A blast from my past – a letter to ogilvy interactive 2001

I just found the following letter I wrote while working as a “new media” designer at Ogilvy Interactive Cape Town back in 2001. It was sent out to the entire company, I know scary, but got me a meeting with the guy on top back then and an entry into the Ogilvy Africa 360 Brand Development Program.

The Interactive Division back then served as a mere means of extension of the ATL agencies campaigns. It drove us crazy that the ATL guys just had no clue what to do online. a few months later the entire agency crashed along with waves caused by the dot com bubble bursting and Ogilvy Interactive was almost non-existant.

PS: My name was Nicky Furlong back then, I’ve changed it since. Also read and enjoy the mind of my 23 year old young designer self!

Below the letter unedited.

Date: Tue, 13 Mar 2001 09:31:10 +0200

To: [email protected]

From: Nicky Furlong <[email protected]>

Subject: :: Where are we going with Cyber Space ::

::This email contains my personal opinions on issue affecting what I set out to do every day… it by no means speaks for OgilvyInteractive as a whole or any other part of our agency :: I do feel however that I need to express my opinion openly and to as many people as possible ::

::I’m writing this email with the hope that the issues highlighted herein will be given the full attention of the people in positions of enough calibre to make some kind of change::


Our 360 degree agency is a place filled with such diversity in every aspect of the word that to fit every single mind set/skill set/professional background into the same box seems to take away that individual value that each person has to offer. In essence what makes this place special is that it’s filled with people who have totally different views and perspectives on what it is that we actually do. If we we’re all like minded and believed in exactly the same things , it would very quickly be echoed in the work we put out and sooner or later clients would question our ability to deliver personalized solutions to the diverse business problems we are expected to solve.

Speaking from an interactive point of view, and having spent hours of research and study on the internet, I’ve realized that what the web world has to offer from a communications point of view goes beyond what 360 degrees as it stand today is offering it’s clients. The web operates on a totally different set of principles. If we go into case studies and take an in depth look into successes on the web we see that those successes come from a deep understanding of these principles.

Advertising and “Traditional Branding” fills a very important part of the communications mix… but in my opinion is by no means an end in itself. If we apply all our thinking from an advertising point of view our business solutions can be no more than ads which may venture out of there traditional vehicles.

There is great value in understanding how people interact with each other on the internet. Companies are searching for new ways to speak to each other, new means of getting there messages and products to their desired audiences, and in many ways some of the problems encountered are born out of a lack of understanding on the part of our clients of what each medium has to offer.

Another milestone to cross is the perception that after 25 years of doing what Ogilvy does, Ogilvy knows how. I think we all agree that markets/society/business is changing so rapidly that we constantly need to be reinventing how we do what we do.

Having said that I’d like to take this point further focussing on the internet and what it has to offer.

Branding takes on a whole new meaning when it ventures out of it’s traditional avenues, and there needs to be a whole new set of rules invented to successfully leverage the inherent value that lies within the cyber world.

It’s not just about personalization, or one to one communication. The internet allows us to meet with people on their turf, to speak to and interact with people in their own environments and to convey messages instantaneously. We can deliver experiences to individuals unlike any other medium, and I think we all agree… a good experience goes a long way in influencing peoples habits and behaviours.

Valuable reading on this matter :



The web is a place where functionality and content rule, and people will only commit to surfing any web site if it has something valuable to offer them. That something valuable has to present itself quickly and easily. This is a place where we have to give people what they want, or they’ll never give us a second glance.Trying to dazzle on line communities with visual stimulation and useless bits of advertising and branding information which takes up valuable “cyber” space makes any web site more of an on line advertisement or brochure than anything else… and in certain cases these types of executions can be justified, but at the end of the day… the cyber world is just as much a place where “survival of the fittest” stands strong.

It takes a “user” If i can refer to the individual as a user a couple of moments to totally reject whatever appears in front of him/her, and move onto something that will instantaneously replace the memory of the previous on line venue. With many other forms of communication the message displays itself in an open field and awareness can be achieved by mere default, but on line people more often than not choose to be where they want to be, and the messages found are rarely original and can easily be found elsewhere at the click of a button.

It is our task to make the “on line venues” we develope as compelling as possible, from a cyber space point of view so as to capture the individuals attention long enough to keep them in one place. Once people settle and explore .. the messages presented will be tolerated alot longer and will be given alot more attention.

Think of it this way… when you go to a coffee shop, depending on one of many reasons for going there, you expect a couple of basics… : Coffee… good coffee… good service, and a sense of being comfortable in your surroundings… based on that experience you might make a decision to return to that specific coffee shop some time in the future.

This is fundamentally what i mean when i speak of on line venues. The web is a place, an environment where people are still going about the motions of being people… socializing, interacting, making decisions, making purchases based on emotions, needs, moods, service, … and for us to make a success of any given on line solution we need to make people feel like the environment was designed for them, for their comfort and convenience.

This is how an ad, any ad or piece of communication is totally different to any on line venue.

We cannot continue to perpetuate the traditional methods of communication which we use to speak to people… people are people and would appreciate being treated as such, and until we respect the person on the other side, we can never make any step in getting closer to the people we are speaking to.

In essence what I am saying is this… we need to start looking at our on line venues as real places where people interact, look for information, find entertainment and pretty much carry out all the functions of daily life… If we can see our website as our business premises… and treat the people that venture into our little shop as valuable customers… we’ll take a GIANT leap in developing “Cyber space in South Africa” as a vialble member of society.

:: I would appreciate any comment on this issue and would like to encourage a continuous dialogue… which would reinforce my point about connecting people using technology.

We need to use the tools at our disposal, and maybe even invent some in order to solve the problems we face every day :: I also feel that we have not spent nearly enough time researching the behaviours and psychologies of the people who inhabit the WWW ::

:: attached are a few documents which discuss some of the specific points that influence my discussion ::

:: Also check out some of the articles and discussions hosted on mediatoolbox.co.za & www.brandera.com ::

– :: -:: – :: -:: – :: -:: – :: -:: – :: -:: – :: -:: – :: -:: – :: -:: –

:: Nicky Furlong :: New Media Designer ::

:: OgilvyInteractive :: Cape Town :: South Africa :

:: [email protected] :: [email protected] ::

– :: -:: – :: -:: – :: -:: – :: -:: – :: -:: – :: -:: – :: -:: – :: -:: –

PS: Working very closely with MWEB we can learn alot more about this unchartered territory which is Cyber space.

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