I used to work for Ogilvy & Mather. An advertising agency.
Actually when I worked for them they were the advertising agency. They had just been voted agency of the year. Advertising icons occupied the seats of power. Their rising stars rose. And became stars. And about twice a year you’d run into David Ogilvy himself in the hallways. It was something.
Ogilvy & Mather taught me how to write. They taught me about Trumpeter Swans and Gentlemen With Brains and the Ogilvy Award, given to the person who most embodied the principles they espoused: honesty; humanity, and an abhorrence of office politics.
They knew what they stood for. And they spent time and serious money training you to become great. These days, the first is rare. The second unheard of.
They did brilliant work. And they made sure we had a hell of lot of fun doing it. On my first Christmas they walked the entire office, over 1000 people, through Manhattan wearing our newly presented red and white Ogilvy scarves to Broadway where they had rented out A Chorus Line. It had just won the Tony. I may have been more proud of being part of something at some other point in my life. But it’s not obvious to me when.
They let me move through four different departments before I found my calling as a television producer because they saw something in me before I did. I frequently found myself comparing that to the Chicago agency behemoth which kicked me out of my interview ninety seconds after they heard my GPA. Ninety seconds. I wouldn’t have minded but they’d just offered me a job. Apparently my GPA was a better judge of my talent than my interviewer.
I was reminded last week of my Ogilvy experience by an article written by Ken Roman. Ken, who became Chairman and CEO of Ogilvy, describes the culture of the company from the perspective of someone who helped to refine and implement the Purpose David Ogilvy’s had for his company.
A Purpose. It was nothing less than that. And it guided the company on a daily basis for a long time. And thousands of us were the beneficiaries. So was his business. And his clients.
I believe profoundly in the culture of a company. Not in some esoteric, instinctive definition. But in a specific, confident and practiced definition. One to live by. And be guided by. In good times and bad.
Without one you’re just here for the money. And so are your employees.
Without one you’re on borrowed time. With your customers and your staff.
With one you can change the world.