Rory Sutherland was born in Usk, Monmouthshire in 1965 and educated at the local Haberdashers’ school and at Christ’s College, Cambridge.
At this point, promising parallels with the life of Martin Sorrell begin to break down. Avoiding Harvard Business School, he spent a probationary year teaching at a grammar school in Aylesbury. The pupils were fine, but the contents of the staff room (and of the staff car park) proved too depressing to bear, and he duly applied to various advertising and marketing agencies in early 1988. In September, he joined what was then Ogilvy & Mather Direct.
In 1990, having been fired from the Planning Department, he joined the agency’s Creative Department as a junior copywriter, working on American Express, Royal Mail and an obscure American company called Microsoft. In early 1993 he and his art director suggested that perhaps Microsoft might extend sales of its Office suite by bundling it with “a modem thing”, hence enabling people to share their files over something called the Internet. This was eventually presented to some people in Redmond, WA, who rightly decided it was a very silly idea indeed.
Happily, that wasn’t his last foray online. He achieved a certain international notoriety in 1996 when his credit card details were stolen during an on-line purchase of chilli sauce. Perhaps surprisingly, then, he remains an enthusiastic advocate of new media and new means of advertising and customer engagement (he is a devotee of the late San Francisco copywriter Howard Luck Gossage). He is a great champion of Ogilvy’s 360 Degree Branding approach.
Rory was promoted to Head of Copy in 1996 and Creative Director in 1997, where he was closely involved in the agency’s relaunch and restructuring as OgilvyOne. He was promoted to Executive Creative Director in 2002 and, more recently, also became Vice-Chairman of the overall Ogilvy Group in the UK.