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Ogilvy’s John Long on what it takes to create award-winning campaigns

John Long, group creative director at Ogilvy on creativity and awards

John Long is a creative industry veteran, one who has been at the forefront of successful campaigns for a wide swath of clients over the years, from Burger King to TD Ameritrade, from chemical companies to the hospitality industry and beyond over the last 20-plus years.

As group creative director at Ogilvy, Long heads up the creative on a portfolio of accounts that spans from UPS to Samsung and Holiday Inn. He came to Ogilvy from Code and Theory, where co-led brand creative and helmed some of the agency’s highest-profile initiatives such as ‘Peace Whopper’ for Burger King and ‘No Maybes’ for Maybelline New York.

Long is one of judges for The Drum’s B2B awards, and he talked exclusively to The Drum about what makes a winning campaign as well as what he looks for in a winner. Like with any campaign, a good B2B campaign, he feels, must present “a big idea, grounded in a human truth, crafted beautifully.”

Simple enough, it might seem, but it takes a lot for that campaign to find its way in a crowded marketplace, to reach the right audience with the right message. Judging a mass amount of work takes a precise eye and knowledge of what it means to create campaigns that connect, but also to step back and view it like a consumer.

“I think it's good to look at the work as naively as possible, initially, to see what stops you and hits you on a gut level,” says Long. “Then you can put your professional hat on and scrutinize the details. That's how I do it, anyway.”

When it comes specifically to B2B work, brands and agencies need to consider making their messages simple to understand and not get caught up in buzzwords and jargon.

“No matter how complicated your product or service is, no matter how narrow your target audience, no matter how arcane or technical your industry, at the end of the day, we're still talking to other human beings. Don't use the complexity as an excuse to be emotionless and totally rational,” he states.

Citing examples he’s seen of great work on the B2B front, he gives a nod to IBM’s ‘Smarter Planet’ and ‘Smarter Cities’ campaigns. “They looked so fresh in the category and totally unique to IBM, as they tapped into the design legacy of the great Paul Rand. But I especially love the way they were executed – all those insanely clever out-of-home installations, for example. Also, the work did what too few B2B campaigns do – it spoke to the target but reverberated to a much wider audience.”

As far as B2B campaigns Long has worked on, he notes work Ogilvy has done with a relatively new US chemical company.

“I'm very proud of all the work we've done for Chemours, a new (founded 2015) brand that's a spinoff of DuPont. It's been exciting to build something from scratch,” Long says.

Mobile should be a part of a successful modern campaign, and Long says that social and mobile are “always part of the discussion.” Being global also must be taken into account to create winning B2B campaigns.

“Being global forces you to simplify the work from a messaging standpoint and there are, of course, cultural nuances and sensitivities. But also, some industries have different challenges and regulatory issues overseas. So, you just have to think through these things at the start, so they don't bite you when it's too late.”

Long sums up the one thing he always looks for in a winning campaign, be it B2C, B2B, digital or otherwise, and it’s really the one thing that matters to a man that has stated he dislikes the term ‘content’: “creativity.”

Nominations for The Drum's B2B Awards will be announced October 9. The awards will be given out at a ceremony on November 15 at the Edison Ballroom in New York City. For more information, visit the awards page.

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