Agency A-List

BBDO Is No. 3 on Ad Age's Agency A-List

Omnicom Network's Ability to 'Pick Itself Up' After a Rough Year Leads to Award After Award -- and a Raft of New Biz

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Just two years ago BBDO was preparing to shutter its Detroit outpost, a closure that would affect nearly 500 employees.

The move, prompted by the breakup with then-ailing automaker Chrysler, was a tough pill to swallow. It signaled the end of a longstanding client relationship and a key U.S. office. It didn't help morale, either.

Andrew Robertson, the Omnicom Group network's global CEO, described the Chrysler fallout as nothing short of "traumatic."

But you know that old saying about what happens when the going gets rough? BBDO got going.

"In this business, at least this agency, you don't succeed by avoiding punches. You succeed by being able to pick yourself up," said Mr. Robertson. "The thing we carried on believing in is , if we continue doing great work that works for clients, we'd be able to rebuild."

In 2011, BBDO won every global pitch it participated in and about two-thirds of its U.S. pitches. Revenue is up 15%, while globally, revenue has increased 18% to an estimated $2.4 billion.

BBDO started the year with its first campaign for new client Arby's and added work for snack brands Lay's and Sun Chips, a slew of Mars brands and Foot Locker. And it came out on top in two of the biggest pitches of the year, for ExxonMobil and SC Johnson (which it shares with Ogilvy). Its only loss was the Illinois Lottery account.

The Omnicom agency was the most-awarded network, taking home Effie and Cannes awards, as well as 4A's O' Toole awards and Echo awards.

Besides turning out award-winning creative, the shop is helping clients such as Arby's turn around sales. Domestically, same-store sales were down 5.8% in 2010 and 8.8% in 2009. But shortly after BBDO launched the "good-mood food campaign" in 2011, Arby's posted a first-quarter same-store sales jump of 5.5%. Later in the year the fast feeder was divested by Wendy's .

"The advertising really took us from a brand that was an occasional advertiser with [some] relevance, to people wondering what we were going to do next, and what the next ads were going to be like," said Bob Kraut, Arby's senior VP-advertising and marketing communications.

With BBDO, it always comes back to six words that its former leader Phil Dusenberry never let anyone forget: the work, the work, the work. John Osborn, president-CEO, BBDO New York, said the agency is trying to heed that guiding principle more than ever, putting the work "front and center."

"The world isn't any less complex, [and] we need to ask the right questions [to find out] what's best for clients," Mr. Osborn said.

Stacy Cunningham, exec VP-marketing at Foot Locker, appreciates that quality. "They sit down and think about who we're [creating advertising] for and why we're doing this for our customers. It's not them saying "build this communication,' it's "how to do you want to build this communication?'"

SC Johnson's global account, which the agency was awarded in July after a long review, is overseen out of Chicago's EnergyBBDO's Tonise Paul, president-CEO, and Dan Fietsam, chief creative officer. The agency just finished the transition from DraftFCB -- no easy feat, given that DraftFCB and SC Johnson had a 58-year history.

"In terms of the culture, it comes down to BBDO's operating principles and the people that are running the business," said John Cayer, director-global brand equity at SC Johnson. "They're really outstanding people, very collaborative. They've jumped in and made a great transition."

"We're going to look to continue to make sure we don't take our foot off the gas," Mr. Osborn said. "We want to continue to drive on the good things we did."