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Never Burn a Bridge
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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We've been doing research on several advertising greats lately for a possible future project, and we ran into an interesting tale between two big personalities.

The situation was between a retiring legend, and — though we may be getting ahead of ourselves — a future legend of our industry.

The tale is about David Ogilvy and Sir Martin Sorrell.

Background: David Ogilvy created Ogilvy & Mather with help from his older brother Francis and the agency he was at. O&M grew tremendously, based on the great work and the "creative giants" Ogilvy decided to surround himself with.

Then, when Ogilvy & Mather was on a tear, an upstart holding company, WPP, decided to buy it. It was a hostile takeover, too, for since the Ogilvy Group was public, WPP simply played the numbers game. Now at this time, Ogilvy was in and out of retirement and was visiting branches all over the world.

The point is, Ogilvy was not the biggest fan of Sorrell at the time. It is quoted that Ogilvy called Sorrell an "odius little shit."

Then what happened?

Well, Sorrell recounts that he did his homework and read numerous Ogilvy writings. Once he was able to "recount them in large chunks," Ogilvy turned his frown upside down.

What an interesting encounter, don't you think? 

This was around 1989, ten years before Ogilvy's death. It was the time when WPP became the largest holding company, and Ogilvy was slowly fading out. 

But Sorrell took the time and energy to make sure this guy got on his side. And he sure did.

Sorrell probably didn't have to win Ogilvy over. But the rewards — building up his reputation — seemed important enough for him to put forth that extra effort.

Friends in advertising work out much easier than the other alternative. 


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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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