Ogilvy fires Singaporean ad veteran after probe into his behaviour

Singaporean advertising veteran Tham Khai Meng was on Wednesday fired from his long-time position as worldwide chief creative officer of The Ogilvy Group.

The global advertising agency's chief executive officer John Seifert told employees in a memo that this followed an internal investigation into complaints about Mr Tham's behaviour.

The complaints surfaced two weeks ago and were serious enough that an external legal counsel was appointed to investigate, said the memo.

"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," Mr Seifert wrote.

"I have decided to terminate Khai's employment with the company with immediate effect."

Mr Tham, in his 60s and married, joined the ad giant in 1999. In 2009, he became the first Asian and Singaporean to become worldwide chief creative officer.

At Ogilvy, he played a role in shaping the identities of brands such as Coca-Cola, IBM and Louis Vuitton. He also led Ogilvy to win the prestigious Cannes Lions Network of the Year award five years in a row from 2012.

He was also one of four recipients of the Designer of the Year award at the 2009 President's Design Award here.

Under his leadership, the Ogilvy and Mather Asia Pacific network received Campaign Brief Asia's Creative Network of the Year award between 2001 and 2008.

Mr Tham was awarded Creative Director of the Year in the same years, which led to his 2008 induction into the Campaign Brief Hall of Fame.

Ogilvy's former worldwide creative director Tuan Ching, who worked with Mr Tham for about nine years, told The Straits Times yesterday that he was shocked by the news.

"He was always professional and kind to me," he said. "I haven't had the chance to speak to him yet."

In the memo, Mr Seifert called Mr Tham's termination "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".