Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Last comment on Ogilvy's Verge
Last note on Ogilvy's Verge digital summit. I'll start with saying that I've had a warm spot in my heart for the agency ever since working there as my first job out of college. That was a loooonnnnng time ago, and it was quite a time. The shop was really running on all pistons at that point—American Express' "Don't Leave Home Without It" and the Smith Barney campaign, "We make money the old-fashioned way. We earn it" were the shop's signature campaigns. Shelly Lazarus was a management supervisor on the Amex business, Hal Riney was in charge of the San Francisco office and occasionally, I'd pick up my boss' phone, and D.O. would be on the other end. The place was just humming with smart people, and even though I went on to work at other agencies (Dancer Fitzgerald Sample into Saatchi, Grey and JWT), none of those agencies came anywhere close to being as good as Ogilvy. I guess giving you this background is a long way of saying that you should take what follows with a grain of salt, but Verge was really good. First, they got some big names: NBC's Ben Silverman,Warner Music's Kevin Liles, ESPN's George Bodenheimer, Federated Media's John Battelle, former Facebook exec Owen Van Natta, Gawker's Nick Denton, The New York Times' Martin Nisenholtz, Sequioa Capital's Mark Kvamme ... you could do worse. Of course, Ogilvy people were sprinkled throughout the program, but with a few minor exceptions, it wasn't all about Ogilvy. It was about innovation, digital media, and how and if storytelling and data-driven media can co-exist. The agency could charge for conferences like this (and I take it it does when certain clients have asked for their own, proprietary, in-house Verge). It's hard to picture most of the big global agencies (or BDAs as George Parker calls them) being able to pull this kind of meeting off with the same degree of digital savvy. Of course, what's curious is that the shop hasn't been translating its digital chops into a huge new business streak. Don't have the answer to that one.