Across multiple time zones and reach in 96 countries, DDB Needham proves superior while promoting belief that `the stronger the culture, the less need for structure'
The beginning of 1997 was challenging for Keith Reinhard.
The chairman-CEO of DDB Needham Worldwide made 11 trips to Germany in the first quarter alone in efforts to save the Duesseldorf office's Volkswagen business. VW was unsatisfied with the agency's work and had invited seven other shops to pitch the account.
"The year started out with a very tough battle to save the Volkswagen account," says Mr. Reinhard. "Here we were the home market -- Germany -- under attack . . . Nobody thought we had a chance."
With an unexpected agency makeover and support of DDB Needham's international network, the shop came through at the last minute and retained the $80 million account.
`'One year after we held the Volkswagen pitch, we are entirely satisfied with the work and performance of DDB, particularly with the new campaign `Generation Golf' which runs Europewide," says Michael Grosche, VW ad manager for Europe.
GLOBAL OFFICES UNITE
Three months after rescuing the VW account, DDB Needham executives from around the U.S. gathered in Chicago for a much-anticipated presentation with DDB Needham's second-largest client.
With a "Did Somebody Say McDonald's?" battle cry and creative contributions from around the globe, the agency beat out Leo Burnett USA to regain the $300 million McDonald's Corp. adult business it had painfully lost 16 years earlier.
According to an internal staff memo from Mr. Reinhard at the time, "hundreds of people" within the DDB Needham network supported that winning pitch.
Although these were two isolated pitches in far-ranging parts of the globe, one factor remained constant: the agency's worldwide offices came together when a marketing solution was needed.
It is because of this excellence in international integration and outstanding creativity that DDB Needham Worldwide has been named Advertising Age's first ever Global Agency Network of the Year.
"No less than 10 offices around the world submitted quality ideas" for the McDonald's and VW pitches, says DDB Needham U.S President Ken Kaess, including offices in New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris and Brazil. "The effort was outstanding."
Advertising Age looked at criteria including creativity, management capabilities and account growth for the selection of this new award.
`LINKED BY COMMON CULTURE'
While its global outreach spans 96 countries, the network's executives all say DDB Needham's success lies in keeping one culture.
"We are linked by a common culture, the [founder Bill] Bernbach history and the Keith Reinhard thinking and values," says Bernard Brochand, president of DDB Needham's international division. "It's because we believe in the culture that we can give a better approach."
Mr. Reinhard compared the DDB Needham approach to organized religion.
"We constantly run around spreading our gospel," says Mr. Reinhard. "The action is in the parish, but still united by a set of beliefs and standards."
"Our belief is the stronger the culture, the less need for structure," continues Mr. Reinhard. "That allows us to expand because we keep attracting entrepreneurial leaders as we expand to new areas."
That expansion took a multitude of forms in 1997 -- ranging from new-business gains to growth through acquisitions. Last year, worldwide billings increased by $1.2 billion to $11.68 billion.
Global revenue increased to $1.59 billion in 1997 from $1.4 billion in 1996. Key global wins included Digital Equipment Corp.'s estimated $140 million consolidation at the New York office; London's nabbing of the $25 million Reuters business; and the Duesseldorf office's win of Bayer AG's corporate account.
Acquisitions included a majority investment in two international creative powerhouses: DM9, Sao Paulo, and Palmer Jarvis in Toronto.
With support from DM9 DDB, Palmer Jarvis DDB and other offices around the globe, the DDB Needham network made large creative strides in 1997. The network ranked No. 1 in three major international competitions last year, earning seven EPICA Awards in Europe; 30 Lions at the 1997 Cannes Festival; and 10 awards at the 1997 Eurobest awards.
"Our most important single credential is the consistency of our creative product around the network," says Mr. Reinhard.
Digital VP-Worldwide Marketing Communications Mary Allard says the reach and creativity of DDB Needham's global network has been critical to the success of the company's six-month-old "Burgundy Brick" campaign.
"There's a tremendous balance at DDB between the business side and the creative side," Ms. Allard said. "The creative culture at DDB is very, very strong. . . . What we have been able to achieve really bears out that this campaign is working" with creative that is breaking through a sea of tech ads.
Another campaign that's seen tremendous success is `'Did Somebody Say McDonald's?" created by DDB Needham, Chicago.
"The campaign was all about committing ourselves, putting food and experience back into the equation," says Brad Ball, McDonald's senior VP-marketing. DDB Needham "helped us restore a lot of confidence in the true equities of the brand and stand behind those equities."
DDB Needham executives stress that the network's creative firepower goes beyond ad campaigns.
"We apply creativity to every aspect of marketing communications," says Mr. Reinhard. "We make no distinction between advertising, direct marketing, sales promotion. . . . we really deliver integrated communications."
To further this integration in 1997, DDB Needham created Beyond DDB, which combines and organizes DDB Needham's non-traditional advertising disciplines.
The "Springboard Approach" was a second tool that DDB Needham introduced in 1997. The "Springboard Approach" is a networkwide strategic-thinking framework, rooted in planning.
To introduce this discipline to the entire network, DDB Needham conducted seven regional seminars with 183 attendees from 89 offices.
OPTIMUM BILLS $320 MIL
Executives also witnessed the payoff of 1996 labors. The agency's rebranding of Optimum Media late that year witnessed a gain of $320 million in new billings in 1997, from clients including Mobil Corp. and McDonald's.
In Europe, DDB Needham continued its media expansion with sister Omnicom Group agency BBDO Worldwide. BBDO and DDB Needham's joint media unit -- Optimum Media Directions -- is now Europe's second- largest media buying company.
For all of its strides, DDB Needham was not without its share of troubles last year. Even though the Duesseldorf office saved the vital VW account, it still had its share of management woes, which included the loss of newly appointed chairman Klaus Flettner. In a tough blow, Paradiset DDB, Stockholm, lost a large chunk of its high-profile Diesel client.
"We have our problems like the others, we lose people, some agencies don't do as well," says Mr. Brochand. "But we learn every day."
Although this year began with some hurdles, Mr. Reinhard says he'll take the challenges as they come, and with the support of the network, find a way to solve them.
Mr. Reinhard, who had just returned from a skiing trip, added, "Every day is a new mogul field and you take one mogul at a time and find a path through it."
Contributing: Bradley Johnson, Louise Kramer, Dagmar Mussey, Jack Neff.
Copyright April 1998, Crain Communications Inc.