In a singularly tough year for the ad industry, Omnicom Group's BBDO may be the only global network to hit double-digit growth. The company is also finally beefing up its marketing services offerings, although with $1.3 billion in new business pouring in around the world in 2001, clients seemed happy to hire a big creative network better known for its 30-second commercials than customer relationship management. Wins included $80 million in new global business from Gillette Co. and $45 million from Allied Domecq and the $200 million launch of the O2 communications network in Europe.
Adding up the numbers, creative kudos and management moves, the editors at Advertising Age and sibling magazine Ad Age Global chose BBDO as Global Agency Network of the Year for an unprecedented second year in a row.
"We haven't downgraded our profit plan at all," Mr. Rosenshine says. "It just became harder to reach."
Of the anticipated double-digit revenue growth, he says about 60% comes from organic growth and the rest from acquisitions in Asia, where latecomer BBDO is near the bottom of the agency network rankings at No. 17.
MARKETING TEAM GONE
After winning the biggest account change of 2000 when DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group consolidated its $1.8 billion account at BBDO, the network had to cope with the departure of the entire client marketing team that picked BBDO. Despite that setback, BBDO formed Detroit-based PentaMark Worldwide to manage the business and has developed campaigns for Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler that are "much better than a year ago, or three years ago," Mr. Robertson says.
"This has been a challenge to both sides, but we've created an integrated organization that the client has embraced," Mr. Rosenshine adds.
BBDO started setting up a CRM network, Proximity, in September 2000, that reached $1 billion in billings for direct marketing and related services in 2001 from clients like Mars Inc.'s Masterfoods and Pharmacia, and finally added a U.S. unit, Omnicom's Target Base, in late 2001. Simon Hall, London-based Proximity's chief executive in the U.K. and worldwide, reports directly to Mr. Rosenshine.
"The U.S. had been our big hole," Mr. Hall says. "There's not a great choice of CRM networks and now we're getting on all the international pitch lists."
But BBDO remains best known for its 30-second commercials. In the U.S., BBDO books more time on the Super Bowl than any other ad operation and is behind both the post-Sept. 11 "New York Miracle" campaign (see U.S. Agency Reviews, Page S-14) and urban youth spots for Mountain Dew's Code Red in which pros infiltrate a pickup basketball game. In the U.K., Abbott Mead Vickers/BBDO, London, turns out an annual Guinness beer blockbuster, most recently "Dream Club," in which a Guinness drinker dreams the meaning of life.
MORE STAR AGENCIES THAN MOST
In 2001, BBDO's creative performance came in second behind new No. 1 Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett Co. in the Gunn Report, an authoritative creative ranking based on agency networks' performance in ad shows worldwide. But the BBDO network, built from highly creative local agencies, has more star agencies than most. BBDO Toronto contributed a Chrysler Group print ad of a steep mountain with a perpendicular stop sign for the Jeep capable of scaling it. AMV/ BBDO's long-running ice-cold Guinness campaign added Guinness cubes in an ice tray. And for BBDO Chile's local client Pearl's Superior Butter, a bread roll opens like a clamshell to reveal a perfect pearl of butter.
Messrs. Rosenshine and Robertson are unapologetic about BBDO's traditional media orientation. "I think BBDO is right to be obsessively focused on 'the work, the work, the work,'" Mr. Robertson says. "Long term, we ought to be able to apply this mantra across all media. At the moment, we're not. But disintegrated quality will outperform integrated rubbish."
Mr. Robertson, fresh from the CEO job at AMV/BBDO in London, brings a broad range of experience on a smaller scale from the U.K. After getting a degree in economics, he started as a media planner at Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, London, then quickly climbed the account management ladder and landed his first CEO job, at WCRS, London, as he turned 30.
His move to a top job in the world's biggest ad market enables him to gain needed experience and lets Mr. Rosenshine, at 63, groom a successor without pinning him down to a retirement date he is reluctant to name.
"I'd love it," Mr. Robertson says, of being in line for the job. "[But] being given the opportunity isn't the important part. Proving it is the important part."
"I'm telling you he is doing well, so you can draw your own conclusions," Mr. Rosenshine says.