Ogilvy Hires Digital Chief

NEW YORK Ogilvy North America has gone outside the agency world to name a chief digital officer, tasked with speeding the WPP shop’s adaptation to the technology-driven changes that permeate the global media landscape.

In his newly created role, Jean-Philippe Maheu will work with clients on their digital strategies while further developing Ogilvy’s internal capabilities.

This marks the first time Maheu, 43, has worked for an ad agency. He spent six years at Razorfish during the Web shop’s dot-com rise and fall, ending in 2003 after two years as CEO. Since then, he has worked as a professor at Columbia University’s business school and served a short stint as CEO of Direct Revenue, a New York-based adware company. Earlier in his career, Maheu was a management consultant at AT Kearney.

His arrival comes as agencies enlist high-level executives to guide their digital development, both in terms of overall approach and the services they offer to clients. Goodby, Silverstein & Partners recently hired a Tribal DDB executive, Mike Parker, to serve as director of digital strategy. Wieden + Kennedy last year tapped Renny Gleason as director of digital strategies.

Ogilvy, however, already has several interactive assets, including OgilvyInteractive and neo@Ogilvy. In 2004, it set up a digital innovations group.

“It’s not like Ogilvy has no digital know-how,” Maheu said. “Ogilvy has a superb set of assets. It’s a matter of Ogilvy wanting to accelerate that leadership.”

Maheu reports to Carla Hendra and Bill Gray, co-CEOs of the agency’s North American operations, and he will work closely with Jan Leth, co-CCO, who also leads Ogilvy’s interactive creative offering.

His time at Razorfish, now part of aQuantive as Avenue A/Razorfish, taught him the value of being able to leverage technology to provide value to clients, Maheu said.

“We need to have people who understand technology and who develop technology strategy for clients,” he said. “I’m not saying we need to have an army of programmers.”

While much of his role will be “change management,” Maheu learned important lessons from the dot-com days, when many Web shops pushed clients too far and ended up not delivering.

“Coming up with great ideas that can’t be implemented now doesn’t really help our clients,” Maheu said. “We have to be smart about innovations and when is the right time for clients to adopt new ways.”