Ogilvy poaches McCann’s Devika Bulchandani as North America CEO

Ogilvy announced that Devika Bulchandani is joining the agency as its North America CEO and global chairwoman of advertising. The move ends impressive 26-year tenure at McCann, where she departs from her role as McCann’s North America president.

Reporting to CEO Andy Main, Bulchandani is tasked with driving Ogilvy’s business across the United States and Canada. Her purview crosses the agency’s entire enterprise, including advertising, brand and content, experience, growth, innovation and health practice.

Remarking on the move to Ogilvy, Bulchandani noted that she was going through an “existential reckoning,” in that the entirety of her career would have been at one agency. That notion made her “soul and ears open for a leap.”

The agency’s legacy was a big part of the appeal in joining Ogilvy for Bulchandani. The chance to help shape it for the future, along with Main’s vision and plans for the agency, also played a role in her decision.

“When Andy called, there was something poetic and powerful in being in one of the industry’s most storied agencies, keeping its creativity and taking it into the future,” said Bulchandani.

Preserving the agency’s heritage is critical to Main. But he also pointed to the equally urgent needs to point the agency to its next chapter while driving high growth levels for clients.

“Ever since David Ogilvy started this agency, it has grown other peoples’ businesses,” said Main, who joined as CEO from consultancy Deloitte Digital in June. “We’ll continue to have the best creativity on the planet with the best speed to value. And that’s where we’re drawing the lines of competition to win.”

Bulchandani comes from a deep strategic background. She joined McCann New York’s strategy department in 1997 and played a critical role in taking Mastercard’s “Priceless” campaign into one of the most well-known brand platforms. Bulchandani elevated quickly, co-founding McCann XBC in 2012, the group dedicated to Mastercard. In 2017, she moved into the New York president role.

During her tenure, in addition to Mastercard, McCann had a string of creative hits, perhaps none more prominent than Fearless Girl for State Street Global Advisors. In 2019, another strong showing for brands led to the agency being named Adweek’s Global Agency of the Year.

“I think about creativity across the marketing value chain, because every conversation with clients is a strategic conversation,” said Bulchandani. “My strategic background also helps with creative talent. Creative people are the most interesting people in humankind, and being able to translate things and get the best out of them is important,” she said, noting her time with creative minds like Rob Reilly, Joyce King Thomas and others.

Like many agencies, Ogilvy suffered layoffs and furloughs due to the pandemic, something that outgoing CEO John Seifert (retiring next year) attributed to client volatility.

According to Main, rebuilding the talent pool at Ogilvy signaled that the agency is being much more proactive in approaching business growth and seeks talent that “represents that mission” and is open to cut across all segments of the business.

“Talent will see that they can build a career path that is different than a traditional agency,” he said, pointing out that the agency has a singular focus on client growth through its output, unlike consultancies, which try to appeal to every part of a brand’s business.

“We will be a really good alternative for growth compared to the current providers in the marketplace,” Main added. “In consultancies, you need maturity models and process frameworks that take months to apply and to come up with ideas for growth, it just takes too long.

Ogilvy can get to the ideas fast because of the creative talent here.”

Noting her South Asian descent, Bulchandani acknowledged that her heritage can be a plus in recruiting talent. She has long been involved in promoting diversity, equality and equity, as a founding member of Times Up Advertising and a past recipient of the Adcolor Innovator Award.

“I hope that people see me in this role and see the possibility and opportunity for themselves,” said Bulchandani. “Representation matters and I have a responsibility to not just put myself in this seat, but to make sure that I’m bringing people along. Diversity is important for our product, and it’s good for business.


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