The youngest and smallest of Omnicom Group's three networks showed it can handle non-flashy accounts like package goods, winning more brands and country assignments from Mars. It also set up an international healthcare network and strengthened its New York agency, a weak point in a spot where a network needs a powerhouse. The New York office won the $200 million Nextel business and, on the creative side, became the home for new Worldwide Creative Director John Hunt, the creative force behind one of TBWA's jewels, TBWA Hunt Lascaris in South Africa.
For all these reasons, TBWA for the first time was a close contender for Ad Age's Global Network of the Year award. In addition to its other achievements, including winning $718 million in new business, TBWA outshone other networks in finding solutions beyond traditional media in 2003. In Japan, the agency dangled two soccer players from ropes to play a mid-air game in front of a soccer pitch board. Exploits for Absolut vodka ranged from an Absolut Hunk tie-in with HBO's "Sex and the City" to a new Absolut mini-movie, "Mullit," a Bollywood satire. "It was important to show we're competitive in package goods, and with the Nextel win we changed from top to bottom in New York," says TBWA President-CEO Jean-Marie Dru. "There's no way to build a great network without New York."