DDB interactive agencies merge to form Tribal DDB

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DDB Worldwide, in a move to better meet global clients' interactive needs, has consolidated its interactive shops into one independent operating unit, Tribal DDB Worldwide.

Tribal brings together a multitude of DDB divisions, including DDB Digital in the Americas and Asia Pacific, BMP InterAction in the U.K., e-scape/Generator in Denmark, DDB Interactive in France and Spain, and Heye New Media in Germany.

The new company, based in New York, has 21 offices in 15 countries. Tribal provides business consulting, marketing and e-commerce services to clients such as Anheuser-Busch Co., Credit Suisse Group, Exxon Mobil Corp., Reuters, Vodafone Group and Volkswagen. Tribal will service DDB clients and go after its own. It currently has 500 employees, but that tally is expected to grow as the new unit expands across the globe.

Tribal can utilize DDB's resources, but will operate as a distinct unit with a separate profit and loss statement.

"What we have is the best of both worlds," said DDB Worldwide President Ken Kaess. "Tribal has flexibility, but also the business and strategic alignment with DDB."

Tribal's management team includes Matt Freeman, former CEO-North America for DDB Digital, who now is CEO-North America; Johnny Henriksen, former managing director of Rapp Collins Worldwide, Denmark, is CEO-Europe; and John Zeigler remains director-digital strategy, DDB Worldwide. Steven Marrs, president-chief operating officer of North America; John Young, chief creative officer-North America; and Jason Goodman, president-chief operating officer-Europe, round out the top team.

DDB has been active on the interactive front through its 2-year-old DDB Digital unit, which has promoted itself as a global interactive agency. This consolidation, however, is a concerted effort to meld DDB's worldwide interactive offerings, rather than having them simply align for client work, Mr. Marrs said.

`A TIGHTER UNION'

"What this really represents is a tighter union of all of DDB's interactive companies on a worldwide basis," he said. "Before, we were a network. . . . Now we've formalized the business relationships under one management team."

As Tribal launches worldwide, it will embark on a joint venture in Europe with direct marketing shop Rapp Collins, a sibling Omnicom Group agency.

Tribal comes out of a worldwide management summit DDB had in February. During that meeting, Mr. Kaess charged the interactive units with creating a "truly global network" that could better serve the agency's multinational clients. "We wanted to have one global brand, one global structure," Mr. Kaess said.

However, one analyst questioned whether DDB can successfully pull off a consolidation. "A push to offer global services is a good one, but just because they hang an umbrella with a nice funky name on it does not mean they have a network that's useful to their clientele," said Claudine Singer, senior analyst at Jupiter Communications. "It will require a huge amount of integration and, in some cases, consolidation of redundant assets."

`A HUGE, HUGE EFFORT'

"It's just a huge, huge effort," Ms. Singer added. "While it is a good and smart move given the new interest on the part of traditional clients -- many of whom have global interests and need to be served by a global entity -- it's a lot easier said and named than actually executed."

DDB will strive for that seamless integration through management meetings and the use of a networkwide customized portal that allows staffers to interact, examine case studies and coordinate project management.

Mr. Kaess said DDB has no current plans to spin off the unit through a stock offering.

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