John Seifert

Chairman
Ogilvy & Mather North America

I am Chairman, Ogilvy & Mather North America, and I have been with Ogilvy since June 15, 1979.

I think what's unique about my job is that as regional Chairman, I really do feel a sense of responsibility for everything that happens. And having spent most of my career facing off against clients most of the day, I wasn't as appreciative of everything that goes on behind the scenes: developing the work, putting the work out there, dealing with all the personal issues, and the back and forth that goes on in any creative organization. So since taking over in North America, I've gotten a much deeper appreciation of all the complexities of people, their attitudes and behaviors, and how they deal with each other in the ups and downs of the pressures of the business. And what I really like about that is I can now see that everything that I can do to make people feel better about themselves, better about the agency, better about the work, has a direct impact on the quality of the work with clients.

So I think what's unique is I can see how to create happier, more delighted clients by not necessarily being in the room with the clients as much but spending more quality time with people behind the scenes.

What I think is unique about Ogilvy is we are at a moment when much of the world is saying: "We have great respect and admiration for their first 60 years as a company. And we have very high ambition for them in the future. We're not sure whether they are going to be the great agency that they have been in the past."

This is a unique moment to prove over the next 12 to 36 months that we are a brand and a company for the future, not just a great agency of the past. And there are many great agencies of the past that didn't survive for various reasons. We won't be one of those, but we need everybody now to be really focused on what's best about us and making that relevant for the future. If we do that then we've got another fabulous 60 years of success.

I think networking is one of the most exciting things in business generally. All the barriers to privileged access – knowledge or money or talent or ideas – all of that's been broken down, and the people who are winning today are the ones who are just networking like mad. The essential discipline in today's world, in today's business, is networking.

My most memorable career experience at Ogilvy was my first three months in Ogilvy Thailand. I left Chicago, where it was the middle of winter and five degrees below zero, and landed in Bangkok in 95-degree temperature and the chaos of pollution and too many cars for too little pavement, in a completely new culture where very few people who spoke English. It was a complete immersion into something so strange and different, and the only thing that I had to rely on was Ogilvy, which was really the only thing I shared in common with most of the people there. And that first three months was probably the hardest time in my life professionally, but also the moment when you realize that you are part of something larger than the two offices in the United States that you worked in. This was a worldwide company that created a bond between people that was pretty special. Ever since then there has been this discovery of all the cool things, all the cool people, all the interesting places in the world that Ogilvy is a part of.

We are not all cut from the same cloth. We all come with very different experiences and different styles and different family backgrounds. Most people don't appreciate the uniqueness of this eclectic mix of people who can be very different personally but unite over a bond based on something that this mad Scotsman envisioned.