Sunday 23 March 2014 11:54 pm

All about talent

Annabel Palmer talks to OgilvyOne’s EMEA chief executive Annette King WHEN WPP launched its “X-Factor” coaching programme for senior female executives across its European agencies, Annette King was an obvious contributor. She has worked at WPP media agency OgilvyOne for a decade, rising through the ranks to become EMEA chief executive, and was promoted both times she took maternity leave. She talks to City A.M. about how Ogilvy, which consists of 11 different companies in the UK, is navigating a fast-paced industry. You previously worked at Wunderman in New York. Any surprises when you returned to the UK? At the time, there were two key differences between the markets. In the US, it felt like everything was five times bigger. Bigger estimates, bigger situations. And the levels of creativity in London were significantly higher – despite us having a much smaller market. But the US has come a long way since then, in large part due to West Coast creativity. How has the media landscape changed over the course of your career? It’s become more complicated. With more opportunity comes more complexity. In this industry, you need to have a constant appetite for learning about developments that may or may not be important, or become the “next big thing”. New capabilities come into the fold, and you have to rapidly acquire the right talent. Because it’s all about the talent. It’s all about establishing whether, for example, a candidate is a great technologist or not. So what’s been the biggest false dawn? Sometimes it’s more about timing. The time for mobile is now, but the industry has been talking about it for a decade. I’ve spent a lot of time and resources looking at mobile over the years, and in the immediate time frame, it didn’t always pay back. Wearable technology is interesting – though I don’t think it’s quite here yet, Nike Fuel Band aside. But “productisation” – making products on behalf of your brands that are useful to consumers – is very interesting. What’s the main obstacle your industry faces this year? Everybody is talking about content. It’s the new buzzword. But not only do different people mean different things when they say it, some people don’t really even know what they’re saying when they say it. So we’ve written a red paper called Content Dymystified, to put on paper exactly what we believe content can do and how our clients should go about deploying it. It’s very important to stay focused, and not get caught up in the hyperbole that accompanies “the next big thing”. What business challenges have you faced over your career? The biggest challenge I’ve faced was coming back from my second maternity leave, having been promoted to chief executive at OgilvyOne. It was October 2008. And the commercial situation, as was the case at every other agency in town, wasn’t pretty. I had to restructure and resize the agency, in a way that wasn’t destructive, and in a way that meant I would still be respected by my employees afterwards. We restructured in January 2009, and have never looked back. What’s the one campaign you wish you’d worked on? Prudential Day One, by Droga5 [known for putting an honest face on retirement]. It was a breakthrough creative on what is usually quite a dull topic. It’s a reminder we should always look for the unique angle on everything. @AnnabelPalmer1