How I See Our Culture – David Ogilvy


I worked for Ogilvy and Mather for nine years. At the beginning of my time there, it was still a privately-held company – though within a few years of my tenure, it was absorbed (and changed forever) by WPP.

I came across this piece written by David Ogilvy (whom I had the pleasure of meeting once), about the culture of Ogilvy back in the day.

I think all leaders should use it as a culture check-list for their companies.

From The Unpublished David Ogilvy.

Here is how I see our culture.


Some of our people spend their entire working lives in our agency. We do our damnedest to make it a happy experience. I put this first, believing that superior service to our clients and profits for our stockholders depend on it.

We treat our people like human beings. We help them when they are in trouble – with their jobs, with illness, with alcoholism, and so on.

We help our people make the best of their talents. We invest an awful lot of time and money in training – perhaps more than any of our competitors.

Our system of management is singularly democratic.

We don’t like hierarchical bureaucracy or rigid pecking orders.

We abhor ruthlessness.

We give our executives an extraordinary degree of freedom and independence. We like people with gentle manners.

We like people who are honest. Honest in argument, honest with clients, honest with suppliers, honest with the company – and above all, honest with consumers.

We admire people who work hard, who are objective and thorough.

We do not admire superficial people.

We despise office politicians, toadies, bullies and pompous asses.

We discourage paper warfare.

The way up the ladder is open to everybody. We are free from prejudice of any kind – religious prejudice, racial prejudice or sexual prejudice. We detest nepotism and every other form of favoritism.

In promoting people to top jobs, we are influenced as much by their character as anything else.

Like all companies with a strong culture, we have our heroes– the Old Guard who have woven our culture. By no means have all of them been members of top management.

Wise words, from a wise man. Creating meaningful workplaces and a strong culture is not an old concept, but it is getting harder and harder to achieve.

To read more about how Emotive Brand thinks about building more meaningful workplaces, download our paper below.

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