TDDD Interviews: Ogilvy & Mather South Africa
As the university year started winding down before exams, I sought to gain some insight about digital and innovation from a fresh perspective. With an interview date set, I paid a visit to the Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town offices where I was warmly greeted by the perfect interview candidate for a tour around the office and an insightful chat.
Allow me to introduce you to Chris Rawlinson – a man of many successful projects, achievements and entertaining stories. Chris currently covers an executive role in Group Digital Innovations for the Ogilvy & Mather South Africa group. With a tech savvy career that started in creating smart-homes (think IoT, but more than a decade ago!), Chris got sidetracked in the wonderful world of advertising. Many successful technologically integrated advertising projects lead Chris to where he is today at Ogilvy. I was glad to get a moment of Chris’s time this week and it was a pleasure to hear about the many exciting projects that he has been involved with at Ogilvy.
TDDD: Thanks for sitting down with me today, Chris. To start off, can you tell us what first got you interested in advertising and technology?
Chris: I first got interested in advertising at a young age, I was one of those few people that would look forward to the entertainment at ad breaks, it was the humor that got me. For the tech side it was really when I began working in London, designing intelligent homes for a company called Grahams. I’ve always loved tech and gadgets, like most guys.
Later on my best friend got into advertising, it sounded like an exciting industry so I read Confessions of David Ogilvy (a little embarrassing given I work at Ogilvy now). I ended up getting into advertising through blogging, I showcase great ads from around the world. While blogging I met Graham Knox who had just started a wine farm, Stormhoek. We got chatting and he asked if I’d like to help run his advertising. I ended up working with him and a small talented team in the UK including Hugh Macleod. We came up with a very different way to market wine through fun and enjoyment. We started blogger drops, geek dinners, and experimented with many digital tools to build a great wine brand. AdAge picked up the work and it went on to win a number of awards. And that was my first lucky intro into advertising.
I’ve always thought that it’s exciting having great ideas, but what really matters is if you can make these ideas into something real. So I’ve enjoyed putting advertising and my love of technology and gadgets together to do amazing things.
It’s fun and exciting, which is great because I get bored really easily!
TDDD: Your journey at Ogilvy sounds like it’s been an exciting and busy one. Could you tell us how your Ogilvy journey began and how you got to where you are today?
Chris: One of my best friends Dave Duarte and I started teaching online and mobile marketing at the UCT Graduate School of Business. Dave met Rob Hill, Chairman of Ogilvy South Africa, and after a few meetings Rob asked if Dave could create a similar course for an advertising agency. This led to the birth of the Ogilvy Digital Marketing Academy, a course to increase agency learning and understanding in digital and communication.
About a year after the course started, Gavin Levinsohn, the Ogilvy Cape Town MD at the time, was pushing hard to make the agency more digitally integrated. We had a few chats and he offered me the challenge of trying to help him achieve this. A big part of it was rooted in digital education and inspiration.
TDDD: With your job in Group Digital Innovations at Ogilvy, what sort of roles do you take on each week at work?
Chris: My job is mostly to fill in the white spaces between the more solid structure of the business. It has a lot to do with culture, creatively looking at technology. I try to introduce the agency to things agencies don’t normally look at so we can look at the world maybe a little bit differently. A great example is our “How To Fridays,” where I’ve brought in people from interesting backgrounds and professions to give talks. We’ve had technologists, a graffiti artist, and even a brain surgeon, these talks have often sparked great new ideas.
The OgilvyLabs is another project that I’ve been working on looks at bringing great technology into our offices for staff and clients to interact with and learn from.
I love moving around the office each day, talking to people from different departments, great things often happen when you take the time to step away from your desk for a moment.
Rob Hill describes my job as a bit of a bumble bee in the agency – helping to pollinate, connect, and spread new ideas around the agency.
TDDD: What aspect about Ogilvy inspires and motivates you to arrive at work everyday ready to take on new projects and new challenges?
Chris: I love being challenged and seeing some of the weird and wonderful ideas from my head actually being made in real life. If I’m not constantly stimulated by many great things, I tend to switch off. In advertising and especially an agency like this one, you could be working on a financial or automotive brand the one day and a beer, or chocolate brand the next day. We’re always working dynamically and learning about new things here.
TDDD: What has been the most memorable or most exciting digital campaign that you have worked on for a client?
Chris: I think it would be the work that I did for Stormhoek. It was fun, exciting and new at the time and helped to define much of what I’ve done in later years. There was a great element of learning-by-doing, and our success came about as a result of many failures and a lot of learning along the way!
Chris: Dave really runs the Academy, the ODMA has been a great way for Ogilvy staff to learn about digital and communication. It’s an open event that all staff from all departments are invited to attend, whether they’re junior or senior. When people successfully complete a course they get given a certificate.
For clients, it’s served a great purpose too; being able to work more closely and learn together with clients is a very valuable thing. It can often open you up to being more comfortable in doing exciting work in a more increasingly digital/techy landscape.
Chris: From the SA Blog Awards point of view, we felt that it was a great idea to reward small independent publishers for the many hours of each day that they spend on making great blogs. The idea of my blog is to share the greatest pieces of work that I see from around the world each day.
I spent time with Lauren Woolf helping to build the Ogilvy Graduate Programme.
We thought that if we could find young and motivated graduates who are willing to engage with the programme by creating their own blogs, then we’d probably be able to find some really inquisitive and talented individuals to join the team and they would likely be incredible Ogilvy people.
TDDD: The OgilvyOutfitters project has been a fun way to bring the worldwide Ogilvy group together. Can you tell us how the project came together?
Chris: OgilvyOutfitters is a fun culture project that I helped get off the ground with Kate Desmarais who won the Young Creative Award at the Loeries last year. Being at an ad-agency in Cape Town, it started off with Kate taking photos of many of the young, fun and stylish creatives in the office and sharing them on Twitter. We noticed that these Tweets were doing really well and saw an opportunity to show the young, fun and stylish outfits and personalities of our people. Since then, the project has grown and now includes submissions from over 40 Ogilvy offices around the world – a great way to bring all of our people together in a fun and social way.
TDDD: When you aren’t busy with all things digital and marketing, how do you enjoy spending your free time? I hear you’re a keen pilot?!
Chris: I’ve been really bad on the pilot thing recently, I actually need to renew my license soon, other than that, I love getting out and meeting new people, meeting for drinks with friends, going to the beach, visiting wine farms and experiencing all that Cape Town has to offer – I moved here because it’s an insanely beautiful place! I have lots of braais.
I’m a rare Englishman who has actually learnt how to braai which is great.
TDDD: Do you have any key advice for young South African digital marketers looking to get stuck into the ever-expanding and ever-changing world of digital marketing?
Chris: If you look at some of the most successful people in any field, they often tend to be people who have had a mentor along the way. This can come in many shapes and forms – whether it be a person or group of people who guide you along the way or just role-models you can learn from online. We live in an exciting moment of history where it’s so simple to learn from many of the world’s greatest leaders just by Googling them or watching them on YouTube.
I’d also recommend trying to approach things differently from other people and developing ideas from unique places. It’s important to look at the real world for inspiration, take the time to really listen, meet new people and try new things along the way.
A while ago together with some friends we came up with 3 basic rules of advertising.
- Realise That Nobody Cares About Advertising: Nobody’s waiting for the next OUTsurance ad or Konica Minolta spot to come out. Nobody cares what line spacing you’re using. At the end of the day, they just want something that’s amazing or useful.
- You Need To Get Noticed: There are many ways to go about this, it could be as simple as changing the way you advertise something. One way of doing this is to approach the ad from the angle of another category, for example if you’re making a bank or shampoo ad, look at making in a style usually used for beer or sports brand advertising. By approaching advertising in a different way, you’ll often instantly get noticed.
- If You Want To Build a Great Brand, You Have To Create Value: This doesn’t mean that if you’re an insurance company you should be offering the lowest premiums, but rather adding substantial, real and cultural value that helps consumers on some sort of more meaningful level.