Ogilvy Caribbean's creative drive flows while working remotely

Sarah Inglefield, CEO of Ogilvy Caribbean says she began formulating a plan for remote working before covid19 made it necessary. - SUREASH CHOLAI
Sarah Inglefield, CEO of Ogilvy Caribbean says she began formulating a plan for remote working before covid19 made it necessary. - SUREASH CHOLAI

Ogilvy Caribbean, formerly Inglefield, Ogilvy and Mather, considers itself among the trailblazers of digital transformation in TT's marketing and advertising industry as a fully remote agency.

The company is an affiliate of Ogilvy International.

CEO Sarah Inglefield is proud to share a business model which she began formulating before the spread of covid19 – an approach influenced by the time she spent working in places such as London, Seoul, South Korea and Hong Kong, where working remotely was already the order of the day.

She doesn't believe she's being radical.

"Once we are able to deliver great creative work, strategic thinking, and great partnership with our clients, the mechanics of how this happens, to me, is completely open to debate," she told Business Day.

Her love for TT and brand TT saw her using her 20 years of experience to confidently take on an approach which only seemed practical in the region after the arrival of the covid19 pandemic on local shores – when there were no other options but to work remotely.

A lover of food, travel and liming, she said what she loves most about marketing and advertising is getting into the heart and minds of consumers – understanding what they respond best to and how she can help create content that communicates with them effectively to make a positive impact while benefiting the clients' bottom line.

She said she realised the local industry was stagnant: not much evolution seemed to have been happening.

"I was exposed to flexible hours and remote working where I could work from a cafe, hotel room, or in a local office where I didn't know anyone. I was working with teams from all over the world."

Returning to TT from the United Kingdom to do the same thing as everybody else wasn't going to work for Inglefield. She said falling in line would not allow her team to stand out, nor would it create the ideal breeding ground for novel ideas to revolutionise the industry, which she believes was behind the rest of the world.

Asma Ali, Sarah Inglefield and Kevin Farrick of Ogilvy Caribbean.
Photo by Marshellle Haseley -

"I came back to TT in 2018 and devised a plan called 'Sarah's radical transformation plan,' which everyone thought was crazy."

She recalled being told it was not going to work and that she had forgotten how things work in TT. But she remained resolute that her plan would work.

One component of the plan was introducing flexible work hours for employees to facilitate people who lived far from the office.

"An employee spending three hours in traffic to get to work cannot be on the pulse when they finally arrive. The way we were working before wasn't conducive for inspiration, ideation or even good working relationships."

Later, in 2019 she made room for those whose functions meant it wasn't essential for them to turn up to the office every day to work remotely.

The other crucial component was using technology to create synergy and efficiency in the ecosystem of 18 full-time remote workers, who are supported by part-time specialists. These, she said, included online financial systems, online management systems and creative suites which also help the management team track the progress of all projects.

Ogilvy's reative team in on of their creative, digital brainstorms. -

"The teams were already trained and had grown accustomed to the technology, which made the process almost seamless. So it wasn't much of a transition because we were already doing it."

Inglefield said a major challenge faced by many organisations that did not explore these technologies in advance is that they are now trying to catch up, especially when it comes to optimal use.

"Whether you sit in an office, cafe or somewhere in Balandra – as long as team members are accessible via phone and e-mail, and are delivering – to me, location is irrelevant."

She gave an example of a team member who had to spend three months in Grenada tending to a sick loved one.

"We had Zoom meetings every day and used technology to ensure the work flowed seamlessly. We communicated as if she was just down the road."

Asked about drawbacks to working remotely versus meeting in person every day, Inglefield said, "One of the biggest challenges is creating camaraderie while not in the same physical space."

She said technology also played a crucial role in allowing the team to have Friday drink limes via Zoom or Google Meet, where they would talk about life.

"We also had 'wellness Wednesdays,' where we would meet in person for yoga or beach limes – something to bring us together. Sometimes we did this online, and would also incorporate speakers."

Ogilvy regional team after completing a successful virtual workshop. -

She said the other aspect is how this affects clients. She said this concern was alleviated by most clients seeming to prefer technology as a medium for sharing ideas instead of meeting in person.

"We weren't anxious about not meeting face to face, but they are so busy, they don't have time for three-hour meetings. They are happy to log on, have a 30-minute meeting and that's it. They also enjoy saving on costs for hosting.

"But there are still people who prefer meeting in person, which we are happy to facilitate. I think clients would have seen an increase in production given the changes."

She said this eliminates the industry habit of meeting for meeting's sake, and meetings that could have been e-mails. "Working this way prompts people to be more succinct."

Inglefield said communication is another important feature of running an efficient virtual agency. Weekly, monthly and quarterly updates coupled with daily meetings and instant messaging throughout the day ensure team members and management remain synchronised in their specialised functions.

"We thrive on communication."

She said working remotely does not mean there is no human contact at all.

"We also try to meet in a range of spaces for working days together. We will meet at (a coffee shop), for example, and work together in the same space, even if we are working on separate projects."

Inglefield said traditional advertising is not dead, but it is changing and is becoming more about the customer experience.

"It is not about advertising any more, it's more about communication. From a positioning standpoint, we are less of a traditional advertising agency and more of a brand communication agency, because it is so much more than advertising. It is about communicating the role of the brand through advertising, the media, advertising and social media."

She said the future of advertising also involves greater integration of ethical advertising, putting empathy and human connectivity at the heart of service.

Head of the creative department Asma Ali told Business Day her transition was not stark because she had been working remotely as a freelance marketing and creative consultant for three years after leaving a traditional agency.

"I grew in the time spent in the traditional setting. We were always told to think outside the box, but in that creative setting, people are still usually locked in a bigger box."

Ali said working remotely and being around different people every day, having the space to work in many spaces, fed her creativity and reaped rewards, both personally and professionally.

She hopes the digital shift will change the perception of digital professionals, especially those in the creative industry, where they and their skills will gain due respect.

"People are quicker to pay a doctor without questioning the fee, while they would haggle (with) a graphic designer."

Digital lead Kevin Farrick said while he focuses on brand and digital, which is data-driven, he believes all companies should be focused on experience.

Ogilvy Caribbean CEO Sarah Inglefield with creative lead Asma Ali, left, and digital lead Kevin Farrick.
Photo by Marshelle Haseley -

"In the past, companies would speak
at customers, but now we are called to engage with them and create space for conversation. This is a fantastic time – being able to have real-time exchange from anywhere."

Farrick said he is excited for the industry's future in the region.

"I look forward to an explosion of offline experiences. Experiential marketing, tactile experience – it will go offline in time but will, of course, be strongly melded with digital."

He said many companies have or can access the technology required for a transition into being fully or mostly remote, but there needs to be an accompanying mindset ­– for leaders to implement systems that manage the business model, and team members doing their due diligence.

Inglefield said another benefit of leading a fully remote team is that the business model gives her the ability to hire the right people for the right jobs at the right time. She said it allows much more agility in recruitment and resourcing, meeting people where they are.

She's happy to work in an industry that is evolving, and looks forward to more food, travel and liming, while making her unique mark on advertising, marketing and communication in the Caribbean.

She said she sees other agencies are shifting toward more integration of technology, and is confident the transition to being digital-based will spread in the years to come.


"Ogilvy Caribbean’s creative drive flows while working remotely"

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