by Stephanie Overby

Enterprise Social Network Moves Ad Agency Into the Future

Jul 25, 20133 mins
Collaboration SoftwareIDG EventsSmall and Medium Business

Ogilvy and Mather builds its own social collaboration system with open-source tools and many, many user interviews.

“We pursue knowledge,” advertising pioneer David Ogilvy once said, “in the way a pig pursues truffles.”

Naturally when the IT team at the eponymous Ogilvy and Mather built a global knowledge-management platform in 1999, they called it Truffles. The system, containing every major client case study going back decades, became the foundation for day-to-day business at the agency, which is part of the $16.8 billion WPP Group.

But over time, technology passed Truffles by. Fewer and fewer of the company’s 18,000 employees used it. Those who did consulted it as a simple directory for phone numbers or client information.

Instead of upgrading Truffles, CIO Yuri Aguiar and his team did a little digging of their own, and the result is a collaboration system honored with a 2013 CIO 100 award.

First, IT and corporate communications interviewed 120 users around the globe and found that employees wanted a system that worked like their favorite social media tools.

Ogilvy’s digital strategy group, which works with the agency’s clients, then identified several key requirements, including the ability to create groups with varying levels of security and privacy, and the ability for users to post content without pre-approval from headquarters.

Aguiar and his team built what they call their Social Intranet on Liferay’s open-source portal, hosted in Ogilvy’s private cloud. “We were able to bring in social media capabilities but make sure that when we shared things, it was in a controlled fashion,” says Aguiar.

Top-Secret Sharing

Rolled out enterprisewide in February, the system operates in multiple languages, with communities based on geography, client accounts and other interest groups. There are also differing levels of security controls. For example, open, searchable groups allow anything except licensed content to be shared.

Some administered groups require employees to request access, like one for digital marketing analytics. Top-secret groups, like one that could include a new client’s pre-production smartphone design, allow only a handful of employees to join. “Those don’t even show up in search,” says Aguiar.

To get employees to use the new system, Aguiar highlighted internal case studies, like the CEO of Ogilvy PR who moved one of his video blogs to the Social Intranet. Today 20,000 employees, consultants and partners are on the system, he says. Usage is up 600 percent compared to recent activity on Truffles.

Improvements include multi-language search, so if you’re looking for a fuel expert, for example, the system knows to look for “gas” in the U.S. and “petrol” in the U.K. The intranet is also a gateway to key corporate applications.

Aguiar is most proud of the teamwork: business requirements from users worldwide, IT from California, architecture design in New York and North Carolina, alpha testing in England, development and testing in Mumbai and New York, language testing in Germany and China, and creative design in Singapore and New York. “We used global collaboration to get global collaboration.”

Stephanie Overby is regular contributor to’s IT Outsourcing section. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn.