Stepping up the emphasis on global integration

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When it comes to conquering the world, one global advertising agency may be worth more than 10 million soldiers.

With massive military aggression now as obsolete as the Gatling gun, Madison Avenue has come upon a far more peaceable strategy called "global integration." And all the major agencies are in the chase for global position.

At DDB, the line field commander is Michael Brea, managing director of worldwide accounts, who may have been born into the world in 1951 clutching a passport. His father helped set up McCann-Erickson's first Latin American network in the 1950s and happened to be living in Peru when his son was born. So Mr. Brea was reared in Peru and Colombia and spent his teenage years in Puerto Rico. When he joined DDB's New York office in 1977, he was eager for an overseas posting and went to Madrid in 1980. Then it was on to London.

HANDLES GLOBAL WORK

He reports to Bernard Brochand [President-International] and has responsibility for all the agency's global accounts, which number about 15 major ones. He also serves on the operating committee set up last April under Ken Kaess.

"My job is expanding those accounts like McDonald's and Anheuser-Busch into new geographies," he said recently in a phone interview from Budapest, "and developing new business. Each account is managed directly by a worldwide account director who is specifically responsible for developing that business. And they're based everywhere: in Chicago, New York, London, Germany."

They all report to Mr. Brea, who now oversees a range of businesses whose top 10 accounts alone make up about 27% of DDB's global revenues. But his main concern is less the day-to-day administration of that business than making a transition toward "a new kind of agency."

CLASS MATRIX

"Basically," he explains, "we're in a classic matrix system that other agencies are also experiencing now. Your profit centers are local by and large, and across these local profit centers you run large bits of multi-national business."

He gives the impression that this is less than an ideal arrangement in the present world as it takes another great leap forward to smallness. He calls it "an in-built dynamic, to put it positively," but with a wry laugh. The dynamic is between local and multi-national interests.

"We need to look at the way those structures work," he says, "to make it easier to develop our global business without sacrificing the strengths and the values in the local markets.

"We have systems in place and ways of working that are OK and have been successful. But we do need to improve them as we get more global clients. Our existing global clients are wanting more of us. We are integrating across various disciplines around the world from advertising to direct marketing to interactive, and all of these things are making it more important that we find ways of really managing our global businesses as coherent units. That's quite a challenge."

One reason it's a challenge is the multiplicity of levels on which the world operates -- economically, materially and culturally. Talk to DDB management in the U.S. or abroad and you hear a great urgency to master the arts and sciences of digital integration, data base marketing and other avant garde technologies.

LOOKING DIFFERENT

But from Mr. Brea's perspective, things look a lot different in a world where many regions are still struggling to provide essentials and wouldn't know the Internet from a fish net.

"If you're in a place where e-commerce and interactive communication are top of mind," he says, "there's a vast difference between the development of business there and some of the more far-flung reaches of the world where it's not a factor yet.

"The key is to accelerate the growth and penetration of these businesses in Asia and Latin America and the Middle East. And to a degree in Eastern Europe and Russia as well."

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