Digitization-john-seifertTechnology has delivered seismic disruption to the advertising industry over the past few years. Digitization, Big Data and analytics have revolutionized how consumers are being targeted as well as the various channels being used to reach them (SEO, mobile, social media, etc.). 

These changes also reflect how advertisers are addressing changing consumer preferences. For instance, half of advertisers plan to increase spending on digital video, mobile video and advanced TV this year while two-thirds of advertisers intend to redirect funds from TV advertising to digital video advertising, according to the 5th annual "Digital Content NewFronts: Video Ad Spending Study 2018" conducted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

HMG Strategy recently had the privilege of speaking with John Seifert, Chief Executive, Ogilvy Group regarding the sweeping changes that are impacting the advertising industry and the steps that Ogilvy is taking to reimagine and reinvent the company in these highly disruptive times. 

Ogilvy is the creative force behind iconic brands such as Coca-Cola, KFC, Lego, and MTV. John will be one of the keynote speakers at HMG Strategy's upcoming 2018 New York Global Innovation Summit on August 23.

HMG Strategy: In today's business environment where disruption has become the norm, what are some steps that you and members of the executive team have taken to reimagine and reinvent the company?

John Seifert: When I took over as Chief Executive 30 months ago, I convened a group of people in the company who are good at looking at the outside world and our client environment. We have diverse clients, from Fortune 50 to smaller companies - an extraordinary array of businesses across multiple sectors.  

I started with the premise of disruption. The pace of change is accelerating with social media, digital, and data. We looked at the impact it was having with clients and diagnosed the impact on our day-to-day client relationships, to the issues they were bringing to us to how we might work with them.  

One of the most rewarding parts of the last 30 months was going through that analysis. These conversations led to the basis for the formation of our 'Next Chapter' strategy. We wanted to galvanize the company initially around a conversation involving context that emerged from this analysis that we felt would be the basis for change and transformation. 

I used that first-level analysis to set the strategy and identify ways we could differentiate ourselves. That was the first step. That helped me build a core team of people and the plan as to how we would build the company going forward.

We had turned ourselves from a founder brand with a very clear vision as to how value would be created for clients and the culture we'd embrace and the skills needed to a set of holding companies.  We decided we had to break all of that down and go to market with a single brand and engage clients in a way that was much more integrated and solutions-oriented. 

How is the company leveraging emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and data analytics to help it stay ahead of its competitors?

JS: Technology of one sort or another has always been central to how we maintain our brand. But I wouldn't say we were on the leading edge of applying new technologies. What has happened in the last five years is that more and more of these technologies have revealed ways of approaching our value prop better. 

Now, we're at a stage of development where we are much more thoughtful about the role that tech is going to play. For instance, marketing technology is a fast-growing set of capabilities for distributing our digital content. We are seeing our work far more integrated into the financial value that clients realize and we just have to figure out which spaces we play in, who we partner with, how we partner with clients, etc. We don't want big infrastructure plays in the digital ecosystems. We want to execute in the digital ecosystem. 

How have you gone about fostering a culture of customer centricity at The Ogilvy Group?

JS: This is probably the most central question to our Next Chapter agenda. By shifting from a set of businesses that were more transaction-based to more of an integrated model, we've shifted to an operating system that does three things for us: how we articulate brand building to our clients; where we can look at building a brand over time horizons - quarters and years; and the brand's point of view and reason for being that we position as a brand platform. 

One of the biggest opportunities for us is to build the frameworks to help clients understand how they can extend their brands. It's increasingly a very collaborative process with internal and external partners and multiple skillsets. We want clients to understand the opportunities of those moments of engagement and how to bring their brands to life through the use of technology and media. The skillsets we need to be truly client-centric is having the people who can see the larger picture and the connective tissues to put together those various capabilities that we can help clients solve. 

A growing number of CEOs say that their companies have become technology companies, regardless of the industry they're in. Can you share some insights as to how you help move the company forward through its use of transformation and technology?

JS: We have to understand the client's use of technology in defining what value they create for their customers and all of the audiences that matter to them. We also have to figure out how best to apply technology with each client and their unique set of circumstances. BP, for example, is a longtime client in the energy sector. They are very committed to providing not only a mix of energy solutions globally but also figuring out how to apply technology in different ways so that the carbon impact of extracting and delivering that energy is mitigated. 

One of the things we've been working on with them is when they had operational issues in the Gulf of Mexico in 2008. That has a big implication as to how they go about defining their brand. In that case, we need a pretty deep understanding of the role that technology plays and how we can showcase these technologies to demonstrate how BP bring energy to market today. 

To learn more about John Seifert and other top-tier executives who will be speaking at the 2018 New York Global Innovation Summit, click here.