creative and strategy.
Which campaign or other piece of work have you seen in the last year that you wish you had done?
OK, so it is an Ogilvy piece of work, but I can’t lay claim to any involvement personally. Our recent work for Relate busted the taboo around older people and intimacy, featuring real couples all in their sixties, seventies and eighties—a very rare sight in advertising today. The campaign ran in the UK only, but reached audiences globally in record time. A truly brilliant example of work that sparks conversation.