World Creative Rankings Agencies Agency Leadership

‘Divine discontent’: how Ogilvy connects creativity to commercial growth


By Sam Bradley, Journalist

February 29, 2024 | 7 min read

Ogilvy UK was one of the standout agencies in this year’s World Creative Rankings. The leaders behind the business tell us how they’re connecting creative quality to commercial results.

A still from Dove and Ogilvy's 'Cost of Beauty' campaign showing a closeup image of a blonde woman's face

A still from Dove and Ogilvy's 'Cost of Beauty' campaign / Ogilvy

In a tough year for agency businesses, and creative agencies in particular, Ogilvy has had a satisfying 12 months. It’s picked up new clients in the form of SC Johnson and Mondelez and made a decent claim to ‘win’ the advertising sphere of the Super Bowl with its Verizon work, which starred Beyonce and Tony Hale.

Its UK business has outperformed peers and the UK economy at large. And in our World Creative Rankings, released this week, it’s ranked as the best agency in the UK and Ireland, and second for the whole of Europe, the Middle East and Africa; other agencies from the Ogilvy stable in Thailand, Mumbai, New York and Germany also ranked highly.

“All the best creatives I’ve worked with have an affliction I like to call ‘the itch’ - an unshakeable, all-consuming drive to always be doing the absolute best work they can and one which can never be satisfied, no matter what they produce,” says Dan Fisher, Ogilvy’s global executive creative director, who leads the agency’s work on key client Dove.

Given the scale of industry layoffs throughout the last year, it’s not been the cheeriest 12 months to work in advertising. But the agency’s current client roster – including Dove and Hellman’s, alongside the others mentioned above – helps motivate the agency’s creatives to push on, he says.

“David Ogilvy called it ‘Divine Discontent’, which is an infinitely more eloquent way of describing it. Anyway, when you surround yourselves with creatives who have it, it’s not motivating them that’s the challenge but keeping them interested. Thankfully, brands like Hellmann’s and Dove have a healthy appetite for the kind of highly creative, disruptive work that motivates this kind of talent.”

Dede Laurentino, chief creative officer at Ogilvy UK, adds: “Great creative work, of any kind, makes us restless. As creative people, we get inspired and excited when we see it. So we must surround ourselves with it, and bring that wonderful energy into our own work. Creativity yields creativity.”

Still, the case for creativity is one that agencies have to make again and again to clients, especially when marketers are considering how to find growth with smaller budgets. For Laurentino, the work itself makes that argument. “Surprising work works harder. That’s the point. Simple as that,” she says.

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“Ogilvy has been working with Dove for over 65 years,” adds Fisher. “We’ve helped grow them from a soap brand to a multi-billion-dollar beauty brand that plays a defining role in culture and we’ve done it by building a legacy of highly creative, award-winning campaigns. Which I guess is just a roundabout way of saying, it’s our work that does the talking, not us.”

Surprising creative aside, UK chief exec Fiona Gordon says its approach to new business has rested in part, on emphasizing the agency’s expertise in behavioral science.

“We’ve really tried to step back and think how we best solve the client’s problem to create impact at scale for their business. Magic happens when we bring our diverse thinkers and experts together to solve a juicy challenge,” she explains. “Often our way in is through behavioral science – tapping into what people actually do, versus what they say – as it unlocks both creative and business opportunity insights.”

Looking ahead to the rest of 2024, she says that expertise is now at the “heart” of Ogilvy UK’s offer to new clients. “Our focus for 2024 will be to continue creating impact for our clients and our colleagues through iconic, culture-changing ideas. Ideas that move people, and move the dial. Putting Behavioural Science at the heart of what we do, married with world-class talent in advertising, customer experience marketing, tech, data, PR, influence, social and consulting to drive both creativity and effectiveness across modern ecosystems.

“Whether it is growing UK or global businesses, or growing populist or niche brands, everything we do is designed to have an impact at scale,” she says.

Despite the tough trading of 2023, she predicts this year will provide more opportunity for agency businesses. “This year will undoubtedly present economic and geopolitical challenges. But there is also palpable optimism and real moments for people to come together in 2024,” says Gordon.

“Summer will be a time of celebration, with some stand-out opportunities for brands to be really relevant, with the Olympics, Paralympics and the Euros (among many others). We can’t wait to be part of it.”

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