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Ogilvy fires CCO Tham Khai Meng after misconduct investigation

Ogilvy’s Global Creative Chief Khai terminated after internal complaints

Tham Khai Meng with Sledgehammer’s Professor Harmandar Singh at MARKETING’s Creative AllStars Conference a few years back.

Global advertising agency network The Ogilvy Group’s CEO John Seifert announced in a memo to his employees on Wednesday that the company had terminated its chief creative officer Tham Khai Meng, after an internal investigation into misconduct allegations.

“After carefully reviewing the investigation’s findings with several of my partners, we concluded that Khai’s behavior was a clear breach of our company values and code of conduct,” wrote Seifert.

“I have decided to terminate Khai’s employment with the company with immediate effect,” added Seifert.

The memo, as written by Ogilvy chief executive, John Seifert:

Two weeks ago, I was informed of employee complaints regarding the behavior of Tham Khai Meng, Chief Creative Officer of The Ogilvy Group.I found these complaints serious enough to appoint external legal counsel to investigate the matter.

After carefully reviewing the investigation’s findings with several of my partners, we concluded that Khai’s behaviour was a clear breach of our company values and code of conduct. I have decided to terminate Khai’s employment with the company with immediate effect.

Each year, we ask every employee in the company to read, authorize, and fully commit to a code of conduct that each of us is responsible for living up to. Over the past 70 years, we have institutionalized shared values and a standard of professional behavior unique to the Ogilvy brand.

This is an important moment to reaffirm that no individual in this company is too senior or too important not to be held accountable for their actions.

Thank you for your support.

John Seifert
Chief Executive, Worldwide

Khai Meng took on the role as worldwide creative director and chairman of Ogilvy’s worldwide creative council in November 2008. He has held the global chief creative officer role since 2009. Prior to the move, he was co-chairman and regional executive creative director for Ogilvy & Mather Asia Pacific since 1999. He also led Ogilvy to win Network of the Year at Cannes five times in a row, from 2012 to 2016.

Khai has served on numerous boards including his current appointment to Agencies in Action in New York, a nonprofit coalition working to alleviate hunger. He was asked by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to sit on his Economic Review Committee, a think tank tasked with finding a strategic direction for Singapore as it migrated from a manufacturing to knowledge-based economy. In December 2009, Khai accepted the President’s Award, one of the country’s most distinguished honors, conferred by Singapore President S. R. Nathan.

This is not the first for the ad industry. Two weeks ago on the third of April, ex-Chief Executive Sir Martin Sorrell who was under investigation after an allegation of personal misconduct also quit. The 73-year-old denied the misconduct allegation, which involves the improper use of company funds and allegations of improper personal behaviour. Ogilvy & Mather Malaysia’s Chief Creative Officer, Gavin Simpson left the agency in March 2018.

MARKETING spoke to Neil French, ex-Creative Godfather of WPP, who fronted the inaugural MARKETING’s Creative AllStars Conference, and he responded, “The ‘me-too’ get-out is a boon to moribund organizations, is it not? Find a turbulent priest, throw up your Trumplike little hands in mock horror, and the pc mob will do the rest. Khai was well pissed-off with the lot of em anyway, so large lunches beckon. We should invite Sir Martin, come to think of it….” 

Sir Martin Sorrell ex boss of WPP told Cannes Lions last month, “There will be a huge fragmentation of the ad boys from 6 down to 3. He’s predicting Omnicom, Publicis and WPP to be bought over by clients.”  

Many say he’ll be the best broker in the world if agency groups are selling out to big marketers the likes of P&G, Nestlé…

 

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