Spotlight on: Adam Tucker, president, Ogilvy NYC

adamtucker-2015-colorWhen you execute campaigns for some of the most famous brands in the world, there’s a certain expectation to continually come up with cutting-edge creative. The same can be said when you’re from one of the most famous agencies in the world, which Adam Tucker is.

Tucker is president of Ogilvy & Mather Advertising in New York, the runaway winner in every category on Top50AdAgencies.com. Ogilvy’s client list includes huge names like Coca-Cola; SC Johnson, the company behind most of the products under your kitchen sink; and Nationwide Insurance, an old relationship that was reignited with Tucker cold calling the company’s chief marketing officer. How does Ogilvy manage to maintain its stellar reputation and keep outdoing itself?

“It’s about never resting on your laurels and never being truly satisfied with your work. You have to have a hunger and an ambition to continue innovating, especially in the times we live in. We’re constantly challenging ourselves to work differently to try different creative processes,” says Tucker. “Creating a culture of creative excellence is an every day, every moment, every brief job.”

Tucker adds that at the same time, you shouldn’t innovate just for innovation’s sake. “Is your brand being useful and solving real human problems, or are you just trying to look cool?” He would know, having worked with big brands from the beginning.

His career began at Euro RSCG Tatham and blossomed at Fallon Worldwide. In 2001, Tucker won the United Airlines global pitch and then ran the business from the Minneapolis-based agency’s London office. From there, he moved onto AMV BBDO, his last stop before joining Ogilvy and moving to New York three years ago.

But Tucker’s experience working with legacy brands predates his advertising career. As a Northwestern University junior, he interned with D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, a St. Louis agency that has since been acquired by Publicis, and worked on “a famous Budweiser campaign.”

At this point, I cut him off to ask, “Was it the frogs?!” It was the frogs.

That experience led to Tucker becoming an on-campus marketing representative for Budweiser. (On-campus marketing representatives are where every frat house gets its neon beer signs from.) The experience also led to Tucker wanting to continue working with iconic brands.

“To deliver brilliant creative work for big blue chip iconic brands, you’re always relentlessly pushing and we have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” says Tucker.

By “comfortable being uncomfortable,” Tucker refers to having to constantly push the agency team and the client team, and sometimes, both at the same time. There’s also a certain level of pressure that comes with big brands. If Coca-Cola does something really cool, everyone’s going to see it, but if Coca-Cola really screws up, everyone’s going to see that too.

“What I tend to try to do is compartmentalize and be very focused on what is the business problem we’re trying to solve,” says Tucker. “What do we understand about the consumer, in terms of insights we can capture with work? What’s the sort of behavioral change that we’re asking work to deliver against? I try to use that to filter out any of the extraneous pressures that come with the act of working on one of the world’s most iconic brands.”

A 2011 Walkers campaign illustrates one example of solving a business problem. The Pepsi-owned U.K. chips brand wanted more people to buy chips with their sandwiches at lunchtime.

AMV BBDO brought a bunch of famous people to a tiny English town called Sandwich to show that “any sandwich is more exciting with Walkers.” Locals got to hang out with the celebrities, while BBDO filmed it, turning the day into 26 pieces of digital content that generated more than 1.6 million views.

Walkers gained a ton of national attention, resulting in the brand getting premium space in grocery stores’ sandwich aisles and growing the business by 26 percent. This campaign also earned Tucker the Cannes Grand Prix award that sits on his desk.

“This is a new era in how you engage with consumers. You don’t have to be TV-led, but you do have to do things that spark a conversation and create an experience,” says Tucker, with Coke Zero’s drinkable billboard in mind.

As part of its sponsorship for the NCAA basketball tournament, the brand erected a billboard in Indianapolis with 4,500 feet of straw that shoots Coke Zero out of a drinking fountain. More digitally, Coca-Cola launched a TV commercial that, if Shazammed, filled a glass on your mobile screen with soda and revealed a coupon for a free Coke Zero.

“We effectively made every single touchpoint drinkable, taking classic, traditional, expected media and infusing new technology to make it a truly interactive campaign,” says Tucker.

coke-billboard

“Storytelling” is one of those omnipresent marketing buzzwords, and Tucker believes these unorthodox campaigns illustrate its future. Particularly with social media, brands just have that many more ways to engage with consumers, who are exposed to that much more content at all times. Therefore, it’s up to the brands to keep engaging people in new and creative ways.

“I think what we’re going to see more of is real experiences that try to create intimacy at scale,” says Tucker, citing Frito-Lay’s Do Us A Flavor contest as one example. “Creating a real world experience where [people] get to interact with your brand, and then building an ecosystem of content around that allows you to create experiences that are very person and one-to-one, to work at scale.”

He adds that truly good advertising has a way of sticking with people. For example, he still vividly recalls a 1990s Levi’s commercial depicting that tiny third pocket as the perfect place to store a condom.

“One great thing about this business is that every single day, we have the opportunity to be invited into people’s homes and entertain them – either make them happy or make them cry. It’s an amazing privilege to have that and that’s why the pursuit of creativity is so important. At the end of the day, the work we do at an agency lives or dies in the real world with real people,” concludes Tucker. 

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