At a recent off-site meeting of the New York-based agency's worldwide managers, executives were told by Chairman-CEO Keith Reinhard that in the next few months the agency will consider a name change.
Last week, DDB Needham began contacting brand identity companies, including parent Omnicom Group's Interbrand Co. One executive said the intent is to develop a strong global brand name for the agency, whose current handle was jerry-built when Doyle Dane Bernbach merged with Needham Harper Worldwide in 1986.
DDB Needham executives are said to be dissatisfied with the current name in part because Needham has little meaning overseas and the creative heritage of Doyle Dane Bernbach was buried in the monogram.
Recently, two other agencies changed their names: Backer Spielvogel Bates Worldwide this month switched to Bates Worldwide in an effort to bolster the agency's global image, while CME KHBB's U.S. operation reclaimed its previous moniker of Campbell Mithun Esty.
Goldman, Sachs & Co. analyst Mark Friedman said the rechristenings are intended to strengthen the perception of agencies among brand-name-conscious advertisers.
But a DDB Needham name change is by no means a done deal. One executive close to the Omnicom agency network said: "It could be perceived as a sign of weakness. The other consideration is will they come up with anything better? You can't go to a name that means nothing, you can't go to Needham and you can't resurrect Doyle Dane Bernbach."
One name said to be under consideration is the Bernbach Agency, a tribute to DDB founder Bill Bernbach. But the nomination is an odd one considering the agency's current rocky relationship with the founder's son John.
Any name change would have to be approved by Omnicom President-CEO Bruce Crawford. "They would have to come to me," he said, "and nobody has tried it on me for size. I am not a great believer in name changes unless there is some significance to it."