It’s official. The deal, which involves WPP and Ogilvy acquiring a majority stake in Memac Ogilvy, is finally signed and sealed. To me, this deal is the equivalent of a marriage between parties who have been engaged for many, many years – 28 years in fact. Memac and Ogilvy started dating in 1986, but the real honeymoon began in 1998 when Ogilvy bought 40%.
It took almost 8 years to formalise the commitment.
Why did it take so long? Well I believe the art of negotiations is fundamentally similar to the art of dialogue – both depend on listening a lot more than speaking. The best relationships involve a healthy dose of honesty and a willingness to consider your partner’s perspective, in order to understand it. That requires lots and lots of communication.
So why did WPP and Ogilvy wish to acquire a majority stake in Memac Ogilvy? What was in it for them?
In WPP’s case it was clear. First, it was the desire to gain greater involvement in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Second, it was the wish of WPP to enjoy more significant engagement with two very important brands in MENA – Ogilvy and Mindshare. WPP clients demanded it and expected it.
Looking at it further from WPP’s perspective (and here I am venturing a guess, based on comments they have made) they’ve been impressed by our listening abilities and the way we have reacted to their recommendations positively.
Put it that way, when they recommended we “pull our socks up” on the creative front, we ended up on stage in Cannes, carrying a Gold Lion.
I’ve always liked Martin Sorrell. Why? Well how can you not admire a man who has achieved so much in our industry? There have been days when he has been hard to like, especially on days when I have met him and he seemed to know more about our business than we did.
And then there’s the Ogilvy perspective. It was absolutely critical for Ogilvy to consolidate Memac Ogilvy’s MENA numbers with Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) numbers. We couldn’t continue to be an add-on at the end of Ogilvy’s bottom line forever. That’s because WPP benchmarks all their agencies in all the regions of the world, so when it came to EMEA, Y&R, JWT and Grey’s numbers included the MENA region’s numbers, but not Ogilvy’s. That presented a disadvantage to Ogilvy, which has to be addressed; hence my strong desire to conclude this deal.
Like any marriage, the relationship is based on two perspectives. The first is that we are now much closer than ever before and, if there was ever any hesitation in the past to treat us less favourably, this will now disappear. I believe the help from Ogilvy will be far greater going forward. The mentoring, coaching fellowship will be far stronger and the benefits to both sides will be much more visible.
The second element will be the security that my family and my people will have now that they have parents as strong as WPP and Ogilvy to add to my own, caring personality. By building a stronger relationship based on trust, respect and adherence to corporate guidelines, culture and governance, there is now a more powerful impetus for re-launching the Memac Ogilvy brand into a new orbit.
It may have taken 8 years, but I am happy we finally put a ring on it.