Distilling 6.5 Agencies: Ogilvy, BBDO, Profero, Dentsu, 180 LA, Leo Burnett/Atelier

We visited three agencies yesterday and sampled an additional three in a speed-dating segment, so I'm just going to highlight the key points of each presentation.



The new office at 636 Eleventh Ave. is under construction, much like the culture of the company, now led by Miles Young.


We were partnered with Ogilvy associates -- many of which were new themselves -- and guided through different parts of the agency. Young gave a speech, then groups of us took turns listening to a discourse on the Louis Vuitton brand via teleconference (made possible by client Cisco!), followed by a visit to one of Ogilvy's digital labs, where we received quick demos of augmented reality technology, mobile apps (like Nestlé's Devenir Maman and Kodak's Smilemaker) and advergaming.


After that we were ushered into a theatre for ad-viewing. You can tell at this point Ogilvy runs like a well-oiled machine. It's vaguely reminiscent of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, which isn't far from the truth: the new building apparently was a chocolate factory before it fell at the mercy of ad land.

Ogilvy's formula for clients: [Your Brand Here] believes the world would be a better place if...

Representatives hastened to add this magic algo doesn't work in all cases, but it speaks to the agencies belief that great companies are built on ideals, not just ideas. Examples:

Another important thought point: the Big Ideal™ that may be key to a long-lasting brand campaign lives at the intersection between cultural tension and a brand's best self.


CEO Andrew Robertson emphasized that people all over the world are defined by a series of rituals.
ritual - n. A transforming series of actions that help us pass from one state to another.

What differentiates rituals from habits? You can have good or bad habits, but by and large rituals tend to amp us up and make us feel better. They're also learned activities that slip, over time, into the subconscious.


79% of people in the world have a sequence they follow daily. 69% get upset if that sequence is disrupted. And 75% are irritated when the brands involved in their ritual -- their favourite shampoo or brand of toothpaste, for example -- aren't available.

This means if you can ease your brand into a person's ritual, you're likely to stay there.

One of the most important and universal rituals is morning preparation -- what BBDO's dubbed Preparing for Battle. Its characteristics:

  1. Cleansing

  2. Fueling (breakfast, tea/coffee)

  3. Putting on armor (many people prepare their clothing the night before)

  4. War paint (make up, grooming)

  5. Gathering intel (grabbing the paper for the train ride to work, etc.)

Getting to know your demo's rituals equips you to consider how best to wed your product to them. Preparing for Battle is a fortifying routine, intended to build confidence, but ultimately only against small wars in the immediate future. That's why it's easier to get people to buy mouthwash (which makes you feel immediately fresh) than to floss (which is supposed to protect your teeth over the long-term).

BBDO went over four other major rituals shared by people around the world. Scroll through the Adforum tweets for a summary of each.

Two more fun stats for the road: 56% of people check email before leaving home in the morning -- but only 50% talk to their partner!



Here's an interesting agency that hopes to make a mantra of not doing what others normally would. On Sunday night, it solicited the search consultants for a well-known product. The object was to take that product and develop a fresh campaign strategy for it during their presentation.

The product chosen was famous stationary brand. Research informed Profero that the brand biggest problem is its own success. Another useful fact: it's just had its 30th anniversary.

The company unveiled a wall slathered in ideas . .


Profero's French office was typically philosophical, when the UK suggested a more guerilla approach using fake and  surprising press release l. After 24 hours, the release would be revealed a hoax, and the client brand would remain safe and sound on shelves, hopefully more appreciated.

You get the idea. Profero's team hastened to add this is an example of how they draw from a wealth of ideas; it's not intended to yield a dream campaign for  their client. (We do think that all concept presented are really cool though.)

Speed dating:

180 LA


180 LA's a 3-year-old shop founded by Mike Allen, formerly of Chiat\Day, and William Gelner, formerly of BBH. There's a branch in Amsterdam with which they work closely on a number of projects, just to maintain the flow of creativity surrounding a given client's needs.

The guys kick off by giving us candy and assuring us they're nice. Then they demonstrate their strategy. What they do is divided into four quadrants: Advertising, Content, Design and Digital. Four examples of each quadrant include Boost Mobile's Un'WRONG'D campaign (Advertising), "Show the World What's Inside" for 7th Generation (Digital), the Go Lightly campaign for Sony's P-Series computer (Content) and the Sony HDNA logo (Design).

Some clients need a mélange of two or more. Adidas' The Ultimate Stage is a good example of integration of all four.

(At the end of this presentation, a search consultant from Spain observed that the work was good, and the presentation was good, but the founders seemed sad or depressed. I had to explain that aw-shucks, don't-look-at-me vibe that characterized indie protagonists and entrepreneurs from California. This made me feel extremely useful.)

Leo Burnett Worldwide and Atelier


Leo Burnett lent most of the stage to Atelier, a small agency subset that focuses on luxury brands. The CEO did, however, tell us that LB's created an Energy Pool in Chicago -- a kind of starter program where young talent works on generating ideas for open briefs. They hope to unroll one in all offices worldwide.

Three really good examples of recent Leo Burnett work include the "Hello" ad for Orange out of Nairobi, "Empanada" for Pepto Bismol and Museu Efemero -- an extremely cool effort whereby street art is documented in a city, and people can download facts about them onto their iPods and walk around and go look at the work -- as if they're in a muesum.

Clients for the Atelier component include the Boss fragrance for Hugo Boss, and Net-a-Porter.com. There isn't much that leaped out here; Atelier focuses on "style with substance" and has six major offices: London (which includes support from Berlin and Milan), Beirut, Tokyo, Hong Kong, New York and Buenos Aires.

Dentsu West

This super-conglomo of a shop is aspiring to become more than just a big Japanese agency: it wants to become a powerhouse of creativity.


CEO Tim Andree of Dentsu America demonstrated the seriousness of this endeavour by highlighting the purchases of independent shops ATTIK -- which has done some amazing work for Toyota's Scion -- and mcgarry bowen, whose clients instantly peppered Dentsu's mostly-Japanese roster with major American companies like Chevron, Kraft, Chase and Disney.

The cool thing: these shops will continue to operate like independent labels -- except they now have access to Dentsu's extensive resources, which they're encouraged to tap into as-needed without worrying about jeopardizing their creative independence. In this way, Dentsu hopes to make its mark as a nucleus fueling great ideas -- a model I'm personally excited to watch unfold.
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