Apr 042010
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AN agency whose founder went door to door to sell stoves before he got into advertising — and was so good at it that the company asked him to write a manual for the other salesmen — is creating a contest that celebrates selling.

OgilvyOne Worldwide, part of the Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide division of WPP, is tipping its hat to David Ogilvy by sponsoring the contest, which is to begin this week. The contest will search for what is being immodestly described as “the world’s greatest salesperson.”

The goal is “recreating the noble art of ka-ching,” said Rory Sutherland, vice chairman for the British operations of Ogilvy & Mather, based in London.

“There’s an interesting case to be made that advertising has strayed too far from the business of salesmanship,” Mr. Sutherland said, which is unfortunate because it can be “a good test of how well you understand people and your creativity.”

The search for the stellar seller will not be conducted door to door but rather, reflecting the changes since Mr. Ogilvy peddled Aga stoves in Scotland in the 1930s, on a branded channel on YouTube (youtube.com/ogilvy). The contest will also use other social media like Facebook and Twitter.

No sales experience will be required to enter the contest, which will be conducted in 15 countries, among them Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India and the United States. The prize is a three-month job at OgilvyOne — called a fellowship by the agency — during which the winner will help OgilvyOne write a guide to selling in the 21st century.

“Salesmanship has been lost in the pursuit of art or the dazzle of technology,” said Brian Fetherstonhaugh, chairman and chief executive at OgilvyOne in New York. “It needs to be rekindled in this postrecession environment, as consumers are making more informed and deliberate choices.”

At the same time, technologies like TiVo and spam filters are putting “the consumer in control,” Mr. Fetherstonhaugh said, so “the salesperson needs to get invited in.”

That means selling is “less about intrusion and repetition,” he added, “and more about engagement and evangelizing.”

Contest entrants, who must be at least 18 years old, will submit to the YouTube brand channel video clips that can run from one to two minutes. To ensure the playing field is level, all submissions are to be in English and entrants are to submit sales pitches for the same product.

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