World-leading advertising agency, Ogilvy, has ditched its headquarters at 636 11th Avenue. The initial reports from Business Insider were confirmed by Ogilvy staff, who have been saying goodbye to local business owners on 10th and 11th Avenue this week.
The building, known as the Chocolate Factory, has been the home of Ogilvy and other WPP marketing businesses, such as Geometry, since 2009. Before that, Ogilvy was at Worldwide Plaza. The move to 11th Avenue caused headlines at the time, when it was compared to being sent to the “NYC equivalent of Siberia”.
The 550,000 square foot space originally housed around 1,200 employees, but that has more than halved in recent years with cutbacks in the advertising industry worldwide. During the pandemic, Mother (another agency) also left its 11th Avenue HQ to set up shop in Brooklyn.
Local business owners were saddened by the news but have fond memories of the staff.
Pat Hughes, owner of Scruffy Duffy’s and Hellcat Annies on 10th Avenue, called it “a tremendous loss to businesses in the neighborhood”. He added: “The Ogilvy crowd will be sorely missed. They were such a huge part of our business. They filled the bar for Singo night and were not afraid to let their hair down.”
Pat’s connection with Ogilvy went back a long time. “They have always held a special place in my heart, because they were one of the first corporate groups that patronized the original Scruffy’s on 8th Avenue when they were located in Worldwide Plaza,” he told us, adding “In those days we were thrilled that we were actually able to attract ‘Yuppies’ to our dive bar!”
“We will miss them dearly. It feels like you’re losing part of your own family,” said Murat Yilmaz, owner of The Jolly Goat Coffee Bar, recalling all the wonderful friendships he’d built with Ogilvy staff over the years. “I am very sad. Business will come back one way or the other, but we will really miss the good peeps from Ogilvy very much. They were a big part of our extended Jolly Goat family.”
At Sullivan Street Bakery, owner Jim Lahey told us: “It was so much fun to have such an eclectic group of creatives next door. They brought good vibes and fashion further west than it had ever been. It’s also a shame that Mother has left as well. However, we look forward to new businesses making Hell’s Kitchen their home, especially in creative and innovative fields. We want to feed the artists and nonartists.”
Ogilvy staff will relocate to 200 Fifth Avenue — the headquarters of WPP’s Grey Group. Retail marketing agency Geometry will keep closer to the neighborhood, merging with VMLY&R at 3 Columbus Circle.
WPP are likely to look for a sublet on the 11-story Chocolate Factory. Their 20-year lease runs until 2029 and is estimated to be around $30m per year.
Meanwhile, on 11th Avenue there are signs of new life. Amazon has just taken over a car dealership to create an e-bike delivery hub, the New York Stem Cell Foundation is expanding with a $6m grant and The Glasshouse exhibition space is getting ready to open.