In Memoriam: Michael Ball

In Memoriam: Michael Ball
(August 5, 1936 - September 25, 2016)

Michael Ball’s passing is a very sad day for me, and our entire Ogilvy family around the world. He was a larger than life force who personally built, from the ground up, much of our network in Asia-Pacific, where we hold an enviable leadership position today.

Michael was a man of the world in every sense. He soaked up local cultures and made them understandable in the boardrooms of our most valued global clients. He was always in constant motion, logging more air miles than any of his Ogilvy peers or our competitors.

Michael was the Ogilvy executive who first enticed me to the possibilities of an international assignment. He made it an irresistible opportunity that changed my life in so many wonderful ways. I owe him so much for enabling me to spend seven wonderful years in our Thailand and Singapore operations, an essential experience that serves me well today as worldwide chairman.

We will miss him terribly … and always remember him as an Ogilvy giant.

- John Seifert, Worldwide Chairman and CEO

Just a few weeks ago I spent a weekend in Canberra with Michael Ball. I think both he and I knew it was the last time we would meet, though we talked about my return. Some years ago, over dinner in New York, he had revealed he was dying. He exceeded all expectations for living much, much longer than apparently possible, partly by setting a whole series of milestones which he was determined to meet. The last, and most important, was his eightieth birthday party, just passed, attended by the great people in the land, in Sydney.

My time with him was long planned, and he was insistent that it took place sooner rather than later. Michael looked in rude health, organized a grueling program and was the heart and soul of each meal. Canberra was very much his City; he had run it for years, an important codicil to his advertising career. Daria, his devoted wife, was at his side the whole time we were there, conscious that behind the brave face the cancer was now eating him alive.

He clung to life with all the courage, chutzpah and comic sensibility that made him such a successful ad man. He was the ultimate client man. And when I asked him who was the best new business person he had ever encountered he said, " me ".  His career in Ogilvy was stellar, and David Ogilvy loved his rebelliousness and his piraticism. He was an outsider. And he envisioned what others could not, which is the rise of the new world, especially of Asia. Ahead of his time, he then went and did his own thing, and did it incredibly well.

He kept his deep affection for Ogilvy. In Canberra, the conversation ranged over the past, but also the present and future. He belonged to the era of Francis Ogilvy as well as David Ogilvy, but was insatiably curious about the advertising world today. When I became Chairman he reached out with friendship, and that friendship has been for me a precious gift I shall never forget, just as I shall never forget the last sight of him after we hugged and said goodbye after one of the jolliest dinners possible, and the elevator door closed.

- Miles Young, Non-Executive Chairman

Michael Ball and Miles Young 

(Pictured l to r: Michael Ball and Miles Young in Canberra, July 2016)

Click here to read a remembrance of Michael in Mumbrella.

Click here to read Michael's article on traveling, "Life at 39,000 Feet", from a 1982 edition of Viewpoint, Ogilvy & Mather's internal magazine at the time.