And there's no rest for the weary, it seems, as the new year promises more of the same, only without the naps. Creatives at New York's D/D may, in fact, face one of the stiffest challenges in advertising right now: This largely unknown group, headed by newly appointed creative director Greg DiNoto, must back up executive CD Donny Deutsch's glorious 1993 winning streak with great work. Last year, as the agency reeled off victories in reviews for Prudential Securities ($20 million), Tanqueray ($15 million) and Lenscrafter ($35 million), then followed that up by taking the $75 million Hardee's account from Ogilvy & Mather, Deutsch/Dworin proved it could snag business better than anyone; this, however, will be the year the agency shows if it can deliver the goods, creatively. "I think much of the focus at Deutsch over the last year has been on winning business," says Eric McClellan, a former Deutsch creative who still freelances for the agency. "Now it's time for them to spend the next year focusing on the work."
DiNoto, 33, who joined Deutsch from Bozell two years ago-it seems he caught Deutsch's eye with some freelance work he'd done for Kirshenbaum & Bond, as well as an elegant Mass Mutual print campaign for Bozell-has plenty of company in this task, though many of the faces around him are unfamiliar. Rich Russo, a second CD, is being imported this month from O&M to oversee the Hardee's business; working under DiNoto and Russo will be associate creative directors Kathy Delaney (who's been at the agency less than a year), Dallas Itzen (just named ACD last month) and Domingo Perez and Chuck Borghese, who are coming to the agency this month from McCann-Erickson/New York and O&M/Atlanta, respectively.
Hence, not only is the Deutsch creative department launching several major campaigns simultaneously over the next few months, at the same time it's in the midst of recreating itself. For years, it was an unstructured den of chaos, with one leader-Donny-and no rules or layers. What emerged from that frenetic environment was an equally frenetic type of advertising-reality-based, aggressively candid and sometimes cynical, low-budget and proud of it. It was advertising that seemed to think small, and it ended up making Deutsch/Dworin fairly big-with
Issuing gag orders: creative director Greg DiNoto muffles grand pooh-bah Donny Deutsch. Above, from left: DiNoto, ACDs Kathy Delaney and Dallas Itzen, and CD Rich Russo
PHOTOS BY HARRIS WELLES
WITH ITS EMPHASISON GRITTY REAL-PEOPLE ADVERTISING,DEUTSCH/DWORIN'S CREATIVE HAS ALWAYS HAD A DISTINCTIVE VOICE, AS HAS THE AGENCY ITSELF-MAINLY DONNY'S. BUT WITH AN EXPLOSION OF NEW BUSINESS AND A FLURRY OF PROMOTIONS AND NEW HIRES, OTHER CREATIVE VOICES ARE BEING HEARD. THE QUESTION IS, WILL THEY CHANGE THE TONE OF THE WORK?
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$275 million in billings projected for this year.
Now, D/D is a different kind of place. As the agency is implementing its new horizontal management structure, Deutsch is continuing to attempt to meld his agency's strategic planning, account service and creative disciplines to form one seamless advertising SWAT team. Walls separating departments have come down: In the past, work was approved only by Deutsch, but now agency president Steve Dworin, a former account executive at J. Walter Thompson/New York, also has a say on creative. While almost everyone acknowledges that change was inevitable-such is the fate of hot shops that grow up-there is trepidation about the future, mixed with some longing for the recent past. "I miss the old Deutsch," says one creative of the shop's freewheeling days. "It was raw and crazy. Now the agency is more layered, and account people are getting more involved in the work. People are being brought in from big agencies. There's a different mentality here."
Perhaps the most interesting question of all involves the work itself: Can a big-budget agency keep turning out gritty, low-budget hyper-realistic work? Or will Deutsch/Dworin gradually lose touch with the particular "reality" that has been its strength?
When you talk to Deutsch nowadays (and for the purposes of this article, we talked mostly to people other than Deutsch, to get a different perspective), one thing is abundantly clear: Whereas he used to talk incessantly about breakthrough creative, he now puts forth a different spin, in which he places creative on a level playing field with strategic planning, account services and media. He's attempting to position Deutsch/Dworin as an agency whose chief strength is its integration and balance; at Goodby, Berlin & Silverstein and Wieden & Kennedy, the partners are all on the creative side, Deutsch points out, whereas at his agency planning and account services help run the show.
It's certainly true that when Deutsch brought on Dworin two years ago and subsequently added strategic planning director Cheryl Greene (who was at Warwick Baker & Fiore, and, before that, at DMB&B), he instilled in his creatively-driven shop an overnight credibility as a full-service agency. Dworin and Greene both had big-agency package-goods backgrounds, and both are praised by observers as being among the best at what they do. During Deutsch's winning streak, Dworin and Greene played a pivotal role. Lenscrafter's David Richards says D/D won that pitch primarily on the strength of "strong strategic thinking; their account planning was central to that."
Still, most clients acknowledge that what first drew them to the agency was its reel. "We looked at the work they'd done for Ikea and other clients, and it was all so fresh and smart," says Prudential Securities ad director Barbara Glasser. For all of Deutsch's talk of balance, the real engine behind D/D's success has been and continues to be its creative product, which looks like no other. "Their work speaks directly to people at gut level," says Deborah Callahan, group product director at Tanqueray. Deutsch isn't the first agency to favor an unslick "anti-advertising" approach, nor is it the first whose ads rely heavily on real people. But D/D probably uses these basic tools more consistently, and more effectively, than anyone else. "They've taken that no-bullshit, reality style and they've made it their own," says Jeff Weiss, creative director at Margeotes Fertitta Donaher & Weiss.
The approach developed after Deutsch joined his father's agency in the mid-'80s. Then called David Deutsch & Associates, it was known primarily as a small, design-driven shop that pro duced understated print. Deutsch began to reshape the agency's work, initially with local Pontiac dealer ads that featured tough-talking outerborough types not unlike himself. There is little question among agency staffers past and present that its signature style is linked to Deutsch's own "streetsmart" personality, philosophy and sensibilities. And even though there's a tendency among people outside the agency to dismiss Deutsch, a Wharton School grad, as a poseur, a big talker with no real training as a copywriter or art director, insiders say that Deutsch's impact on the agency's creative work is profound. "Donny isn't someone you go to for help in crafting the copy or design," says Tony Gomes, a former Deutsch creative who is now a CD at Ammirati & Puris. "His strength is that he sees the big picture-he knows instinctively what people will respond to. And he's always felt that people respond to reality, not glitzy execution."
Some say the reality movement picked up momentum at Deutsch in the late '80s, due partly to the influence of Paul Goldman, a copywriter/director who worked there until 1992 and who continues to direct documentary-style spots for them (including shooting footage for its Clinton campaign spots). For his part, Goldman believes reality is not so much a style as a "voice" the agency has made its own. "If you look at Fallon's work or Wieden's, there's always a voice that comes through," he says. "With ours, the voice is simply saying to the consumer: 'We're like you-we have the same problems, attitudes and desires. We understand.'|"
That tone probably came through clearest in the agency's early work for Ikea, with those all-too-realistic hapless furniture salesmen and movers. The latest Ikea campaign-directed by Goldman, it features a young, recently-divorced mother, a nervous bridegroom-to-be, and a sullen kid whose family just moved from Cleveland-has a softer, more polished look, with actors instead of real people. But it still manages to maintain a feeling of spontaneity and authenticity; in some cases, the agency allowed the actors to improvise on the set.
Meanwhile, Deutsch's other, less visible work over the last two years has been a virtual parade of real people, often shot documentary-style with rough editing and seemingly extemporaneous dialogue. The agency used videotape from Deutsch's sister-in-law's wedding for Gallo's Eden Roc champagne; followed Filene's Basement chairman Sam Gerson as he ambled through his stores; observed as a Pitney Bowes manager manned a copy machine in Grand Central Station; chatted with lumpy Long Island residents about the opening of a new Ikea store; and accosted both city dwellers and suburbanites to compare the Pontiac Bonneville to more expensive imports like BMW and Lexus (says one disgusted yuppie, "I guess I blew it on the Beemer.").
Some of the spots work better than others (if you missed the Eden Roc wedding, consider yourself lucky), but almost all come across as spontaneous and candid. And what holds one's attention are the quirky touches that reveal eccentricities: while showing off his store, the hyperactive Filene's boss pulls a rack of suits away from the wall, and in
so doing uncovers a fire extinguisher-prompting him to make
a lame wisecrack about a "hot sale." You couldn't write this stuff, so Deutsch's copywriters generally don't-they just let the characters spout on camera, then edit it down.
Some of the agency's best "real people" work may have been done for Heileman's Rainier beer last year in a campaign that introduced the brew to Texans (that account, along with Colt 45, were quickly lost to management changes and agency consolidations at Heileman during the summer). Against a stark white background, local folk stroll up to the camera and deliver a short prayer, tying it in with the tagline, "Pray for rain-Rainier beer." One cowboy prays for "a girl with a little dad I think I can whup"; another prays, with touching earnestness, that people will continue to come visit the state, but that they won't stay. Directed by Jeff Bednarz of Dallas-based Bednarz Films, the spots were technically "written" by DiNoto, but are mostly the words of the people in the ads. The arduous process of creating them started with DiNoto doing lengthy interviews with these folks, from which he pulled key points to pursue later; when it came time to do the final shoot, DiNoto fed each character prompts on a wide range of topics and let them talk, filming 90 minutes for each person-which was eventually whittled down to a pithy 30-second spot.
That kind of heavy spadework is what separates good "reality" advertising from boring and unbelievable testimonials, DiNoto says. Though he acknowledges D/D's penchant for this kind of thing, he doesn't like to hear people refer to it as the agency's style. "It's not a style," DiNoto insists. "It's simply an understanding that real people are relevant conveyers of information. So why should we use actors?" On the other hand, the agency's work for Colt 45 beer not only didn't use real people, it used no people, while maintaining that reliable wise-guy style. A VO and a variety of icy bottle and pour shots was all that was needed to take on a slew of other brands by name, while making frontal assaults on their ad campaigns. Standout moments include this Coors' "Right Beer Now" attack: "Colt light beer. Because 'now' is not volleyball," and some genuine Genuine Draft bashing: "Miller tells you to, 'Get out of the old and into the cold.' Why would anybody want to be cold? Do you want to be cold?"
Indeed, if D/D feels the need to use a professional spokesman of some kind, it prefers cheesy, cartoonish figures to beefy hunks. In spots for British Knights sneakers, basketball star Derrick Coleman becomes the anti-Jordan, with a visual of his head attached to an awkward stick figure body. And then there was Mr. Delicious, the endearing animated pitchman who briefly wandered clumsily across TV screens in ads that ran in Midwest markets for Rax Restaurants. Mr. D. passed on when the long-troubled Rax went into bankruptcy, but the character is still loved inside the agency and out. The campaign even impressed Hardee's marketing director Jerry Gramaglia, who says that even though the spots are "quirky and bizarre," they do an unusually good job of drawing attention to Rax's calendar promotions.
DiNoto describes the Mr. Delicious and Derrick Coleman characters as "self-aware," adding that "it's like a psychic handshake with the consumer in which we acknowledge that yes, this is an ad, but we're going to try to have some fun with it." The characters even make fun of advertising; Mr. Delicious complains about being overextended because the Rax executives aren't paying him enough to "compromise his integrity."
Mr. Delicious' remark actually raises an interesting point about the thriftiness of D/D clients: in fact, few people get rich making commercials for Deutsch/Dworin. Not just actors but big-name directors are generally excluded from D/D spots-many of which are produced in-house-and the agency's idea of a special effect is to tilt a hand-held camera. Not surprisingly, this approach is popular among budget-conscious clients; Lenscrafter's Richards says it was a major consideration in selecting Deutsch/Dworin. "At one of our early meetings, Deutsch made it clear that the more you spend on producing an ad, the less you end up spending on actual communication to the consumer," says Richards. "At the same time, his agency demonstrated that they could produce good creative within the constraints of a smaller budget."
So is D/D cutting corners to please stingy clients? Deutsch creatives say that isn't the case, and point to occasional high-budget spots-such as a special effects-laden Samsung number a few years back-as proof that the agency can spend money as well as anyone. The real issue, they say, is whether or not one believes in slickness; Deutsch usuallycontinued on page 20
D/D's real appeal: print for Lilyette, and TV for Swatch, former client Colt 45 and Oxford Health Care
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doesn't. Hollywood-style directors, says DiNoto, "are concerned about making beautiful film; that's not necessarily our agenda." Awards show judges seem to share that assessment: last year, the agency submitted several campaigns for One Show honors and was shut out. There's a sneaking suspicion within D/D that this has something to do with anti-Deutschism in the creative community. "When Donny goes around saying that he doesn't care about awards, that probably doesn't help," says Itzen, voicing an opinion held by others at the agency. On the other hand, some feel that D/D's lack of awards has less to do with Deutsch's mouth than with the agency's own rough-and-tumble style, which isn't pretty enough for awards books. Whatever the reason, the lack of awards bothers D/D creatives, including DiNoto. "Unlike Donny, I believe in awards," he says. "I consider them nourishment for the people in a creative department."
And such nourishment may be particularly needed at D/D, where creatives tend to get little individual attention from the press because Deutsch, who is rapidly becoming the Jerry Della Femina of the '90s, gets all the ink. While some defend their boss by pointing out that the press gravitates to him because of his quotability, one former Deutsch creative says: "At Wieden & Kennedy, the attention goes to the people who do the work, in part because Dan Wieden steps back; but Donny always steps out in front, and that breeds some resentment."
Another source of stress is the workload. Until recently, there were no more than 20 creatives servicing a total of 20 accounts, with $200 million in billings. One former creative compares life at D/D with boot camp: "You're up at 5 in the morning, finished at midnight." Itzen points out, however, that much of the workaholism at the agency is motivated by personal ambition. "This is a great place to build your reel," she says, "and people try to make the most of that." Adds art director Patrick O'Neill, "You feel like if you go home, you're going to miss out on an opportunity to do something good."
In any case, the agency is now staffing up quickly; the creative department may end up doubling in size by the time all the new hires settle in. Along with the new faces come new clients that will challenge D/D to diversify its creative approaches. Despite its size, the Hardee's account may be the easiest task: D/D is particularly adept at retail because, notes Hardee's Gramaglia, "they're one of the few agencies that knows how to move people into the store and create an image at the same time." More challenging, perhaps, will be Tanqueray, which doesn't allow Deutsch to play to its strength in TV (the agency hasn't done much noteworthy print, aside from sexy work for Lilyette lingerie and Miro-esque Swatch watch ads), and Prudential Securities and Oxford Health Care, both of which need advertising that addresses the complexities and subtleties of their businesses. In the case of Oxford, the agency has achieved heretofore inconceivable heights of subtlety with the "Guide for Human Care" campaign, directed by Chelsea Pictures' Neal Burger. These commercials, which feature a gentle female VO, simple, quiet scenes of "humans" at work and play and some beautifully finessed screens of type, is more in the fine-artsy style of Margeotes' work.
While "real people" certainly won't be abandoned-the up coming Lenscrafter campaign features straight talk from company employees-insiders say that new Deutsch work will not necessarily be as easily identifiable as the old, which is part of DiNoto's mandate: "People tend to look at certain work and say, 'That's their style,'|" he says. "I want to maintain a well-defined point of view, yet broaden the work that comes from that perspective."
On the other hand, D/D may not have much choice: Itzen says the agency started out with a more in-your-face creative approach for Oxford, but then realized it was inappropriate, and moved to a different tack. Similarly, with its new broader client roster, the agency may be finding that its "voice" is going to change, like it or not. Says Kirshenbaum & Bond CD Bill Oberlander: "Their real-people thing was kind of a shtick, and it was great for getting them new business because clients latched onto it. But how long can you keep doing that?"
As the agency moves in new creative directions, it will be led by DiNoto, Russo and the ACDs; several creatives at the agency say the growth has forced Deutsch to step back from the creative decision-making process in some cases. DiNoto, meanwhile, is attempting to relieve some of the pressure on himself by moving more authority down the line. "We have to break the bottlenecks," he says, and the way to do that is through groups and layers. Creatives are already noticing the change: "It's no longer a free-for-all, with everybody working on everything," says art director Brett Ridgeway. "We're developing a hierarchy, which is both refreshing and disconcerting at the same time."u