Ogilvy - when did you stop being 'real people'?

I have just read the article by Kevin Chesters at Ogilvy in Campaign magazine. Chesters announced that Ogilvy planners are ‘returning to primary research’ by talking to ‘real people’. It’s the second most read article on Campaign’s website this week.

I’ve been in Marketing for nearly 20 years. Whilst we’ve seen it evolve dramatically, the concept remains the same; we analyse customer needs and create innovative ways to get them to do something that satisfies those needs.

So how have Ogilvy been doing it all these years if they haven’t been talking to real people?

Chesters certainly isn’t doubting the importance of customer research but he is doubting the methodology. In his words, 94% of planners use the internet or other secondary data as their main research input, saying “we don’t leave our desks, let alone our city”. Astounding. But quite clearly the norm in some London agencies.

It’s not that I don’t see the importance of data. It has engulfed our industry and most definitely allows us to make informed decisions about how consumers are interacting with brands. But the job of the planner should always be to get the balance right. We must understand the basic consciousness and emotions of real people before we can use data to analyse how previous activity is impacting marketing goals.

This week alone I have seen one of my planners don a high vis jacket and spend a day on a waste management truck. Not the most glamorous job but vital to understand our client’s world. Another has been out talking to builders and construction workers. Both experiences will absolutely fuel the creative brief not just ‘2%’ of it.

So as I sit here in my non-ivory tower, 112 miles from London, I say good luck Ogilvy with your ‘Get Out There’ initiative and thank you for offering to share it with the entire industry. But us ‘real people’, we don’t need that advice because we never stopped doing it properly in the first place.

Joanne Scott, Strategy Director, Connect