Matt Giegerich, chairman and CEO of Ogilvy ConmmonHealth Worldwide, and his three managing partners, Dave Chapman, Marc Weiner and Michael Parisi, have just returned from London, where they attended the agency's first global leadership conference—and they are buzzing.
“It was fantastic,” says Chapman. “There were people there I'd been e-mailing for six years and I finally got to meet them. The amount of connectivity and opportunity that came out of that first face-to-face meeting is keeping me busy.” The theme of the event, which brought together 39 of the organization's global leaders, was “change.” Given the events of the past 12 months, it could hardly have focused on anything else.
In June of last year, WPP siblings CommonHealth and Ogilvy Healthworld announced a merger that, despite its magnitude, sent relatively few shockwaves through the industry, simply because it made so much sense. CommonHealth already had a large healthcare footprint in the US, with the multiple skillsets to boot, and Ogilvy represented a gateway to the rest of the globe. The two had always shared great synergy and had collaborated for many years before tying the knot. The global headcount of the combined entity exceeds 1,500. Make no mistake, this was a marriage of the utmost convenience, based on a shared objective for maximum growth. The world is their roster.
Of course, no matter how well the two former agencies knew each other before, a merger of this magnitude always take time to complete. “It's been a multidimensional tale,” says Giegerich, involving recasting the New York office under [Parisi's] leadership, integrating the two companies and finally merging the cultures across the global community, which is where the leadership conference comes in.
“Miles Young, the CEO of Ogilvy Worldwide, gave me a consulting paper that said the number one reason mergers fail is because the companies become inwardly focused as opposed to outwardly focused, Giegerich adds. “I had that pinned to my wall for the first six months of this. I kept reminding everybody that the game is out there, not in here.”
Weiner describes the integration process as “a remarkably smooth transition so far. Beyond the kind of cosmetic changes—logos going away and new ones appearing—we've made some subjective changes in terms of a common vision and getting the employees to understand the tools and techniques that each of us brought to the table.”
No one has been more delighted about the merger than Chapman: “This was a dream come true,” he says. “Michael and I have been working really hard to globalize the company for a number of years. We did this on the strength of business opportunities and on delivering for our friends and partners.”
Parisi says that he realized while working and partnering with Ogilvy offices around the world, how similar the culture of the two companies was. “It almost, retrospectively, looked like we were one company anyway,” he says. “I wouldn't say we're spending a ton of time on the culture and changing. It hasn't really distracted our outwardly focused view at all.”
The integration is now around 75% complete, according to Giegerich. “Most of the more complicated stuff has been taken care of. What remains is kind of the nuisance stuff.”
So far, so good. But how is the new entity performing? “It's looking like it's going to be a good year,” says Giegerich, noting that combined revenues this year are ahead of the sum of the individual revenues at the same point last year. “Europe is still in a recovery phase. North America, we look good. Canada is probably flattish. Asia, Australia, and especially Korea, are solid. Brazil is solid too.” There is an audible excitement in his voice as he reads out the list. It's been a long wait.