Ogilvy's Dede Laurentino on living in a mug and bringing your whole self to work

Laurentino: 'I’ve got more hats to wear than mugs to drink from'
Laurentino: 'I’ve got more hats to wear than mugs to drink from'

Ogilvy UK's creative chief has been drinking a lot of tea and coffee while delving into his creative quirks.

Next up in Campaign’s "Leadership in lockdown" series is André (Dede) Laurentino, chief creative officer at Ogilvy UK, who talks about surviving on tea and coffee, delving into his quirks and becoming more attuned to his colleagues’ emotional states.

Where are you spending quarantine and how do you run your day?

I’m spending quarantine in a mug. I’ve never drank as much coffee and tea as I do these days.

We usually start with a morning call with the C-suite team for a quick overview of the business. I also have half-hour tea sessions throughout the day with a couple of creative teams at a time to catch up on everything: how they’re faring, where they’re staying and we even talk about work. The main reason for these sessions is to keep some sense of normality and allow for random conversation (something very rare when all work interaction is planned and run by a schedule).

Every Tuesday afternoon, I have a call with Ogilvy’s worldwide creative council, of which I am a member. This helps us spot the big creative opportunities on a global level as they happen. It also allows us to collaborate in a whole different way, balancing the depth of creative talent we have across the network. We meet more now than we’ve ever done in the past, which is a very welcome change. 

What were the biggest adjustments that you had to make in the first few weeks in terms of your work, your team and your clients/external partners?

It’s a bit odd to say, but the new way of working fell very naturally in place for me. It’s easier to focus and I think most of us are more productive and a bit more exhausted at the end of each day. One big change for me is how much more aware we all became of each other’s emotional state (even if for the wrong reason, such as a world pandemic). It’s as if the office space made you check your personal circumstance at the door, whereas now we are allowed to be our entire self at work: we bring the whole lot, including the dog and the kitchen sink (sometimes literally).

And the same with our clients. The situation made our relationships with them even stronger, I suppose. The sense of partnership is also more strongly felt and the work gets better as a result. We’ve approved great ideas faster and I’m seeing more emails just saying "Thank you!" with genuine enthusiasm, which is great.

How has your business made savings and why have you chosen certain routes – eg pay cuts versus furloughing versus redundancies?

The whole of Ogilvy’s global and local leadership teams have taken voluntary salary cuts. And, in the UK, we invited everyone to see what they could volunteer to do, at least for the next three months: from shorter weeks to holiday buy-backs, sabbaticals or anything else they could suggest. The response has been truly incredible and it speaks volumes about the team. We’re all in this together, trying to protect each other as much as we can – as a business but, also importantly, as people too. 

What has been the hardest part and what has been the most uplifting part of lockdown?

The hardest part has been to learn about the difficulties some of us are facing during lockdown. Individual circumstances vary widely and some people are finding it harder than others. The most uplifting part is to see the strong team spirit we’ve built come into play. And some Zoom backgrounds too! 

What are you working on?

I’ve got more hats to wear than mugs to drink from. I’m busy working directly on a few clients, which I love doing. Creatives should never be far from the work; it’s where our joy and our power come from. I run weekly meetings with our ECDs and CDs to feel the creative pulse of the business. Jules Chalkley is a phenomenal partner and he’s always been great at this and pushing the work. Now, he’s even more vibrant and keeps the good creative momentum very much alive. I’m also working a lot with our talent management people to care for the team, to create personal development opportunities etc. I’m also in constant touch with the global creative leadership of Ogilvy, helping distribute great briefs and collaborating more. 

How do you find inspiration?

Where I’ve always found it: in art and in any sort of creative craft, from tech to calligraphy. The quarantine has given me a wonderful excuse to delve into my quirks; I’ve become a proper e-handyman at home with wires and Wi-Fi extensions, experimented with fountain pens and weird nibs, read books that were collecting dust and have spent hours watching the late Al Hirschfeld draw on YouTube.

Has the experience taught you something that you’ll change when you get back to working from an office? 

I now use a notebook to write everything down, since I don’t lose it on people’s desks any more. Let’s try and keep that.

What change do you expect to see in the industry when this is over? 

Working from home. This will have a huge impact on a number of things: how we work, what an office is for and, in the long term, if megalopolises will still exist.

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