Cannes Lions: Want India to have a bigger influence on the company: John Seifert, Ogilvy

John Seifert, Worldwide CEO, Ogilvy, tells us why he picked Piyush Pandey for the global role, the progress on his ‘Next Chapter’ initiative and the global launch of the latest version of Ogilvy OS 

e4m by Srabana Lahiri
Published: Jun 21, 2019 9:13 AM  | 5 min read

John Seifert, Worldwide CEO, Ogilvy, was at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. We spoke to him about why he picked Piyush Pandey for the global role, the progress on his ‘Next Chapter’ initiative and the global launch of the latest version of Ogilvy OS.


Unilever CEO Alan Jope has just stated at Cannes that he is going to forge relationships with holding companies rather than the individual agency brands under them – what would be your take on it?

I think they are trying to simplify how they bring together the capabilities of holding companies so that those are more integrated and more focused on Unilever’s needs. I don’t believe it’s ‘We don’t care about the agency brands’ – they are just looking for more leadership and coordination at the holding company level to bring together the people, the skills and tools that exist across brands in those holding companies. It’s not an issue at all from our perspective. It’s something that we see happening more and more where the holding company is the source of integration to make the clients’ requests easier to navigate for them. 


You now have a global creative chief based in India. How does that work for Ogilvy and what has been your experience so far?
It works just fine for Ogilvy because in Piyush Pandey we have someone so inspiring – he doesn’t need to be in New York or Chicago or Buenos Aires for people to feel his presence. He is very accessible, so if you text, email or call Piyush (better call him!) he is always willing to help and give his advice which is incredibly useful to many of us. The reason I picked Piyush is that India is one of the most important markets in the Ogilvy worldwide network. I wanted India to have a bigger influence on the whole company. Having Piyush in that role, for the last six months… he has already provided that kind of help across the world. We met recently in California for four days – we had got our top 60 leadership team from across the world. Piyush was one of the keynote speakers and was incredible. I couldn’t be more fortunate than to have a worldwide creative partner in Piyush. 



Which are the markets that are top performers for Ogilvy and which look promising right now? 
The markets that we would like to win in and grow faster in would be India, China, the UK, Brazil, the US… these are our beacon markets… as these are big, important markets for our clients. We have strong businesses in all those markets and they are a strong example to the rest of the network on how to execute our strategy. 


You head the Creative Effectiveness Jury this year. What stands out among the work you have seen in this category?
We saw some amazing work – we had about 225 submissions and an initial shortlist of 95 which we brought down to 23 really terrific entries. Out of the 23, we awarded a Grand Prix, three Golds, two Silver and five Bronze metals. All of them were truly deserving – creativity that worked. Our job was not to evaluate creativity in isolation - all of these cases had won creative awards previously – our job was to say the creative had a material impact on the effectiveness of the client’s programme in terms of results in the marketplace. We had to prove through our analysis of each of these business cases that the creative work had a material impact that we can see measured in a way that we believe in the marketplace. 


You had introduced Ogilvy’s Next Chapter a couple of years ago. How has it progressed?
It has done incredibly well. We are about to release globally the latest version of Ogilvy OS, our operating system, which has been in design, build and testing for the last two-and-a-half years. It is now out of pilot and we are scaling it globally and that’s going to make a major impact in terms of the way in which we engage clients around our products and services. We are starting to see all of our markets come together now as one Ogilvy, not a bunch of separate Ogilvys, and working in much more integrated ways based on what clients have asked us for. Finally, I would say that we are raising the standards by which we want our work to perform, and we are more focused than ever on the results of our work, not just the quality alone. I am really excited about our progress – we still have plenty of things to do, but it feels like one company moving in the same direction, committed to a common purpose of making brands matter with the benefit now of an operating system that helps unify us in terms of how we work together.  

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