Ogilvy & Mather invited clients and the trade press to attend a debate on 14th March, titled ‘The Power of Purpose: How values can Create Value’. This was the first of a series that the agency has planned. On the panel were Chandran Nair, Founder and CEO of the Global Institute for Tomorrow, Fredrik Haren, entrepreneur and author of ‘The Idea Book’, Olivier Carnohan, CEO of SingTel Subsidiary, InnoVentures, and So-Young Kang, Founder & CEO of Awaken Group. Channel News Asia’s Patrick Fok was the chairman.

L to R: Patrick Fok, Chandran Nair, Olivier Carnohan, Fredrik Haren and So-Young Kang.

The speakers did not really get onto the subject of values as they debated at length as to whether a business actually has any other purpose than to sell. Nair quoted Walmark and McDonald’s whom, he said, were only interested in “relentless consumption”. Nair tended to dominate the conversation that night but as he was entertaining and slightly controversial with his views, the audience probably forgave him.

Three out of the four speakers appeared to agree that a business had no other purpose but to sell its products. The debate was then expanded into a discussion, led by Nair, on the need for developing countries to adjust their expectations as the world could not sustain levels of consumption that are common in the West. Already the changes are rocking the world, said Nair.

Asians may have to give up any dream of owning a car, said Carnohan, and accept a substitute. The nature of prosperity may have to be redefined. It was a lively discussion which evoked a number of questions from the audience. Hats off to O&M for this initiative.