Denise Wong has been named CEO of One & All, an Omnicom agency focused on the nonprofit sector. Wong has served as president of Los Angeles-based entertainment shop Midnight Oil for almost two years, the latest in a long industry tenure with stops at McCann, Grey Group, Ogilvy, DDB and others.
The current entity was formed after the merger of Russ Reid and Grizzard, two leading nonprofit agencies, and was renamed One & All in February 2018. Based in Pasadena, Calif. with an office in Atlanta, the agency counts high-profile nonprofits like The Salvation Army, the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity and World Vision as clients. Additionally, the agency has worked with over 70 humane societies, and more than 250 rescue missions and food banks.
Wong takes over for Alan Hall, who left as CEO in September amid a reported staff cut of about 15%.
“Denise’s expertise will be invaluable in helping the agency grow and expand into new areas,” said Stacey Hightower, CEO of Omnicom’s specialty marketing group. “Denise will complement the incredible talent and decades of industry knowledge that already exists within the agency, and augment the agency’s ability to succeed in a dynamic marketplace.”
“Denise and I share the vision to enhance what One & All already does so well,” added Kevin White, One & All’s president and chief growth officer. “Denise’s joining us builds upon the tangible momentum and excitement our agency created over the last several months and puts us in a powerful position to not only continue our success in 2020 but to grow significantly in new and different ways.”
The move marks a departure from more classic, consumer-facing agencies and work. According to Wong, the main reason for the change was an effort to find more professional fulfillment. She noted the Japanese term “ikigai,” a concept loosely defined as “a reason for being,” as a guiding principle in her decision-making.
“[Ikigai] is the intersection of answering four questions,” she said. “Number one, what are you good at? Number two, what do you love doing? Three, what can you get paid for and, number four, what does the world need? [The last question] has become increasingly important. This is why I was ready for a big change, rather than going in and running another agency or doing the same thing with different brands.”
Noting that brand clients she’s worked with have had some degree of cause marketing, Wong believes the nonprofit world can benefit from the successes in the for-profit world.
“I think that the nonprofit world is, generally, a few years behind the for-profit world [in terms of marketing],” she said. “If we can apply brand marketing expertise and some of the principles and approaches that have really worked into that space, that gets me excited because then it becomes the convergence of a more commercial mindset into an area that is about social good.”
Specifically, Wong, who will remain in Los Angeles, believes that nonprofits can benefit significantly from more sophistication in the use of data. Though most organizations have more tried-and-true marketing (e.g. direct response, direct mail), she noted that response rates and ROI are steadily declining.
“I think there’s going to be some significant concern in a couple of years,” Wong said. “You have to look at different data models beyond demographic profiles and what people are donating. Zero-party data and empathy models, for example, are used in for-profit brands, and that’s where you can get much more differentiated in storytelling and engagement.”
In the short term, according to Wong, the goal is to continue to build a robust integration between the two merged agencies and to ensure that One & All finds the best talent possible. The agency brought in Beau Hebert as COO from MRM/McCann in 2018, and CFO Allen Kang, who arrived a year ago from IPG Mediabrands.
“We know what we’re good at from the core,” Wong said. “But I want to make sure that the vision is firmly set and that the culture is tight.”