A juicy subject, and a well selected panel – how do you achieve the best of the best. Do you have to be the bravest of the brave?

By Chris Jones, Managing Partner at OgilvyOne


A panel discussion featuring:

Tim Lindsay, CEO, D&AD

Miriam Jordan Keane, Head of Marketing, British Gas

John Rudaizky, Partner, Global Brand & Marketing Leader, EY

Charlie Wilson, Chairman of OgilvyOne UK, CCO of Ogilvy EMEA

Chaired by Jo Coombs, CEO OgilvyOne UK


A juicy subject, and a well selected panel – how do you achieve the best of the best. Do you have to be the bravest of the brave?

This week OgilvyOne hosted a pop-up panel to debate bravery with a stellar line up of guests: Tim Lindsay, a legend of the advertising business for decades, staying true to his beliefs built in the heyday of advertising; John Rudaizky and Miriam Jordan Keane, who have been in that fascinating position of having worked both client and agency side to give a balanced view. And our own CCO Charlie Wilson trying to tread carefully with two current clients sitting there with him!

Brave not boring

An early provocation set the tone – “Most advertising doesn’t contribute anything and wastes loads of money, and advertising rarely damages brands – so why the f**k would you just add to the mediocre work, instead do something brave that will really move the needle”, whatever metric you’re looking at. Fair point…but how?

While everyone had a different perspective, all agreed it came down to that T word again – Trust. That’s the key to developing great work, the clients giving the agency the space to do what they do best. Tim, with one of his many anecdotes, highlighted the story of the Levi’s work he managed at BBH, where of the 14 scripts they presented to the client, 13 were made. The client knew the agency worked tirelessly for the Levi’s business and knew more about what was good for the brand than Levi’s did themselves. 501s saved the business, but that run of advertising transformed Levi’s.

Is brave ballsy?

Does being brave still imply a need to be ballsy – in an age where there is an oversupply of advertising services, can an agency still tell a client “either buy this idea as it is, or choose another agency”? There’s always an ad shop down the road that will bend over to get the business, sod how brave the work is.  This perhaps is where client agency relationships and shared beliefs are key – ultimately the desire for bravery has to be shared.

Limited by process

The panel debated the pros and cons of tissue meetings, and presenting a range of ideas – does this aid the approval process, or should we just hand over ownership to the clients to buy the safe option that they’ve shaped? Tim quoted an old Soho colleague who claimed he’d never experienced a client’s input improving an idea…. controversial… but certainly got a response from John and Miriam!

Music to our ears was the view that the approval process at clients kills great work. ‘Having to go through 6 layers of people who can only say NO, until you get to people who can say yes’ never helped a brave idea into reality.

Take the work seriously

One interesting point that sometimes gets forgotten is the seriousness that should be taken around selling the work/framing the creative presentation. Miriam in particular referred to making it a serious meeting, dressing the room, getting out of the agency/clients office and presenting in the context of the customers world. She referenced Ogilvy holding a full Christmas Day scene/meeting on the hottest day of the summer in order to create the best selling environment for the Christmas campaign being presented.

I don’t think we were looking for a definitive conclusion – it was a debate right, and a lively one. But what I took out of it was that brave work needs everyone to do their brave bit – the agency need to stand by the work, and be confident in selling it; the clients need to be brave to remain ‘hands off’ and to let their agency do what they asked them to do when they pitched for it.

The brave make the brave.