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5 Minutes with… Toby Talbot



Creative transformation begins with people believing things need to be fixed and aspiring to have fun as the late great Dan Wieden advocated, discovers LBB’s Esther Faith Lew

5 Minutes with… Toby Talbot

CCO Toby Talbot has a taste for fine ideas. He owes that to his school tutor’s opportune introduction to the late advertising great Paul Ardern at Saatchi & Saatchi London. “An internship with Ardern was like weaning your child on caviar. He instilled in me a taste for fine ideas and how to execute them that I’ve never really let go of,” says Toby. 

Joining the Ogilvy ANZ Network last December, Toby’s new role sees him overseeing Ogilvy offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Auckland, including Designworks in New Zealand. He taps into his over 25 years of diverse experience as a global leader to create a high-performance creative culture across the agency’s advertising, PR, experience, health and growth & innovation business units.

Toby was previously based in Barcelona where he was CCO of DDB-owned agency, 14. Prior to that, he was the CCO at Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand for three successful years. The agency picked up many awards, during his tenure, including One Show Pencils and D&AD Wood Pencils.

Toby believes in living a rich life immersed in as many forms of culture as possible, which keep that spark of creativity burning bright. A man with a contrarian mindset, Toby adds that when it comes to advertising, he relies on other people to “filter out and share the good from the bad because maybe, like most consumers, I subconsciously avoid advertising”. 

Living in the moment to fully experience life is important for Toby, and he will tell you, when in Barcelona, dine in, no takeaways please! He shares his philosophy in life and in work, “If you don’t have a life outside of your job, then you don’t have much of a life. That, and life is too short to work for people you don’t respect.”

LBB> As you went from ECD to CCO, how have the responsibilities shifted for you and how does it impact the way you approach work? 

Toby> Our business is full of ludicrous titles. Blame the States for that. I have been doing the CCO thing for 10 years now, so I’ve got used to the role (less so the title). The difference between being an ECD and a CCO can be quite nuanced. It depends on the size of the agency and how much you are still on the tools. For me, being a CCO is about thought leadership and inspiring people around you. It’s about unearthing great talent and nurturing that talent.

In my role now, I’m across four offices in two countries. That could be an impossible role but a big drawcard for me is the Ogilvy model of borderless creativity. It’s been a revelation. It’s not about who’s available to work on key projects. It’s about who’s right. We cast the right creatives for the right brief. It’s early days but it’s definitely impacting the work really well. Hiring exciting people like Liana Rossi from MONA as our newly formed Head of Culture and Influence has been so cool because she works at the intersections of our various businesses. From a new business point of view, that can be incredibly potent. 

LBB> Creativity vs strategy vs business results. How have you laid the groundwork to ensure the best alignment to bring out the agency’s best potential? 

Toby> Well, given that Ogilvy Sydney is currently #2 Agency Most Effective in the World in the WARC rankings, there’s a lot we are doing right already when it comes to realising our clients’ business ambitions. The groundwork for that success happened long before I joined, I might add. Ogilvy ANZ’s ambition is to be as pre-eminent in creative as we are in effectiveness. This year for me has been about laying down the groundwork. And being part of Cannes’ Network of the Year, the standard of work is very high globally and the pressure is on now. Good pressure though!

LBB> In your previous roles in Saatchi& Saatchi New Zealand, DDB Sydney and DDB New Zealand, you ‘transformed’ the creative departments you were in. Can you share with us your thought process and strategy? What were the important criteria you wanted to implement and establish?

Toby> Agencies aren’t easy to fix if, fundamentally, the people that run them don’t believe they need fixing. So, first off you need to know there is genuine ambition for change. Transformation is much more fundamental than ‘tinkering’ with the creative department. It’s about taking everyone on a journey and making them feel part of that transition. Then there’s the work. It’s a confidence game. One great piece leads to another leads to another. And it’s rarely about making marquee creative hirings either. It’s about giving people more self-belief and the tools they need.

LBB> What does it take to cultivate the “right” creative culture in agencies and how do you define what is “right and ideal”?

Toby> The amazing Dan Wieden always talked about having fun. So much has been said of him since he passed but there’s a constant thread running through it all. He had a wonderful, wry sense of humour. I met him once. He had me in stitches. I look at the W+K culture and I see that they all seem to have had fun and I think it comes through in their work. A wonderful child-like innocence to it at times. That feels right and ideal to me. We should all aspire to holding on to our inner child. Particularly creatives.

LBB> What’s your creative strategy for building on Ogilvy ANZ’s portfolio and in deepening relationships with clients?

Toby> Trust is the key word here. I think we have such solid and proven relationships with clients like KFC in Sydney and AAMI in Melbourne. You can see it in the work. We have an incredible client list across ANZ. Plenty more work to be done but for me, a great base to build from.

LBB> What were the campaigns that have been significant in terms of setting bars in creativity, innovation, business impact, etc? (can be from Ogilvy or other agencies)

Toby> I always love blindingly simple ideas. Almost to the point of obvious, save for the fact that no one ever thought of it before. At Cannes this year, I adored the Corona idea of rewarding fishermen to take plastic out of the ocean rather than fish. The sea is over-fished and there’s way too much plastic. So it’s one of those two-birds-with-one-stone ideas that I wish I’d thought of. I live right by the sea too, so there’s no excuse really. 

LBB> What recent campaigns have you worked on that are important to you and why? 

Toby> I joined Ogilvy at the beginning of the year just at the beginning of case study season. Happy to have helped on the AAMI Rest Towns story. KFC Degustation was a hugely successful earned media story and I think it deserved more at Cannes than a bunch of Shortlists. We have so much more work in the works across each office that sadly I can’t share yet.

LBB> As a well-respected judge at awards, what’s your take on the level of creativity you have seen? What do you like and what don’t you like?

Toby> Well speaking of case studies, I love ideas that don’t need them. But of course, it seems that every idea now needs a good minute and a half of mansplaining for any judge to fully comprehend its inherent brilliance. Being a judge now is as much an exercise in patience as it is in anything else - so much that I try and avoid judging if I’m honest. Get. To. The. Fucking. Point. These would be my five parting words of advice on the subject. 

LBB> Looking forward, what’s the bar you have set for Ogilvy, and what highlights can we expect?

Toby> It’s funny. Having only seen Ogilvy from the outside, it always suffered in our part of the world as being seen as a very retaily, anti-awards, very ‘red’ agency. When you’re inside the place, it’s a different experience altogether. How we generate earned media for our best creative ideas, no other agency can touch us. Our strength and depth to build and execute in all things in experience, again it’s impressive to be a part of this. So, for me, it’s about creating impact in culture through the work we’re doing for our clients. The work we already do for KFC in Sydney shows what we’re capable of. Now we need to step it up.

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Ogilvy Australia, Wed, 12 Oct 2022 06:37:54 GMT