David Ogilvy On Creating The Ideal Agency Culture

Derrick DayeJune 3, 20114152 min

David Ogilvy On Creating The Ideal Agency Culture

Advertising legend David Ogilvy left us with more than what it takes to make great advertising. He also shared a clear direction on how his employees — his people — should be treated. Please take a moment today and think about the agency, consultancy, corporate culture you are creating or influencing. Then read David Ogilvy’s thoughts below on creating the ideal culture. Are his values alive where you work?

1) We treat our people like human beings. We help them when they are in trouble—with their jobs, with illnesses, with alcoholism, and so on.

2) We help our people make the best of their talents. We invest an awful lot of time and money in training—perhaps more than any of our competitors.

3) Our system of management is singularly democratic. We don’t like hierarchical bureaucracy or rigid pecking orders.

4) We abhor ruthlessness.

5) We like people with gentle manners. Our New York office goes so far as to give an annual award for what they call “professionalism combined with civility.”

6) We like people who are honest. Honest in argument, honest with clients, honest with suppliers, and honest with the company.

7) We admire people who work hard. Objectivity and thoroughness are admired.

8) Superficiality is not admired.

9) We despise and detest office politicians, toadies, bullies, and pompous asses.

10) The way up the ladder is open to everybody. We are free from prejudice of any kind—religious prejudice, racial prejudice or sexual prejudice.

11) We detest nepotism and every other form of favoritism.

12) In promoting people to top jobs, we are influenced as much by their characters as by anything else.

I hope you see these same values in your corporate culture. As for the photo above, that’s David Ogilvy in the back enjoying dinner with agency colleagues, circa 1956.

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  • Thomson Dawson

    June 3, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Great little reminder of what true greatness is all about. Ogilvy is one of my heros from days gone by… when I was in design college, I read everything available on this truely great man.

    Seemingly, there are not many bright lights in the ad game of his stature these days. Big advertising has become a nasty business … what seems to be easily overlooked is it is (and has always been) a business of talent first and foremost.

    Ogilvy’s wisdom will endure for generations.

  • Deborah M. Budd

    November 27, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. Today so many businesses treat employees like so much chaff to be shaken out and disposed of in the name of profit. Perhaps if our modern business model had not abandoned such principles as Ogilvy espoused, American business would not be in such a sad state. He also famously stated that “All of our assets go down the elevator at 5:00 o’clock.” Agencies that forget the value of talented employees cannot long survive.

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