From the reception, I could hear an occasional cracking sound followed by excited shouts. Sitting within this red and white building nestled in Accra’s Airport Residential Area, it was evident that something was different about this office.
While being ushered upstairs, my eyes caught a glimpse of an ongoing game of foosball where the sounds were coming from. It was clear a young lady was winning against her colleague much to the excitement of her small audience of three that was also caught up in the action. While this was the World Cup season, I still found it interesting since it was in the middle of a workday. Within the next hour, I would come to learn that creative agencies are a different breed.
The dress code was obviously relaxed: jeans, polo shirts, the occasional skirt above the knee. For them, this was work. Brainstorming on the colourful puffy sofas in the corner was just as productive as sitting behind one of the iMac workstations designing a billboard the size of a footbridge.
Ogilvy Africa Ghana, the leading marketing communication agency in Ghana which comprises several subagencies or departments all working together sits in the comfortable vacuum between being corporate and artistic. “Work and happiness.” That’s the feeling I had observing this world. For many, especially in the creative space, they are doing what they love and getting paid for it. It is considered the ideal work mindset, which makes work less of a chore and more of a joy.
I am told, however, that these Ogilvy teams have mastered the art of resilience, seeing that this is a very high-pressure environment where deadlines are tight, rejection can come swiftly, and there is little time to celebrate small or great victories.
March 2020 was a watershed moment for their already unique work culture. With the world around them ravaged by COVID-19, the strategists, account managers, creatives, public relations, and media teams of Ogilvy Africa Ghana all worked from home.
All this while, they were developing “Stay Home, Stay Safe” communication campaigns for their clients before gradually returning to more conventional brand and product messaging, all from their homes. The communication agency worked fully remotely until December 2021 and then adopted a hybrid model.
Contrary to fears surrounding the effectiveness of working from home, Ogilvy Africa Ghana continued to be efficient during this period of relearning.
This period was also beneficial for the staff, allowing them to re-evaluate their ambitions, goals and aspirations, while finding the sweet spot to avoid excessive mental and physical burnout. As would be the case, a few even made the decision to switch jobs or leave the industry in line with their personal goals.
“Work-life balance is a priority here and is something which we push across the teams”, notes Akua Owusu-Nartey, the Regional Managing Director of Ogilvy Africa.
On the rationale behind its flexible work arrangement:
As told by Akua Owusu-Nartey, Regional Managing Director, Ghana
With a decent number of our clients based outside Ghana, working virtually had become second nature to us pre-COVID. COVID, however, took virtual work out of the office and into our homes in March 2020. Today working remotely is business as usual, this has been enabled by our recognition that people can work remotely, without negative impact on their efficiency and effectiveness.
Though many managers feel the need to hover and micro-manage employees’ time and work schedules, managers at Ogilvy Ghana have learnt to trust and hold people accountable. If you want the flexibility to work remotely, you must deliver on the agreed outcomes – our people understand the cause and effect.
In January 2022, we started with a three-day working week which was further reduced to 2 days for two reasons: With rising inflation and the impact on cost of living, we wanted to soften the effect on our people. This eventually had a ripple effect as it contributed to us inching closer to achieving some ESG targets by reducing the carbon footprint that results from our daily commute.
Since the creative field requires a certain degree of collaboration which can suffer due to remote working, coming into the office two days a week helps immensely because they have become our days for collaboration.
My teams’ lifestyles have also changed drastically as we see more of them having stronger and better relationships with their families. For instance, a lot of Ogilvy staff are picking up and dropping their children to school which is great.
Is this hybrid working model feasible on the long-term? Well, I believe it is here to stay if people don’t abuse it and because it is a culture, we all love and want to build. Overall, Ogilvy is a great place to work, and we look out for our people because we want them to grow in their careers. For creatives who want to experience different sectors, get regional and global exposure and work with diverse clients, Ogilvy is the place to be.
Some senior and junior executives of the Ogilvy team across various departments shared their thoughts on their Ogilvy journeys so far.
Christabel Mills, People Team
On a balanced work culture, equity and having the right people:
On any day, you will find the MD engaging with a Client Service Executive or a Creative Director speaking to an intern in a way that emphasizes their regard for one another as colleagues. This mutual respect is very key for us and I believe everyone, despite background or socialization, appreciates it when the people at the top do not look down on the people at the bottom.
At Ogilvy, we hire more for attitude than anything else. I think when people have a positive mindset, a winning mindset to learn and are open, that is fertile ground. So, the mindset is the first thing we always look at. We have learned to find the right blend between taking people and shaping people.
I think that the future of work is also about knowing that you have a generation who can’t be necessarily tied down. So, many jobs that did not exist five years ago now exist. As such, we at Ogilvy know that newer jobs and roles are coming in creative design work and the new skill sets will be required so we are training our people to be future ready.
Georgiette Obiri-Yeboah, Media Manager, 10 years at Ogilvy
The one thing I truly love about Ogilvy is the relaxed but ‘go-getter’ culture we exude. We are typically never in suits and ties, although they have their place when needed. This culture has a way of getting the very best out of people.
The culture allows our creativity to thrive and for people to enjoy what they do every day serving clients. If I had to describe it in one word, I would say ‘amazing’ and it is no surprise I have been here for a decade. It’s been a decade of learning, un-learning and re-learning. The process has been good, developmental and I can only go up from here.
Betsey Osuteye, Account Director, Digital, 18 months at Ogilvy
My love for Ogilvy is anchored in the fun we have while executing our work and the growth opportunities that exist in Ghana and across the network.
I love the opportunities Ogilvy gives to learn. There is so much to learn here, and people are always ready to help; always open to sharing ideas, even across departments. This growth transcends positions, to departments and even markets. Some of our colleagues have grown from Digital Executive to PR Manager while some have moved to work for our Kenya, Zambia and South Africa offices, symbolizing the various levels you could grow.
Working in the digital space has opened my eyes to the expanding possibilities where data and brands converge. Mobile is the medium of choice, with tons of consumers being mobile-only. Commerce now starts online before converting to in-store, or even staying online. And that’s why we developed FEED 2.0, a real-time content production and distribution solution that helps brands move at the speed of culture. The platform enables brands to be more in the moment, aligning them to the conversations going on online, and makes brands automatically react to online conversations with content distribution while monitoring effectiveness in real time.
Just being part of something this revolutionary is enough to make you love coming in every morning.
Patience Dansoa Osei – Agyemang, Commercial Manager, Finance, 10 years at Ogilvy.
I keep falling in love with Ogilvy because of its professionalism, open-door policy, and teamwork. A lot has changed over the last decade, but the sense of community has remained. At the same time, there is a healthy demand for excellence while maintaining a healthy and positive work environment.
Ogilvy operates in a totally different manner, being an industry leader. As members of a listed company, we comply with WPP’s strict business policies in all our day-to-day activities as every single entry in the system is subject to review by both WPP internal auditors and during our statutory audits. From financial transactions being tracked in our specially designed accounting software to our onboarding system for both potential clients and suppliers, and disallowing cash transactions, we have mandatory requirements per WPP guidelines based on verification. This means everything is professionally done. I love it!
Hopeson Seloamey Akpesey, Senior Art Director, Creative, 3 years at Ogilvy
Being part of a global network is one of the best things about working at Ogilvy. Here, we are exposed beyond local cognitive processes because we tap into resources from beyond these borders. We can and are encouraged to take part in projects that are not related to Ghana alone.
For someone who is keenly interested in the intersection between art and technology, I love that we can explore these existing and emerging technologies to enhance creative output. Artificial Intelligence opens incredible doors that make it much easier to not only visualize ideas, but also bring them to life in more stunning detail.
Some find it scary, but we’re encouraged to embrace this exciting landscape. A quote I read online sums it up: “AI won’t replace you … but the person using AI will.” Being part of the global network plugs us into Ogilvy Social Labs, for example, so that we can see behind the curtain how technology is used in conjunction with traditional advertising. Data is now part of the offering around the world, and in Ghana, we’re beginning to leverage available technologies for creativity.
I want to be here for a long time and have a good time as well. I would love to see more ‘colour’ in the place and these are some of the changes I have already started seeing.
Martina Korsah, Senior Copywriter, 4 years at Ogilvy
If there is anything I wouldn’t trade working at Ogilvy for, it’s the focus on talent retention and its commitment to mental health.
Advertising is a competitive industry and one thing I’ve seen Ogilvy do over the years is to put effort into keeping talent and recruiting new talent. There are measures in place globally, which is surprising because there’s a global help desk, and there are people on call 24/7 to attend to you in terms of counsel and other things. Ogilvy is an incredible place to work. It pushes you to discover the other creative sides of yourself and your hidden talents.
Fauziya Yen Anafo, Senior Account Manager, Client Service, 16 months at Ogilvy
The diversity and strong support system at Ogilvy is an envy of most. We believe so much in diversity and inclusion, so it does not matter how you look, your religious background, your race or education level, you are measured by what you bring to the table. As such, we are made an up of unconventional bunch.
One of my goals when joining Ogilvy was to be able to do strategy development. In less than 16 months, I have had the opportunity to take a stab at it and learn from the very best.
I have worked in a couple of communication agencies and one of the things I see that sets Ogilvy apart is flexibility. You are not boxed into your official role or department. You are allowed to join different teams including strategy, creative, digital and media and so you get a well-rounded experience and appreciate what you do a lot more.
I believe Ogilvy has a fantastic leadership team made up of women. This is the first agency I have worked in where the leadership is female and I really appreciate the support and work culture here. Ogilvy empowers women to take up leadership roles and that really is inspiring. Creativity beyond our borders is also fascinating. One thing I am hoping for is an opportunity to work in Ogilvy offices within other markets, sit in brainstorming sessions and understand how they see things through their lenses.
According to Akua Owusu-Nartey, there is still more to be done: “We strive to be the employer of choice. We invest in our people’s growth and development. Career conversations are part of the fabric of what we do. We also prioritize rewarding hard work, and our people work hard.”
Across the building, several awards catch any visitor’s attention.
However, for her, it’s not enough. She says, “Our teams in Kenya have won global awards at the biggest shows. We’re looking to make our mark there as well.” It was said that institutions which were agile in adopting technology would emerge from the pandemic ahead of their peers. While solid investments have been made in this regard, not only for Ogilvy Africa Ghana, but for the entire regional organization, it appears as though the most important ‘technology’ is their people and Ogilvy Africa Ghana is ahead of the curve in harnessing its people through a distinct work culture.