In Memoriam: Robyn Putter

CAPE TOWN, March 2, 2010 – It is with deep regret and much sadness that Ogilvy announces the passing away of Robyn Putter, former Ogilvy South Africa CEO and Ogilvy Worldwide Board Director.

Robyn has been bravely fighting cancer over the past year, and in usual Robyn fashion, his spirit was strong all the way through.

Robyn was born in 1950 and joined the Ogilvy community in 1976. After spells at BBDO and Hands Creative Communication, he started as a copywriter at Rightford Searle-Tripp and Makin in Cape Town. In 1979 he led a team to open the Johannesburg offices of this company and, in 1984 he led the merger with Ogilvy. He built Ogilvy JHB into a formidable company with an enviable creative reputation. In 1994 Robyn took over as Group Chief Executive Officer of Ogilvy South Africa and was appointed to the Ogilvy Worldwide Board.

As CEO, Robyn built Ogilvy South Africa into the biggest agency in South Africa. Under his creative leadership, Johannesburg and Cape Town were consistently among the best creative agencies in the Ogilvy network. In addition to regularly sweeping the Loeries, Africa's premiere awards, in 1995 Ogilvy South Africa was named International Agency of the Year by Advertising Age.

In the 1990’s Robyn pioneered Ogilvy South Africa’s Black Economic Empowerment initiative to ensure that Ogilvy responded to the need for genuine transformation in South Africa.

He also initiated the development of Ogilvy Africa and led this to become the biggest communication network on the continent with offices in over 30 countries.

Robyn's personal achievements include over 230 international creative awards.  (He also ran 10 Comrades ultra marathons!)

In South Africa, Robyn’s outstanding contribution to the industry has been recognized by the Financial Mail, which gave him its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004.

Robyn was a passionate South African. He was extremely committed to the positive changes in the new democratic South Africa and unwavering in his support of all South African national teams.

Robyn’s impact however was not only felt in South Africa and Africa.

Robyn has served as senior creative member of Ogilvy's Board of Directors for 17 years.

In 1994, he invented and articulated Ogilvy's philosophy of ‘Brand Stewardship’, and 12 years later, he led the process that developed the ‘The big ideaL™’.

In 2002, Robyn was asked to chair Ogilvy's Creative Council and run the ‘Red Hot Awards’ program to foster creative excellence throughout Ogilvy's world.

In 2006 he was appointed as Creative Head of WPP where, among his achievements, he led the creation of the WPP awards program, the ‘WPPed Cream’ Awards.

Robyn’s achievements do not, however, fully describe the impact he has had on our industry.

During his tenure, he grew a generation of advertising leaders in South Africa that have had a significant impact, not just in the top ranks of Ogilvy, but in agencies around the world.

As a leader, Robyn inspired with a vision and purpose that is rare. He was both uncompromising and caring. He preached and practiced a set of values that have motivated many to follow his example.

As Nunu Ntshingila, Ogilvy South Africa CEO explains, “we owe a great deal to Robyn's uncompromising standards, his integrity, his unwavering mission to always do ‘the right thing’: To do the right thing for our staff, for our clients, for our suppliers and indeed for our country.” 

David Ogilvy believed ‘divine discontent’ fosters the continual improvement and the relentless search for a better way. No one personified this philosophy more than Robyn Putter. As a truly creative person, he was relentless in his pursuit of ideas of value and of excellence in execution and his endurance was legendary.

In the words of Ogilvy Worldwide Chairman Shelly Lazarus, “We have been honored to have Robyn as our partner across three decades. Beyond David Ogilvy, there are few people who have made a greater contribution to Ogilvy’s creative reputation. He truly is a giant in our industry, and he will be sorely missed.”

Our thoughts are with Margarita, Kelly and Victoria.

Contact: Rob Hill
Date: March 02, 2010
Office: Cape Town