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The Drum

Ogilvy UK taps Facebook’s Shishir Patel as ECD as it revamps its creative process

Laurentino, Patel and Chalkley will be at the helm of Ogilvy's revamped creative department

After a tumultuous year for the business, Ogilvy UK’s creative department is readying itself for a new era – hiring Facebook creative Shishir Patel as executive creative director, as well as rethinking how it pools talent to work on client briefs.

Starting immediately, Patel will report directly to chief executive creative director Jules Chalkley and will work primarily on the agency’s British Airways account. Along with him come new ways of working for the WPP-owned agency’s 100-strong creative team.

Patel has more than 18 years’ experience in the industry, spanning agencies such as DDB London, Fallon, Wieden+Kennedy and BBH London. Most recently, he he consulted at both Facebook’s Creative Shop and Studio, working in partnership with agencies to create ads tailored for the platform.

He was also involved in Facebook’s own ‘Here Together’ brand campaign, which sought to rebuild trust in the business post-Cambridge Analytica.

Patel is joining the team as Ogilvy looks to move from a less siloed way of working creatively, with Chalkley revealing to The Drum that the agency will now cherry-pick talent from across its creative teams to work on different clients.

George Bear, director of resource at Ogilvy, will sit at the heart of this new system, where he will “cast” the best strategists, directors and other talent to work on briefs as and when they come in.

Patel said it was this new set up that attracted him to the job.

“There’s an exciting potential in diverse talent and disciplines in the building working more closely together. [It's] that energy combined with working on a great brand like British Airways – I can’t wait to get started,” he added.

The hire, and move towards a way of working that reflects the way other creative agencies within rival holding firms (such as Publicis Groupe) work, bookends a tough 12 months for the business.

Last year, long-time leader Annette King departed to be replaced by ex-PR chief Michael Frohlich as chief executive. Ogilvy also saw the departures of Ogilvy One chief Jo Coombs, strategy chief Kevin Chesters and planning partner James Whatley, and offered its entire UK workforce voluntary redundancy as part of a radical restricting drive.

Hiring from Facebook

In an industry where Facebook, Amazon and Snapchat are poaching agency-side talent on the regular, and in which even Frohlich has also identified the unyielding digital dominance of Google and Facebook as being a threat traditional agencies like his, Patel’s appointment signals a shift in the way Ogilvy makes ads for its clients.

Speaking on what agencies can learn from Facebook, Patel hinted at how his skills and experience might further reshape Ogilvy’s creative department.

“The nimbleness, agility and innovative thinking Facebook works to is very interesting,” he explained. “Even though it’s now a massive global corporate, within its ethos it’s always been about innovation and moving fast and building nimble teams to make that happen.”

“That sense of dynamism and freedom made it easy for me to, having come from the ad agency word, to open up my thinking," he added.

Dede Laurentino, chief creative officer at Ogilvy UK, who will be working alongside Patel, said his experience across both the agency landscape and within Facebook meant he would be able to "bring exciting thinking" to the team.

"I look forward to seeing the impact he has on our work and the creative team to continue the elevation and ingenuity of our ideas," he noted.

Planting a creative flag in the sand

Though Chalkley admitted it was “early days” for his department in rolling out its new way of working, he said the new system combined with Patel's hire was Ogilvy’s way of planting its flag in the sand as a creative force to be reckoned with and a company that wanted to attract fresh, diverse recruits.

“We’re trying to attract new talent and lay down a new creative benchmark. Our clients are British and global; Vodafone, Dove – they demand great work and while we’re in the early stages of this, hiring people like Shish helps up put our stake in the ground," he said.

Laurentino, meanwhile, noted that this new way of working was a long-term strategy, and it would take Ogilvy some time to see the “fruits” of the new system, which is currently being piloted with BA.