The Drum Awards for Marketing APAC - Awards Show

-d -h -min -sec

By Angela Haggerty, Reporter

April 22, 2013 | 7 min read

The Drum meets managing director of OgilvyOne, Jo Coombs, in the latest of a series with twistorstick speaking to leading figures to find out what it takes to get a job in industry

Interview by Marc ShelkinManaging director at OgilvyOne Jo Coombs loves her industry; she has the passion and commitment required to succeed in advertising and her advice to those looking for jobs in the competitive London advertising world is that if you can't match it, you're looking at the wrong industry.Part of the global Ogilvy network, which is owned by WPP, Coombs has worked with major worldwide brands since her early days on the agency scene at Bran, in Bristol, after her education at Exeter University. Three years after she "accidentally fell into a job temping" at the agency Coombs moved to OgilvyOne, but it was her former boss at Bran that she credits for really igniting her interest in advertising."I remember my very first boss at Bran who, without a doubt, sparked my passion for the industry and what we do, and taught me a huge amount," says Coombs. "After a couple of years she resigned and I was shell shocked. I thought, how on earth am I going to work without this person?"I remember her saying to me then, at the end of the day you have to put yourself first and you have to do what's right for you. I think that it takes a strong individual to know what's right for them and to put themselves first in their career decisions."It's [advertising] generally a job that you put heart and soul and passion into. Other people will say it's only a job but I think you need to be committed and passionate about what you do and the minute you lose the passion for it is the minute you have to find something else to do."Having got a taste of the advertising industry, Coombs moved to London with the ambition of getting into OgilvyOne, which she successfully achieved. After a few years, she decided to explore other agencies and gain wider experience, but it wouldn't be long before she returned to Ogilvy."I wanted to carry on working in London but I wanted to work with other brands, other creative directors," she explains. "I moved to HTW [Harrison Troughton Wunderman] and spent some time there; I worked in Y&R in a regional team. That was fascinating actually, I worked with some really fun people as well, Alex Hughes will always be one of the funniest people I have ever worked with, a New Yorker who was just hysterical."But it wasn't OgilvyOne and I think that I missed the people as much as anything, and so I came back to Ogilvy."Coombs has been at OgilvyOne in her second stint for almost 10 years and worked her way from account executive, through account management and up to managing director, working with major brands along the way and counting British Airways as a personal favourite."British Airways is a pretty career-defining brand for me," she continues. "The work that we've done, the strength of the relationship and how we've grown that business over the years, that's something I'm incredibly proud of, it's a fantastic brand."I'm about as British as they get and incredibly proud of that, I'm very patriotic. When we had the chance to pitch for it I was like, hands up, me me me. They're a great account to work with."It's said that there's a David Ogilvy quote for every situation imaginable, and Coombs says that's not lost on British Airways - BA clients sign off their six-monthly evaluations of the agency/client relationship with one, while Coombs says the best one for her was "we search for knowledge like a pig searches for truffles"."I've had some really good times working with other clients," she continues. "Royal Mail back in the late 1990s, we did some amazing work with them, lots of award-winning work, very proud of that. But that was B2B whereas the BA work is a combination of B2B and direct-to-consumer."The perception at OgilvyOne is that the staff who make it onto the permanent payroll are never in a hurry to leave, and Coombs puts much of it down the "unique" Ogilvy culture which is key in keeping brands on board as well as staff. However, she says those looking for jobs in advertising should know their agency and be prepared for the practical difference between big and small businesses."I think there is a culture within the Ogilvy agencies that is quite unique and there will be some people for whom that culture just doesn't work for them and other who find it bang on. It's the same for out clients as well," she says."Ogilvy is very good at nurturing talent, very good at giving opportunities, but it's not a small agency where you can come in as an account executive and a few years later be, effectively, running the account management department; or where you're a bit of a jack of all trades because you're doing lots of stuff across different disciplines. Small agencies can give you a lot more of that kind of fluidity."At OgilvyOne, I think people who come in and expect that will probably be disappointed; people who come in and who want to learn their craft and work with some great and inspiring people will stay as long as they're doing great and inspiring work and get the change to develop."For Coombs, it's clear that working in advertising is more than just a job when she recounts her own favourite advert of all time: "What I love about the industry is when it's not advertising anymore, it's art or it's something that's useful or something that change your life or behaviour."I remember the first time I saw the Sony Bravia ad with the Jose Gonzalez Heartbeats music - oh my God, I could have watched that time and time again. That, for me, is just beautiful, beautiful art."Coombs rounded the interview off with a quick-fire question round.Cannes Lions or D&AD Pencil?PencilOlympic gold medal or an Oscar?Ooh... gold medalCreatives or suits?SuitsApple or Android?Apple, justAnt or DecWhich one's which? Dec... Ant... DecThe brightest person youve worked with?Rory Sutherland is scarily bright. There's a lot of very intelligent people I've worked with over the years, in lots of different ways, Rory probably goes down as one of them. There's a couple of people who started as account executives when I was account manager, John McDonald who is now at British Airways, he was very brightThe most creative person you've worked with?Most creative person... Colin Nimick, Steve Harrison, Emma and Charlie, Rory SutherlandBest looking person you've worked with?I don't know, there's lots of beautiful people in advertisingSpice Girls or Girls Aloud?Spice GirlsFacebook or Twitter?FacebookFavourite flavour crisps?Salt and vinegarTake That or Westlife?Take ThatDegree or no degree?DegreeArt directors or copywriters?CopywritersThe Only Way Is Essex or Made In Chelsea?I haven't watched any. Essex, let's go EssexRetained work or pitched work?Pitched workIndependent agencies or networked agencies?Networked agenciesOutsourced production or onsite production?OutsourcedDon Draper or Roger SterlingDon DraperTwist or stick?TwistTo view the latest jobs in advertising, design, digital media and marketing, visit The Drum's job section
Jobs Twistorstick

Content created with:

OgilvyOne Worldwide

Find out more

More from Jobs

View all