Last week, WPP’s Ogilvy & Mather announced major changes to its American leadership structure as the latest developments in an ongoing shift that global CEO John Seifert calls “Next Chapter.” According to agency executives, the primary goal of this effort is to streamline Ogilvy’s operations in the U.S., thereby creating a faster and more agile network better equipped to serve clients’ needs.
U.S. CEO Lou Aversano shared the news publicly on Thursday in a town hall-style meeting streamed to employees at all of the network’s American offices.
“We are continuing to evolve our working structure and have expanded our leadership team in the pursuit of producing the best work for our clients,” said Aversano in a statement to Adweek. The most significant change is the establishment of a “USA Capabilities” team overseen by U.S. chief strategy officer Steve Zaroff, who left McCann to join the Ogilvy network last year.
The respective leaders of that team will be:
- Group strategy lead Shari Reichenberg on customer and channel engagement
- Group managing director Stephanie Ricke on data insights and performance analytics
- Svp, executive strategy director Cheryl Ader-Dunne managing employee experience
- Head of digital Rob Davis on digital experience and innovation
- Ogilvy PR group managing director Michele Anderson as PR and influence lead
- Social Lab Group head of U.S. operations Benjamin Snyers as head of social campaigns
- Co-chief creative officers Joe Sciarrotta and Alfonso Marian—along with the executive creative directors who work under them—as heads of “Fame Making.”
Ogilvy also “scaled down” its existing group structure in the interest of establishing a “smaller central leadership team.” The groups were first announced in early 2017, when Seifert named nine executives to help lead client management, talent, new business and finance efforts in the U.S.
Those nine groups have been reduced to seven, with an executive leadership team that once consisted of more than 25 individuals pared down to eight: Cathy Francque and Michele Anderson in Chicago; Nelly Anderson and Sandeep Vasudevan in New York; Kathy Baird in Washington, D.C.; Dan La Russo at Ogilvy West; Kate Cronin on Health and Wellness; and Todd Krugman overseeing the IBM team in Manhattan.
The only significant hire mentioned in the announcement is that of Publicis veteran Vincent Geraghty, who is now executive director of integrated production based in the agency’s Chicago office.
Ogilvy U.S.A. served as a proving ground for the larger Next Chapter program, and the changes noted above came about after a period of experimentation with these new models. The agency has also gone through a round of layoffs in recent weeks as part of this shift; a spokesperson said that less than 2 percent of total U.S. employees were affected but declined to elaborate.
“I think we’ve done a very good job in Q1 of reducing our operational fat … but cost-cutting alone is not enough,” Aversano told Adweek. “When going through a transformation of this size, a lot of the change is structural, but much of it is also behavioral: it’s about how we work.”
The CEO said much of the adjustment was based on client demands, describing it as “less structure and more focus on clients, which is all in line with John’s ‘Next Chapter’ strategy.”
“Capabilities are the muscle in terms of giving us strength of offering, expertise and value,” he said, adding that the network’s goals are “to take the innovation we’ve now proven in test cases, beta and scale [and] to deliver premier leadership for clients and their brands. The manifestation of that will show up in the work, so I think we will have a strong showing going into Q2.”
On the new business front, Aversano said that Ogilvy has recently won several accounts, though he could only specifically mention the Oneworld airline alliance and “a significant amount of [unspecified] healthcare business.” Aversano declined to comment on longtime client Kimberly-Clark’s ongoing global creative review but did note that the network recently expanded its scope of work with Nationwide, British Airways and Brand USA.
An employee who attended the town hall told Adweek that Aversano also made a specific pledge to address gender-based pay disparities within the Ogilvy U.S. network. The topic has received increased media coverage since WPP released the results of its U.K. Gender Pay Gap Report, which found that the average male employee at the world’s largest advertising company still makes 25.5 percent more than his female counterpart.
Aversano declined to comment directly on an independent, unfinished audit of pay rates within Ogilvy’s U.S. network. He did, however, confirm that he has promised to give 2/3 of the agency’s annual raise pool to female employees “until pay equity is achieved.”
“We made a commitment in anticipation of having some gaps that we do need to resolve, like any other company,” he said. “The focus is on making sure we understand those [gaps] to actively solve them.”