Ogilvy & Mather wows Motorola and keeps the rest of the roster cruising

& Mather has texture and body, surprises and depth. And it gets better with age.

“Only first-class business in a first-class way,” says worldwide CEO Shelly Lazarus, recalling the words of agency founder David Ogilvy. Following that mantra, one of many at the agency, has brought simple, elegant and successful work for a myriad of top-tier clients, including American Express, Jaguar, IBM, Kraft, Unilever and Kodak. And the shop’s biggest win last year—Motorola’s $400 million global account—points to yet another Ogilvy trademark: teamwork.

Nearly a dozen executives from five offices joined the September pitch, including Lazarus, chief strategy officer Tony Wright and worldwide creative head Steve Hayden. Through a series of visuals, they showed every conceivable way the electronics company could connect with consumers—from TV spots and direct mail to cooperative marketing ventures and even a retail store, right down to the shopping bags and window displays. It was classic Ogilvy, what the agency would call “360-degree branding,” and helped the shop beat Leo Burnett and incumbent McCann-Erickson Worldwide.

The core belief in integration doesn’t just apply to client solutions. It is also reflected in staffers’ daily interaction. Without the walls or fiefdoms separating disciplines in the New York headquarters or at Ogilvy’s Chicago and Los Angeles offices, ideas and insights flow freely.

“You put people together and they work together. And I think that came to fruition in 2000,” says Bill Gray, 48, co-president in New York. “The wins, the camaraderie, the cross-office relationships and help that we got together to win businesses says, ‘All right. We did something right.’ ”

Ogilvy ended the year with 23 percent increases in both billings and revenue, to an estimated $3.8 billion and $383 million, respectively. Besides Motorola, the new clients included Goldman Sachs and Times Company Digital. Still, a healthy portion of the growth came from longtime clients, including Kraft (Balance Bar, Crystal Light) and Unilever (Mentadent)—a testament to the service the agency provides.

The agency underscored its commitment to planning by promoting Wright, 39, to oversee planners across North America. The Chicago office added Joe Sciarrotta, 38, as executive creative director and Jack Rooney, 43, as executive group director on BP Amoco. The agency also better exploited its alliance with the cadre of small shops known as the Syndicate, tapping Work in Richmond, Va., and others to develop punchy, 15-second spots for Miller Lite.

Beyond the wins and personnel moves, the 52-year-old agency continues to outshine most of its big-agency peers creatively, producing memorable work with a mixture of imagination and panache. “That’s what jazzes people up,” explains North American chief creative officer Rick Boyko. An e-business campaign for IBM used varied settings such as an Italian village, a recording studio and a supermarket of the future to tout service offerings. Small, homespun moments such as sleepy children scampering into a mother’s bed were the backbone of spots for Kodak. And in a magical tour de force for Amex, Tiger Woods turned Manhattan into a conquerable golf course.

It’s those simple ideas, beautifully executed—along with solid growth and strong management—that led to the selection of Ogilvy as Adweek’s U.S. Agency of the Year.

Another key to the shop’s success is stability at the top. Lazarus, 53, a 30-year veteran of the agency, assumed the top job in 1996. Tro Piliguian, 53, has held the North American CEO post for nearly four years. Boyko, 52, is beginning his fourth year as creative chief (and 12th at the agency overall). Even Carla Hendra, 43, has been president of OgilvyOne North America since 1998.

“It’s a value-based culture, so there are a set of values that everyone shares,” says Lazarus. “Then they stay and pass those beliefs on.”