A few months ago at what was then DDB Needham Worldwide, the Needham DNA succumbed quietly to the DDB DNA after 13 years of coexistence. What survives is a triumphant DDB, founded 50 years ago this year and the acknowledged "auteur" of the Creative Revolution. Few were surprised by the recent name change, announced by Keith Reinhard, the former CEO of Needham Harper Worldwide who engineered the original DDB-Needham merger in 1986, yet who from the start wanted to name the new entity simply "Bernbach." (See interview on p. C-28)
Mr. Reinhard, who is now CEO of DDB Worldwide, is as sentimental as the next man about a name, we presume, especially one that has been such a benefactor for him, which may be why he is quick to say that the Needham spirit lives on even if the name does not. But during the 22 years he spent rising through the ranks at Needham, he never kept a secret of the fact that he was a Bernbach partisan to the core.
DO AS BERNBACH DID
"I wanted to do for our clients what Bernbach was doing for his clients," he says, remembering his days as a copywriter. "The first State Farm TV work I did was very Bernbachian in its simplicity, in my opinion. It was just a shot of the State Farm logo. As you heard the screech and crash of a car accident, the whole logo crumpled up. Then you heard the sound of hammers in the repair shop, and the logo started to reshape itself." Maybe in the beginning he hoped Bernbach would see such work, find out who he was, and rush to hire him. But by the time DDB began making him job offers, he had outgrown any wish to work for DDB. He preferred to run it. This he has done since 1986, when DDB and Needham merged to create -- along with BBDO -- Omnicom, now the largest advertising holding company in the world.
A lot had changed in the previous 20 years, and Doyle Dane Bernbach was one of the reasons. As late as 1965, the Top 10 of American advertising was still dominated by the old guard names of pre-war Madison Avenue. Yet, none of those venerable pre-war giants was casting as great a shadow over the present and future of advertising as 14th-ranked Doyle Dane Bernbach, founded June 1, 1949.
The relationships that would form DDB, however, went back at least a decade. Ned Doyle and Maxwell Dane first met in 1939, when Mr. Doyle, who was 37 and head of advertising for Look magazine, hired Mr. Dane, 34, to be advertising and promotion manager for the magazine. They were an unlikely partnership. Mr. Dane was quiet and subtle, Mr. Doyle tough and candid.
"That was the real genesis of DDB," Mr. Dane reflected recently, "my friendship with Ned." During the war Mr. Doyle joined the Marines while Mr. Dane went to work as sales promotion manager at New York radio station WMCA.
In 1944 two New York agencies were formed that would figure in the ancestry of the DDB we know today. One was Doherty, Cobb & Shenfield, about which more later. The second was Maxwell Dane Inc., which Mr. Dane started in November after leaving his promotion post at WMCA. Dane Inc. grew modestly over the next few years, while Mr. Doyle returned from the war and joined Grey Advertising. There the gregarious account man met the soft-spoken VP of the Grey art and copy departments, William Bernbach. He had begun his ad career as a writer with the opening of William Weintraub & Co. in 1942, and he went to Grey three years later. With both men dissatisfied with the constraints of a company too eager to play the growth game, but still in need of a man who could actually run an agency, Mr. Doyle contacted his old friend Mac Dane and asked if he'd like two new partners. Mr. Dane said yes.
COUPLE OF COIN TOSSES
The three met to settle one final important matter -- the name. According to Mr. Dane, it was neither phonetics nor the rhythm of the words that decided the order of billing, but coin tosses. When Mr. Bernbach's name came up third, the other two conferred on him the presidency as a kind of reparation.
On June 1, 1949, Doyle Dane Bernbach opened its spartan offices at 350 Madison Ave. The agency began with 13 employees, all from the ranks of Grey, including the cream of its copy and art departments, Phyllis Robinson and Bob Gage. The Grey exodus also included DDB's first client, Orbach's department store.
Each principal had his job to do, a division of labor that kept them out of the one anothers' hair. "There was no strongest among us," Mr. Dane said recently. "We each had our function and never had to fight the others for authority. Ned handled the clients. Bill produced the product. And I ran the infrastructure and even a little public relations. I never told Bill that for several years I had earned my living as a copywriter with an agency."
If Mr. Bernbach scorned bigness at Grey, he soon found the same plague descending on DDB. The agency's billings skyrocketed tenfold from $500,000 in 1949 to $5.1 million by 1953. Yet, the work of that early period is rarely seen in the Bernbach canon. A 1987 Bernbach creative collection amassed by former DDB creative director Bob Levenson in "Bill Bernbach's Book" (Villard Books) contains almost no creative work prior to late 1958. Though Ohrbach's had been on the roster since 1949, its earliest ad in the collection is the 1958 one with the catty kitten who "found out about Joan." The book seems to suggest that the Bernbach "look" took nearly a decade to gel.
In fact, the DDB creative phenomenon hit fast and hard. "So many advertising awards have been made to DDB in the last five years," Advertising Age reported in 1954, "that the agency's principals are almost reluctant to take their bows."
Among the DDB winners that year was early work for Ohrbach's (two diapered infants wearing adult accessories ("Smart people go to Ohrbach's for Mother's Day gifts"); Levy's rye bread ("New York is eating it up"); and Max Factor ("To bring the wolves out . . .").
But they won only in relation to other agencies' work. Today many of these early ads lack the sense of breakthrough that seemed so striking when they debuted.
WRITTEN FOR SMALL CLIENT
Interestingly, the one execution that comes closest to the classic design purity of the DDB canon was written by Mr. Bernbach for one of the agency's smallest clients, Levy's. The others, while moving toward that purity, still lumbered under an excess of elements and a habit of crowding headlines onto pictures.
By its fifth anniversary, DDB billed $8 million, employed 67 people, and had moved twice, finally settling into 8,000 square feet of subleased space at 20 W. 43rd St. By the time it moved again in the mid-1970s, the sprawl at 43rd St. would grow to 250,000 square feet and a staff of about 1,800.
By then DDB had 19 offices, more than half outside the U.S. But the largest of the branches remained its first, the one added in Los Angeles in June 1954. With Ohrbach's about to open in L.A. and Max Factor already headquartered there and about to consolidate with DDB, the agency needed a working West Coast presence. Rather than start from scratch, it decided to make its first acquisition.
The Factor-Breyer Agency added a fast $1 million in new billings and 15 people, including Ted Factor, who would receive a lifetime contract and remain head of the West Coast office for the next 25 years. All this despite the sudden loss of the $3 million Max Factor business (no relation) in March 1958.
But by then, as DDB approached its 10th birthday, it had more than a reputation as an award hog. It had a track record of selling. It had taken Levy's from a small Brooklyn bakery to the biggest-selling rye bread brand in New York City. In four years it had nearly tripled Polaroid Land Camera sales to $65 million. And it had made the El Al Airlines a player over the Atlantic with a single ad.
EL AL WORK DEMONSTRATION
The El Al Israel Airlines business provided an instructive look at Mr. Bernbach in action. Peter Brunswick of El Al had come to DDB on the basis of the Ohrbach's work. His story was simple. The airline was about to introduce exclusive non-stop jet-prop service between New York and London that would beat the standard DC-7 carriers by 2 1/2 hours.
In a meeting at the agency, Mr. Brunswick spoke at great length and passion about El Al, even as Mr. Bernbach's attention wandered toward a blank sheet of paper on the table. He interrupted Mr. Brunswick, held up the paper, and told him to imagine it was the ocean. He then ripped it down the side, taking off about a fifth of the sheet.
"El Al is going to make the Atlantic 20% smaller," he said. "How about that?" Mr. Brunswick bought it. The ad not only brought customers to El Al. It also brought a copywriter to the agency named Bob Levenson, who over the next 26 years would rise to become chairman of DDB International and worldwide creative director.
By the late 1950s writers and art directors besieged the agency with resumes, hoping to catch some of the heat radiating from the hottest shop in advertising.
On April 13, 1959, a small story appeared in Advertising Age noting that Bill Bernbach and Ned Doyle were in Germany to confer with executives at Volkswagen about doing their advertising. The other contender was Fuller & Smith & Ross. It was a small article because Volkswagen was a small company that made a small car that seemed destined for a small market in the U.S. It had hired and fired its first agency, J.M. Mathes, Inc., within the past year, but few noticed. It was also less than headline news when DDB officially won the business shortly afterward, although no one was more keenly conscious of the unlikely nature of the match than Mr. Bernbach and his colleagues.
Notwithstanding the legend of Albert Lasker, the upper tier of ad agencies in the late '50s remained infamously clubby and conspicuously Waspish. Before the war, the only important agency widely perceived as a "Jewish agency" was Grey Advertising, and it was the shop from which most of DDB's charter employees, including Messrs. Doyle and Bernbach, had come. But this was post-World War II Madison Avenue. Anti-semitism was now unfashionable. Yet, a residue of latent self-consciousness silently lingered that left established, predominantly gentile agencies and clients hesitant about how to deal with products that might suggest anything Jewish.
Consider two agencies now joined within Omnicom, BBDO and DDB. "Du Pont was marketing a new fabric called Orlon to the garment industry," recalls Joel Raphaelson, who worked at Du Pont's agency, BBDO, in the '50s, "and I wrote a trade ad. For the headline, I took the punchline to a joke familiar to everyone in the garment trade: `Don't jump, Manny. Cut velvet,' and changed it to `Don't jump, Manny. Cut Orlon.' But Du Pont simply would not let us say Manny. We had to change it to Joe. They felt it was too overtly Jewish and didn't feel comfortable with it."
Fear of political incorrectness at Du Pont, however, invoked sheer chutzpa at DDB, many of whose key people were Jewish themselves and immune to imputations of anti-semitism. Only DDB could reassure reticent gentiles that they need not be Jewish to enjoy Levy's rye; or sell El Al with "The miracle of the lox that flies."
It was with this recent history in mind that the ad world quietly watched as DDB took on Volkswagen and turned it into Germany's most enduring and lovable gift to posterity since Bavarian beer. The historic relationship was not dwelt upon in the press, merely noticed.
Within DDB, Mr. Dane recalls today, no one seemed to oppose taking the business, least of all Mr. Bernbach, copywriter Julian Koenig and art director Helmut Krone, all of whose reputations would be forever burnished by the soon-to-be-born campaign for Volkswagen. Earlier this year, and 40 years after the first ad appeared, Advertising Age named Mr. Bernbach and his VW campaign first among the 100 best of the century.
The essence of everything DDB had been pressing toward for a decade crystalized in its Volkswagen work. Today the agency's little yellow book of VW ads is the literary equivalent of a volume of The New Yorker cartoons; a procession of small but penetrating insights, each of which takes a bite out of the pomposity of traditional car advertising. (See p. C-48)
Volkswagen not only gave critical impact to DDB's creative reputation; it drew the agency onto the world stage. While other agencies were following their U.S. clients overseas, DDB was in the unique position of serving a blue-chip German client in the U.S. In October 1961 the agency opened its first overseas office in Germany, a 50-50 partnership with Holzschuher & Bauer, a $5 million agency founded in Dusseldorf in 1949. A year later it was simply DDB Dusseldorf and had the Germany VW business.
WINS AMERICAN BUSINESS
Meanwhile, the agency celebrated its 12th birthday by winning $6 million in business from American Airlines, which had considered DDB only two years before but took a pass because the shop, at $22 million, was too small. Now, 24 months later, DDB had become a $60 million agency.
A new roundtable had settled into existence at the legendary Algonquin Hotel by now. Two or three times a week Messrs. Doyle, Dane and Bernbach could be observed lunching together and talking business at a corner table off the lobby.
In the summer of 1964 the time had come to talk of profit-taking. By that time only two modern agencies had taken the still-rare step of going public: Papert, Koenig, Lois and Foote, Cone & Belding. In July, as the agency opened a London office and crossed the $100 million barrier, America's 18th-largest agency announced a 25% IPO that would soon startle the industry.
It was startling enough that the opening price was $27 a share, or nearly eight times book value (vs. FCB's multiple of 2.5 the year before). It was even more startling when the offering was immediately oversubscribed. But what was most startling was when the stock hit $71 within 16 months and split within 22.
"Our problem was we had grown very fast," says Mr. Dane, who supervised the sale, "and our true value was far in excess of our book value. There wasn't anyone we could sell to at a decent price. And [an agency] couldn't raise money from banks in those days. So we let the market set the price."
These were the glory days of Doyle Dane. It seemed to pull business away from other agencies with the force of a black hole; Mobil, Gillette, Ocean Spray, U.S. Rubber, General Foods and Lever Bros. It was both envied and feared by other agencies. And there was no shortage of agencies and creative people (including a young Keith Reinhard in Chicago) working overtime to master "the Doyle Dane look."
Key DDB creatives were at a premium as agencies jockeyed to hire a piece of the true cross. Marvin Corwin was lured away to head the remnants of Erwin, Wasey. Interpublic set up a kind of think-tank under Jack Tinker, who brought Mary Wells over from DDB in 1963.
As the diaspora of DDBers moved up and down Madison Avenue and beyond, the phrase "Creative Revolution" moved from the trade press to big consumer books such as Time, Life and Look. Ordinary people who wouldn't know Leo Burnett from Leo the Lion talked with mock expertise about ad campaigns as if they were movies. Eventually a minor backlash set in within the trade. "I am really getting bugged," one jaded reader wrote to Advertising Age in 1965, "with the word `revolution' used in connection with copywriting."
REVOLUTION ROLLS ON
But the revolution rolled on. In the fall of 1962 Avis left McCann-Erickson for DDB, which noted the firm's secondary position to Hertz in the car rental field. With disarming forthrightness, DDB pounced on this fact, reasoning that when you're No. 2 you "try harder."
Avis CEO Robert Townsend hated what he saw but stuck to his agreement with Mr. Bernbach "not to change a bloody comma." It became among the agency's signature campaigns of the '60s -- appropriately, second to Volkswagen -- and helped carry Avis revenues from $16 million to $110 million in three years.
Yet in May 1969 the account moved to Benton & Bowles over "differing points of view." The saving grace of losing business was that DDB's reputation was so sterling that even when it did get fired, the industry assumed it had dumped the client, an impression DDB took no special pains to contradict.
Avis paid DDB the ultimate compliment by coming back to the agency in April 1973. (Some thought parent company ITT the real culprit in the 1969 defection. DDB had resigned ITT in 1960 as "too small," only to see it acquire Avis in 1965. Four years later Doyle Dane lost the business, then Avis returned to DDB just as it was being cut loose by ITT.)
Three months after the Avis loss, though, one of the agency's most frustrating chapters began in a flurry of celebration as Miles Laboratories moved Alka-Seltzer from Jack Tinker to DDB. DDB's only experience with analgesics had been its 1966 launch of Resolve, where the parody line "In your stomach you know it's right" proved no more successful for Resolve than the original line ("In your heart you know he's right") had been for Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign.
The agency would produce two precedent-shattering, Bernbachian masterpieces for Alka-Seltzer: "Spicy Meatball" and "Wedding Night," only to hear rumors within a year that the business was in jeopardy. Denials from the client notwithstanding, the account moved in December 1970 to one of the many Creative Revolution-driven shops that had sprung up in DDB's wake in the '60s -- Wells, Rich, Green. It would be the shortest tenure of a major account at DDB until 1981 when Pan-American Airways moved in and out within seven months.
But DDB President Joe Daly made sure the world knew that all was not what it seemed. Alka-Seltzer's 4% sales decline, he argued, was not the result of DDB's advertising but of parent Miles Laboratories' decision to cannibalize its own product by introducing Alka-Seltzer Plus.
Mr. Daly had succeeded to the presidency in 1968. Although Mr. Bernbach continued as CEO, spiritual creative director and teacher, management generations were turning over. Ned Doyle retired in 1969 and Mac Dane in 1971, although both continued to exert influence.
The agency went into the '70s with a string of high-profile losses. In addition to Avis and Alka-Seltzer, Whirlpool, Sara Lee, Quaker and Lever Bros. moved on, taking $30 million with them. Morale slipped as ambitious young Turks began feeling imposed upon while idle senior creatives began foraging the floors for work. Veterans such as Mr. Bernbach, Phyllis Robinson and Bob Levenson were moving on to legend status and enjoying induction into one advertising hall of fame or another, suggesting their work was complete.
Though there were solid agency acquisitions in Europe, there were also several misbegotten adventures into diversification that temporarily put DDB into the sailboat business (Snark Products) and the retail trade (Trade Mart Inc.). "Which was Stupid," Mr. Dane says today. "We were getting advice to the effect that it was only paper losses. But we found out it ain't only paper. We survived those mistakes."
To try to avoid future mistakes Mr. Bernbach began casting about to strengthen management. Through 1974 a procession of changes were announced in the wake of losing the $10 million Uniroyal account. Among them, James Heekin, a former president of Ogilvy & Mather, became president, only to quit six months later just before he would have been ousted.
SUITORS COME CALLING
Mr. Bernbach was increasingly willing to listen to potential suitors. At least one pursuer was a former protege, Mary Wells Lawrence, who was eager to expand WRG into more global opportunities. And with offices in Canada, Britain, Germany and five other countries, DDB boasted a quarter of its billings outside the U.S. But talks were necessarily brief in order to avoid needless nervousness among potentially conflicted clients, and the talks broke off in June 1974.
DALY IN COMMAND
On August 13, 1976, Mr. Bernbach turned 65 and handed his CEO title over to Joe Daly, who had been the first account executive hired by the agency in 1949. But much of the news the agency generated concerned its expanding European network and further merger rumors. After acquiring agencies in Austria and Spain in 1980, DDB moved into Sweden in 1982 and formed a European coordination unit in London called DDB Europa, which also included a Middle East operation set up in June 1979. It was all headed by Mr. Bernbach's son, John, who said that the agency now represented 31 U.S. clients abroad.
On the merger front, Ally & Gargano seemed willing to bring its $33 million together with DDB in 1978. Another suitor was the Wyse Agency. But they were small shops by DDB standards. One "merges" with an equal in order to foster an exchange of strengths. In December 1980 WRG was back in play, but it had nothing to give as far as DDB was concerned.
What the agency really wanted was strength in the Chicago market, where it had had a fleeting presence in 1958. Far more interesting than merging with a New York clone of itself was finding a Chicago partner with roots of its own.
One such agency was Needham, Harper & Steers, which ranked No. 20 in world billing compared to No. 11 for DDB. In 1979 and 1980, Paul Harper, Needham's CEO, had several serious meetings with Mr. Bernbach with a view toward a package in which each would gain strength in the other's city. But nothing materialized.
While Mr. Reinhard had once met Bill Bernbach at an industry function, it was during the same period that he had his one and only conversation with Mr. Bernbach about an agency combination, and it was on the telephone.
A highly tempting and compelling combination that might have been was between closely ranked DDB and Foote, Cone & Belding. The resulting $2.3 billion colossus would have been second only to Young & Rubicam at the time. On April 29, 1982, a deal was actually on the table and agreed to, despite a number of client conflicts. It would have been the biggest agency merger in history -- if the principals could have agreed on a name. When they couldn't, it all went away.
It also might have been a career-capping victory for Mr. Bernbach. Instead it was a last disappointment.
In 1978 he had been diagnosed with leukemia, a disease nearly always fatal then, and on Oct. 2, 1982, he died at 71. But he had lived long enough to see his company grow to more than $1.15 billion in billings.
Among the first things to change in the post-Bernbach era was DDB's policy on cigarette advertising. The agency had won Benson & Hedges in April 1958, and later Alpine, both from Philip Morris, but dropped both in 1961 over a "mutual disagreement on policy." The "policy" from then on would be that cigarettes need not apply at DDB, by order of Mr. Bernbach.
Within eight weeks of his death, the agency readmitted Philip Morris for the first time in 21 years and took on Parliament.
But changes far more subtle and profound were setting in that signaled a slow atrophy of the Bernbach spirit, still openly honored but quietly amended or ignored in the face of short-term growth pressures. The keepers of the flame drifted off: Julian Koenig, Phyllis Robinson, Gene Case, and then Marv Honig and Bob Levenson in April 1985.
The man most alarmed by this drift had never worked at DDB or ever lived in New York. Nine-hundred miles to the west Keith Reinhard sat in his Chicago office and felt he was watching the agency that had inspired him turn into just another big ad factory.
"My idea," he says, "was to get together with DDB for reasons of creative passion and bring Bernbach's ideas to life again." But as CEO of a competing agency, Mr. Reinhard had interests of his own to serve as well. Paul Harper had put together a global network for Needham on relatively little money, leading Mr. Reinhard in 1984 to drop the Steers name and retitle the company Needham Harper Worldwide. The name preceded the reality, however, as the agency ranked only No. 16 in world income.
"But I did it to put a stake in the ground," he says, "and said we are going to have to be worldwide. But having staked out that position, I told our executive committee it's going to be very tough to bootstrap our way from 16 into the top tier. We need a partner. Any suggestions?"
It was a rhetorical question. Before anybody ever heard of Omnicom, Mr. Reinhard had put together on a floppy disc the structure he envisioned for a future DDB Needham Worldwide. It was more than an alliance of geographic muscle. "I sorted out all the strengths," he says. "We would take this from this culture and that from that culture. I had it all worked out."
In the summer of 1985 he approached Barry Loughrane of DDB in New York to discuss merger and other options, including Mr. Reinhard going to DDB. But job offers notwithstanding, he was at a disadvantage as a would-be partner because at that moment DDB lacked a strong incentive to merge. By September talks were considered dead.
In April 1986 all that changed. Saatchi & Saatchi was hungry and targeted DDB for a takeover, making a bid on the 24th. DDB, which had been talking to Needham and BBDO since March, rejected Saatchi and at the same meeting approved the now-famous three-way "big bang" deal that linked Needham, DDB and BBDO.
"We couldn't say a word until the stock market closed on Friday," Mr. Reinhard recalls. "Then we had between Friday afternoon and Sunday, when we announced it, to notify all our clients and all the offices of all three agencies around the world that there was to be this wonderful new creation."
Joe Daly, DDB chairman, later said the main reason he did the merger was to "get Reinhard." BBDO became the third leg of the combine, with Omnicom serving as the holding company.
So who was DDB's new partner, this Needham Harper Worldwide?
The agency had begun in Chicago as Maurice H. Needham Co. in January, 1925. Mr. Needham began his advertising career with Nichols & Finn, a local agency. In 1921 he took a partnership in another Chicago agency, Husband & Thomas, and five years later went into business for himself with $1,500 of his own money and three small clients billing about $270,000.
BRORBY A PARTNER
In 1929 he took on two partners and the agency became Needham, Louis & Brorby. Melvin Brorby had joined Needham in 1925 as copywriter and became a partner with the name change. John J. Louis joined in 1929 from the Charles Daniel Frey agency, and brought with him what would become the agency's defining client. His wife was the sister of H.F. Johnson, Chairman of the S.C. Johnson Co. of Racine, Wis. Reason enough to add his name to the logo.
Nepotism has seldom been so richly rewarded. It was Mr. Louis' wife who late in 1934 first heard a local Chicago radio show called "Smackout" and suggested that her husband listen.
NL&B PRODUCED SHOW
On April 16, 1935, its stars, Jim and Marian Jordan, launched a revised version as "The Johnson's Wax Program with Fibber McGee and Molly," which NL&B would produce for the next 15 years.
It was on that program that NL&B became the first agency to use the integrated commercial, in which the middle ad message by announcer Harlow Wilcox was woven into the fabric and humor of the story line.
As NL&B pushed into network radio, its reputation and billings began to rise. In 1939 it opened a Hollywood office when the Johnson production operation moved to L.A. By 1941 the agency had won Kraft Foods and was off to the races with another NL&B innovation, a program titled "The Great Gildersleeve." Created for Kraft from a character developed on the Fibber McGee program, Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve became the basis of the first spin-off series in the history of network broadcasting, setting the precedent for countless series to follow, first on radio and then on TV.
WANTED TO BE BIG
State Farm Insurance became another major client before World War II. But even with two successful network series on the air, billings were still only around $2.5 million. During the war Mr. Needham and his partners decided they wanted to be a big agency. By 1945 NL&B was billing an estimated $5 million, and broke into the $10 million-and-up club in 1947. The year before, a young copywriter named Paul Harper had joined the agency.
Agencies were highly secretive about their billings in those days, something Mr. Needham saw no need for. In 1951 NL&B became the first major agency to fully disclose all operating numbers to employees and the trade.
The numbers continued to grow well into the '50s, as a second generation of management began taking over from the founders. Mr. Louis retired in 1957, and Mr. Needham relinquished the presidency to Mr. Harper in 1960 and became chairman. By 1956 the agency had become the second- or third-largest in Chicago. It hit a series of bumps that year, as accounts departed (Quaker, Ken-L Ration, Hotpoint, Wilson Co.) and people left "in droves," according to Advertising Age. Some felt its survival was in question. But by 1959 the agency made the turnaround, hitting $38 million that year.
In January 1964, as Mr. Needham retired as chairman and Mr. Brorby lingered on in semi-retirement, Mr. Harper moved to strengthen the agency's New York profile by merger, which brings us to yet another agency in the DDB family tree.
In January 1944, Francis Doherty, Arthur Cobb and Lawrence Shenfield had spun off from Pedlar & Ryan (which would fold in 1952) to form Doherty, Cobb & Shenfield. Mr. Cobb soon left and was replaced on the nameplate by Donald Clifford, another Pedlar & Ryan VP. Also making the shift was media director William Steers, who added his name to the logo in 1952 (Doherty, Clifford, Steers & Shenfield) and became president in 1956.
The agency handled many Bristol-Myers brands (Ipana, Vitalis, Mum) and would bill about $29 million by the time Mr. Harper began talks in June 1964 with Mr. Steers, then DCS&S chairman.
The merger, announced December 31, 1964, was the second-biggest in advertising history at the time. Needham, Harper & Steers began life as the 10th-ranked U.S. agency, two notches below DDB and billing $90 million.
After several immediate client losses in New York, including Bristol-Myers, Mr. Harper relocated to the Manhattan office. But the continuity continued in the relationships with Johnson's Wax, Kraft (Parkay, Manor House), and State Farm, which became the first account that Keith Reinhard worked on when he joined in 1964 shortly before the merger. In the decade ahead, Mr. Reinhard would rise to the presidency of the Chicago office, while new business would include Xerox (1968) with the classic "It's a Miracle" commercial in 1975.
EXPANSION IN EUROPE
Seeking expansion in Europe, in November 1966 NHS partnered with the Benson Group in London to form Benson-Needham Europe and acquired a majority interest in agencies in Frankfurt, Paris and Madrid in 1967. Univas/Havas joined the combine in 1970.
In 1970 Mr. Reinhard, now a senior VP and creative director, led the new business team that won the $5 million McDonald's account from D'Arcy MacManus. Focus groups had shown a pattern, according to Yolanda Brugulletta, than a NHS research director, that customers felt a sense of relief at the convenience of McDonald's. Mr. Reinhard and his team translated this insight into "You deserve a break today," a campaign that drove the agency's growth and reputation for the next decade.
The industry, not to mention Mr. Reinhard, was jolted when 11 years later the client moved the bulk of the account, then $53 million, to Leo Burnett. Widely circulated PR photos of a grinning Jack Kopp, Burnett CEO, chomping on a Big Mac seemed to rub Needham's nose in its loss. It also has a chilling effect on every creative director's basic article of faith: that outstanding creative work can't lose.
Ignoring conventional procedures, Mr. Reinhard never sought other fast food business. Instead, he immediately began working to win back McDonald's business, small pieces of which the agency never lost. But in August, 1997, Mr. Reinhard succeeded big-time, as DDB Needham won approximately $300 million in creative assignments from McDonald's and once again became its lead agency. The win, however, seemed less fascinating than the personal victory for Mr. Reinhard, although he denies that McDonald's future at DDB depends on him.
"Yes, I still play an important role," he says. "But there are relationships at every level. I feel I have a good relationship with [McDonald's CEO] Jack Greenberg. I had no relationship with him prior to July 1997. That was a risk for us because I very easily could have been seen as his predecessor Fred Turner's man. The personal relationship is still important. But it's a whole series of relationships."
As parts of Omnicom, DDB Needham and BBDO functioned independently, with Mr. Reinhard heading the agency he had once so admired and emulated from Chicago. But the merging of the two cultures proved difficult. A year after the big deal, Mr. Reinhard told Jon Lafayette of Advertising Age that he "found a broken spirit" in the New York DDB office.
Internationally, the relationship was even more challenging. "The first act of creation is destruction," he says, and that was the first principle behind the new DDB Needham. "In this case we had to destroy NH&S and really DDB too."
To rebuild, he called on John Bradstock to run DDB North America, succeeding John Bernbach. Bernard Brochand took over DDB International. Above all, Mr. Reinhard believed the growth of DDB would depend on its ability to reclaim the wealth of new functions that were developing with media growth and the drift toward digital -- functions that the agency business was slow to embrace.
RESURGENCE OF AGENCY
The resurgence of the agency after the 1986 merger may have been a miracle every bit as worthy as the work of the original DDB. In 1995 DDB Needham was named Agency of the Year by Advertising Age on the basis of its penetrating creative for Frito-Lay ("Prove it, Pretzel Boy"), the New York Lottery ("Hey, you never know"), and Anheuser-Busch Bud Lite ("Yes, I am!"). The agency in 1997 was Ad Age's first-ever Global Agency Network of the Year.
At 64, Mr. Reinhard's "ultimate act of management," as he calls it, may well have been his most recent one -- choosing a successor. Though the decision was not his alone, it has been no secret since last spring that his heir apparent is Ken Kaess (pronounced CASE), currently chairman of DDB North America.
Mr. Kaess joined DDB in 1977 as an assistant account executive on Mobil Oil, left in 1981 for five years at Jordan, Case & McGrath, then returned and ran the Los Angeles office beginning in 1991. The agency's largest West Coast client then was the pre-Seagram Universal. Mr. Kaess broadened the agency relationship with Universal by creating an entertainment division, which handled Universal media across the board: movies, theme parks, TV and music. Today, he says, the business bills $250 million-$300 million.
Though a New Yorker again since coming back East in 1994 to head the agency's office there, Mr. Kaess still radiates a certain Southern California charisma. Trim, tanned, handsome and sandy-haired, he sees advertising and show business as natural allies.
In this, he agrees with Mr. Reinhard, who in a recent prognostication said "50 years from now, what we now know as an advertising agency will probably have merged with an entertainment company in order to provide advertiser-supplied content for the Web, for TV and for their successor technologies, and with an Internet company to distribute such content."
"But our core business is still advertising," Mr. Kaess emphasizes, "and we have to continue our creative leadership. However, in terms of overall brand-building, we have to be able to deliver a wide base of services. We are doing that in such areas as interactive, with DDB Digital, consultancy DDB Matrix and kids' marketing with Kid Think Inc."
Clearly, Messrs. Reinhart and Kaess see eye-to-eye. But Mr. Kaess' entertainment interest has convinced him that clients also find certain aspects of the entertainment business alluring.
Ned Doyle, most senior of the three founders, did not look kindly on the 1986 merger. He told friends that someone should now write a history of the agency and call it "Once There Was a Doyle Dane Bernbach." Many shared his view.
But Mr. Reinhard isn't about to commission the history. In the end, his preeminent legacy may be that he was the man who made sure there will always be a Doyle Dane Bernbach.