we need a resolution

Inside Innovation: Ogilvy Los Angeles

Stella Bayles

We’re on a mission to meet talented PR teams around the world to find out how they do things differently. 


On a recent trip to the United States, Stella went to meet the consumer PR team at Ogilvy in Los Angeles and interviewed Vice President, Ashley Dos Santos to find out how their creative process is doing a lot more than just facilitating ideas.


We know about the great work that Ogilvy worldwide produces but what is so special about the LA team?


David Ogilvy set a great lead for us as an agency. He built an environment where creativity is a priority and that has continued. We now have an inspiring senior team and they provide freedom which means we’re able to flourish.


Our Los Angeles office is relatively small in comparison to the rest of the group but whats great about that is that we can develop and improve upon ideas quicker and be agile. This makes it easier to try new things and share knowledge around the business.


Although we’re not the largest office in North America we are leading the way in areas such as integration and creativity.



Tell me more about the integration and your team


Our work now requires a variety of skill-sets. RFPs may say that they just require public relations, but today that means strategy, content creation, social and PR so we have the talent in-house to deliver on that. 


Our team includes creative minds, crisis experts, experiential planners, social strategists that understand the platforms before we get anywhere near activation, a whole host of content creators, video story boarders, production and direction.. the list is endless. The integration of those skills is key.


The way we have made it work is by dropping the labels. We are no longer titled as ‘the PR team’ for example. We have a heavy emphasis on social strategy and content as well as PR and many of our team members work throughout all areas, so departments just wouldn't work. Our clients need integrated solutions so our the teams should be integrated.


"Silos just don’t make sense in modern PR"


Through the wider Ogilvy group, we’re also in a fortunate position to work alongside other areas of marketing beyond earned media. We regularly work with media buying and insight and research teams. This not only helps increase our knowledge but means we’re able to be free in creativity and campaign scope for our clients. 



Do you have a set creative process?


We have an awesome approach creativity here. Our process is named the big ideaL™ and everyone gets involved. 


We spend a long time exploring our target audience and our client’s brand to find the perfect match. Data insight is so important in modern PR so our initial research phase is key. To pull this together we have developed a phrase to serve as a summary of a brand’s big ideal that really helps spark the best idea. The phrase is: 


“Brand X believes the world would be a better place if…” 


This is answered in the context of:

•   A cultural tension. An idea is worth listening to when it has a valid point of view on the big topics of the day — when it connects to something that resonates within culture. 

•   The brand’s “best self.” This is the brand’s particular claim to greatness — what makes it uniquely great, even in a small way, either now or potentially.


This exploration of our client’s brand and target audience not only generates incredible, award winning ideas it’s also a great opportunity for the team to come together. Everyone is excited to be a part of the process. Its a special time. Everyone involved feels supported and therefore confident to push boundaries. Sometimes the ideas that make us feel uncomfortable at first are our best and the unique process really helps discover those. 


I’ve seen amazing ideas being born and campaigns delivering real business impact for our clients. It is truly inspiring to watch.



What are the tools your team couldn't live without?


As I mentioned we have a variety of services in-house and many of the tasks require technology. The insights stage of our creative process for example also relies heavily on research tools. However, if I really answer the question honestly of what we couldn’t live without - it has to be our phones. 


In a world of excessive email you can’t beat it. We’re all for automation through technology however building relationships will always need conversation. Truly connecting on that human level is key in PR, whether it's with a brand partner, consumer advocate, reporter or client, we’ll never lose the fact that real conversation fosters a human connection and that is impossible without a telephone. 



What inspires you?


I am very fortunate to work with inspiring people every day. However I specifically feel inspired by the women I work closely with at Ogilvy. In a female-heavy industry, competition between co-workers can sometimes be an issue. However, at Ogilvy LA we have quite the opposite. We encourage hard work and passion but everyone here is in full support of each other. 


I lead the Consumer PR team with my amazing colleague Erica and our former manager, Jennifer Banovetz who recently relocated to an embed position at Ford in Detroit, inspires us everyday. Prior to her relocation, Jennifer was able to create an environment here in LA that gives us autonomy while leading by example through inspiration and creativity. These are the types of learnings and skill sets that we can pass on to our team. 


We want our team to be happy to arrive at work everyday, so we try to ensure that we continue to pass on the feeling of support, creativity and inspiration with all team members. 


As well as everyone being involved in client creative and strategy, we also ensure everyone has a lot of fun at work. We regularly survey the team to find out what makes them happy and we do it! For example, somebody had the idea of having a "cerealapocalypse" breakfast party so we planned and had said party. We also have other parties and team outings too but the ideas come from the team. It means people are genuinely happy to be here and that makes people want to stay and grow.



What are you reading?


We are constantly reading. In our profession, we have to keep up to date with industry news as well as track what's grabbing consumers' attention. So BuzzFeed and Huff Post articles are being circulated all the time so we can track cultural trends and what’s making them making them go viral. However in terms of being inspired by reading I recently finished a great book by Tina Fey.


Tina Fey’s book ‘Bossy Pants’ is brilliant. We know her as a comedian on TV, but this book is her perspective of someone who is successful but has always reported to men. It explores female empowerment and how important it is to not only have a voice but to also push the envelope to the uncomfortable because thats the only way you’ll see a change. 


"It's not only important to have a voice but to also push the envelope to the uncomfortable because thats the only way you’ll see a change"


A very inspiring read to all women in the creative industries. 


Ashley Dos Santos is Vice President of the Brand Marketing PR team at Ogilvy & Mather in Los Angeles. For more information visit the website.



Step inside other innovative PR teams:

George Hayley of Manifest London shares their team's values, creativity and why the traditional PR agency structure just doesn't work for their modern approach.

Read our interview with Johan van der Zanden, Communications Director at ING Bank and hear how Agile transformed their global PR. 


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