Industry Profile: Ogilvy joint managing directors Michelle Holland and Sally Kissane

28 January 2020

Our Industry Profile takes a look at some of the professionals working across the advertising, ad tech, marketing and media sector in Australia. It aims to shed light on the varying roles and companies across the buzzing industry.

This week we speak to Ogilvy Sydney and Brisbane joint managing directors Michelle Holland and Sally Kissane.

Time at the company:
Michelle: We’ve worked together in our current roles for six years, but we have both been in the industry way too long to quote a number.

Sally: Shhhh, on that bit.

Michelle: We work as joint managing directors of Ogilvy. It’s not so much a job share arrangement as a job-expansion. We’ve expanded the role to ensure that there is plenty of room for us to have shared and separate responsibilities.

Sally: (laughs) I consider Michelle the Robin to my Batman.

Michelle: No, it’s the other way around. You’re the Michelle to my Beyonce.

Sally: Actually, I think we have a very unusual partnership of being equals. Maybe it’s closer to you being the Kath to my Kim.

How would you describe what the company does?
Sally: A creative agency that believes in making brands matter.

What do you do day-to-day?
Michelle: We’re partners in crime in running a 200-plus person office.

Sally: Michelle is the woman who Gets. Things. Done. She’s incredibly results driven and is the one who makes sure the agency runs like a well-oiled machine.

Michelle: That’s true. I do love a tough project. Together, we divide the responsibilities and manage jointly. It’s something we have mastered over the years, bit like a marriage. We are both focussed on clients, staff and the overall creative and financial performance of the agency.

Sally: A good part of our day is focussed on the right-now, but both of us make sure we carve out time to focus on building the future of the agency.

Define your job in one word:
Sally: Wranglers.

Michelle: More like kitten herders! But that’s not actually true. We are both very lucky to be surrounded by a group of immensely talented and passionate team members.

We got into advertising because:
Michelle: I think we both kind of fell into the role when we were young. Advertising is a seductive industry. Once you get into it, it gets into your blood and you get addicted to the energy and creativity. It’s hard to break the habit.

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your role?
Sally: Keeping up with change. Our industry is moving so rapidly, our biggest challenge is creating the right environment for us to adapt quickly to what’s next.

Michelle: That and trying to resist the free KFC in the bar on Friday nights. Now that’s more addictive than advertising! You can smell the chicken come into the building and you can’t stay away.

What’s the biggest industry-wide challenge you’d like to see tackled?
Michelle: Both Sally and I are very passionate about diversity within our agency and within the industry overall. At Ogilvy, it’s something we’re very focussed on. It’s an issue that still needs action. As an entire industry we need to get more creative about how we work and who we hire.

Previous industry related companies you have worked at:
Michelle: Other than a stint client-side with Westpac Bank I have been at agencies - WWAV Rapp Collins UK, Cartwright Williams, Leo Burnett and Clemenger BBDO. Of course, I have to say Ogilvy is my favourite by a long shot!

Sally: I am a lifer. I have spent most of my career at Ogilvy–in Australia and New York.

Who has been a great mentor to you and why?
Michelle: Alana Pelly – she was my first boss and help set my path. She said, “Get out of Brisbane, try client-side and get overseas". I did all of that and am thankful to her for so much. Ironically, I have come back full circle, in Australia, agency-side and working out of the Brisbane office at times, and absolutely loving it.

Sally: I find inspiration in so many places. I have mentors who don’t know they are my mentors - people I look up to and seek inspiration from. I went to SXSW this year and came back with so many smart-women girl-crushes that my podcast list is now full.

Words of advice for someone wanting a job like yours:
Michelle: You don’t need to be awesome at everything. Know what you are good at and partner up with someone that makes you better as a whole. And be ready to learn all the time, even if out of your comfort zone.

Sally: You mean like find a Bert to your Ernie? Or a Will to your Grace?

Michelle: Exactly!

Sally: Aw.

If I wasn't doing this for a living, I'd be:
Sally: Driving my husband crazy, eating too much on the couch.

Michelle: What she said.

My mantra is:
Sally: Be a good person, be as generous as you can.

Michelle: To be honest I don’t think that deeply about these things. A quote I read once that has really stuck with me and something that I believe in is, “earn respect, don’t expect it.” I would like to think I live up to that.

My favourite advert is: 
Michelle: Can I be completely biased and say the work we are currently doing for KFC is awesome? The campaigns genuinely make me laugh and things like Michelin KFC and KFC Weddings are clever and getting lots of earned media attention.

Sally: Times have changed and I no longer think of advertising agencies as just creating “ads”. The work we do nowadays is so much more than that. It’s about how we connect utility with cx, content with entertainment, data with performance. That’s the stuff that’s exciting and piques my interest. Some of the favourite things we do aren’t ads anymore.

Music and TV streaming habits. What do you subscribe to?
Michelle: TV is my down time so I subscribe to everything, Netflix, Stan, Prime, Apple Music (sadly to get my country fix).

Sally: Don’t be embarrassed. We should consume as much media as we can. You wouldn’t trust a chef who said he never ate food from the restaurant he worked at. You shouldn’t trust advertising people who don’t have a voracious appetite for popular culture and what people are tuned into.

Tell us one thing people at work don’t know about you?
Michelle: Hard to say – I am an over-sharer!

Sally: And what she doesn’t tell you, I will!

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