Generation Next for BBDO

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With the retirement of Chairman Philip B. Dusenberry, Omnicom Group's BBDO North America is left without its creative giant. And while it was not blindsided by the retirement-Mr. Dusenberry had long talked of stepping down-BBDO is nonetheless headed into a new era: A.D., or After Dusenberry.

Mr. Dusenberry's position will not be filled. His account management and creative duties will be absorbed by Andrew Robertson, president-CEO, BBDO North America, and Ted Sann, vice chairman-chief creative officer, BBDO North America, respectively.

But the evolution is not so much in creative, since Mr. Sann has been chief creative officer since 1993. Rather, it is in keeping clients happy.

"Phil has become part of our brand," Mr. Sann said. "Because of his great relationship with clients and the way he ran the agency, there will be a lot of transition there. But we don't do things abruptly."

Still, BBDO is experiencing some transition pains. The agency last month lost the $80 million Charles Schwab & Co. account when the marketer abruptly shifted the account to Omnicom sibling GSD&M, Austin, Texas. The shift did not appear to be due to creative as BBDO's Super Bowl work was generally well-received.

Also last month, the agency sent several key executives, including Mr. Sann and Mr. Robertson, as well as new account people to a Dallas meeting with Tricon Global Restaurants' Pizza Hut. The agency said it was a normal meeting with one of its clients, but BBDO is rumored to be in trouble on the account and last week hired outsider Cindy Davis, to take over the business. Ms. Davis has worked as an independent brand consultant for the past year.

It also doesn't appear BBDO will gain any new business from Mars, which terminated its global relationship with Bcom3 Group's D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles earlier this month. Despite the fact that BBDO already has Mars products Snickers and M&Ms, Mars appears to be leaning toward non-roster shop TBWA/Chiat/Day, also owned by Omnicom. Said Mr. Sann: "They're all on a separate track. It's the nature of this business that you're always in a state of flux."

"It's strange to say about a creative guy, but Phil in many ways was strong on the account-management side," Mr. Sann said. "We're going to have to pick it up there, too. We all need to step up to that."

In addition, BBDO recently hired Martyn Straw for the newly created position of chief strategy officer. Mr. Straw was formerly the president of Omnicom's brand consultancy Interbrand.

Bill Katz, president-CEO of BBDO, New York, said the hiring of Mr. Straw was unrelated to Mr. Dusenberry's retirement. "This is based on the new realities of the marketplace," he said.

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