Q&A: Ogilvy's Miles Young


What are John's priorities coming into this job?

The thing about Ogilvy is that the assets -- hard and soft in North America -- are actually very good, in my view. What John needs to do is to activate those assets. It's as simple as that. It's not even a question of rebuilding something that's not working. . . . Its pitching record is very good. Its ability to keep the business it won after the pitch is not very good, but that was [due to] bad luck in two cases. If those cases hadn't worked out that way, the story would be very different.

You're talking about Wachovia?

Wachovia. Then there was another one, another big one at the beginning of the year. So we have to be a bit watchful before we jump to judgments. There's an awful lot that's good here and [we're] unprecedented in our talent, in my view, particularly in the sweet spots of the business. Particularly in those parts of the business that I believe are important, which are the added-value consulting parts. So it all exists. But what we need is someone to put it together rather more and to take it to market, package it and sell it on a North American basis. That's my brief to him, really.

Did you look outside for this role and why did you choose to stay inside?

I couldn't see anyone better, actually. It's as simple as that. So it wasn't too difficult a choice. I looked at the obvious suspects in North America and my feeling was that John was actually [significantly] above them in terms of his expertise. Remember, this is a pretty humongous job. It's running a large matrix and you couldn't simply pluck someone from, for instance, a classic advertising agency to do this role. Nor could you simply pluck somebody from a pure-play new communications agency. You have to have people who really understand the integrated paradigm and how it works. So in both capability and attitude, I thought John was really above anyone else. Then the final thing I mentioned to you is that he wanted to do the job. That for me is a very large part of what makes a successful candidate.

Are you surprised that he hasn't been in this kind of role sooner?

He has had country management roles before. In Asia, he ran Singapore.

He has been at Ogilvy 30 years, has got a host of experience and yet, until now, in this market, hasn't had a top management role. Isn't that curious?

You have to understand that he and I get along well together. So that's also an aspect of the mix, isn't it? And [with me] coming [to New York], I think it suits both of us that we would team up very well. That's probably the answer to your question.

Is Carla's primary function to focus on New York?

We want her to focus on New York but also some of the other businesses that exist in North America that she's closely connected with. She'll keep a role with them.

Which clients do you envision Bill staying close to?

Morgan Stanley, Time Warner Cable, United Healthcare, Kodak and a few others.

Your announcement mentioned Bill handling network initiatives as well.

These are some projects I have, which I can't talk to you about at the moment.

Are they of the acquisition variety?

Yes, loosely. But for me, they're very significant.