Explore a new agency model in Ogilvy’s wisdom

No need to go into exhaustive detail around how the business is changing to get your head nodding. But in my constant, seemingly never ending quest to be of help to you, you, you… Here’s a stolen idea and a thought starter around how you might change your model. Compliments of David Ogilvy and Ken Roman.

Ken’s most recent book is called, “The King of Madison Avenue: David Ogilvy And The Making of Modern Advertising.” Ken writes about, well, what the book title suggests. A great read. Chock full of stories and behind the scenes stuff, including how Ogilvy compared to his contemporaries.

Anywho, the Afterword features some brilliant examples of Ogilvy charm, wit and smarts. It includes a memo to directors he wrote in 1975 entitled “Generalists Cost Less.” (You could read a big, fat excerpt here, but your time is money.)

The gist behind the writing is… that D.O. wondered aloud if big agencies couldn’t move to a structure where there were no departments. No creatives, account folks, media, etc. And instead, had an army of generalists. Professionals that could do it all.

Is this relevant for our times?! Meh. Seems like one would have to reflect the big changes that have taken place over the last 35 years. (Insert those head nods here.)

For instance…back when Ogilvy wrote about this idea, many agencies were paid on commission.  While most agencies nowadays charge based on time of staff, one could apply a value-based compensation model to Ogilvy’s idea. Tim Williams knows a lot about this.

Combine this with the idea that to do really awesome work, you generally have to combine your own bit o’ brilliance with other folks. The Ogilvys of the world are an extremely rare thing. Adding teams of subject matter experts could mean watering down the idea so much it is unrecognizable to the original thought. And begins to look a lot like a plain old agency.

So, what’s the value here to you, you, you?!

Thankfully, there is a nugget of goodness here: that you might be able to find some news and difference in your model by exploding your structure. Not only the how and how and why of your team, but things like, for instance, the sharing and gathering of information.

What does that mean?! Find answers to the following kinds of structure questions and then consider the impact of change:

How many staffers do you have working on a piece of business?! What are their titles and functions? How are you briefed? How do you move beyond the brief to get target insight or feedback? How do you share work between agency team members? The client? Who are your clients (by title and function)?! (Interesting idea: how could that alone change?)

And here you thought this post was going nowhere!

Hope this gets you thinking. And if you have some thoughts to share, let’s hear them!