The smallest of Omnicom Group's three networks was the slowest to build a far-reaching global network and took a while to show it could handle less glitzy package-goods clients. That's changing. As a global network, TBWA has come a long way from last year's runner-up status in the competition to be Advertising Age's Global Agency Network of the Year. In 2004, Mars handed TBWA $270 million in additional billings, giving the network 42% of Mars' global business. In January, the agency will open its sixth office in India, and in China is expanding beyond Shanghai and Beijing to set up a network in second-tier cities like Wuhan.
No more second-best status for this 2004 Global Agency Network of the Year, as TBWA claimed growth of more than 10% last year, the highest of any network, including $900 million in new business. Along with that growth came creative kudos, original thinking and growing maturity as a global network.
"For us it's a continuous movement," says President Jean-Marie Dru, 57. "We've made TBWA the most interesting network, and we do our great campaigns for big global clients."
Unusually for a network, TBWA has always lacked a powerhouse agency in New York, relying instead on the $1 billion-plus TBWA/Chiat/Day office in Playa del Rey, Calif., the creative headquarters for both Nissan and Apple. Still in the shadow of its Californian sibling, TBWA is working on the New York office, poaching Brett Gosper in September from Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann Erickson to become president, TBWA/New York Group.
Riding a high-speed train
"I feel like I've jumped on a train that's running very quickly indeed," says Mr. Gosper, whom Mr. Dru has charged with doubling the New York office in size in the next three to four years.
But Southern California is where Lee Clow, 61, the network's chief creative officer and chairman of TBWA/Chiat/Day, developed the iPod campaign, a product of his intense relationship with Apple CEO Steve Jobs, and oversees creative for other clients.
"It's about discipline and disruption," says Tom Carroll, who was recently promoted to vice chairman. "If you don't change the fortunes of your client, you're not doing your job." TBWA has helped change the fortune of biggest client Nissan, working with Japanese agency Hakuhodo in an unusual agency partnership called G1.
"They demonstrated a strong ability to look deeply into our company to find a successful branding approach," says Steve Wilhite, Nissan's Tokyo-based senior VP. "[And] they've developed some fantastic opportunities for us in non-traditional media that were instrumental in bringing our brand to life."
Mr. Dru has made 40 visits to Japan, and TBWA snared Tim Love, a Saatchi & Saatchi vice chairman, in 2004 and dispatched him to Tokyo to head G1.
"As a network, [TBWA is] a loose confederation, but [it has] an amazing ability to work together and look for the best idea, wherever it comes from," Mr. Wilhite says. "Its weakness is in its financial structure; internal accounting methods sometimes get in the way of action and great work ... But it has strengthened its own culture over time. Five years ago, an office in Shanghai or Paris might be completely different. Today, we are finding the same level of creative and culture."
So are other clients. In 2004, TBWA's iPod campaign broke in dozens of countries. Apple has sold more than 5 million iPods, holds a 50% market share, and 125 million songs have been downloaded from iTunes Music Store.
Grand Prix winner
For Sony PlayStation, TBWA grew sales in another market its client dominated by expanding the category to include 16-to-34-year-olds who weren't gamers by positioning PlayStation as a social entertainment brand. The provocative work local TBWA offices did for PlayStation won many prizes including the film Grand Prix at the Cannes International Advertising Festival in June for the U.K. spot "Mountain" and helped make TBWA's Paris office the festival's Agency of the Year. Overall, TBWA won more Lions-41-at Cannes than any other network in 2004.
Mr. Clow credits much of the network's success to its passion for ideas. He is mindful of legendary founder Jay Chiat's musings about how big the agency could get before it got bad.
"We don't want a big boring network with the same color carpet around the world," Mr. Clow says.
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Contributing: Normandy Madden, Alice Z. Cuneo, Claudia Penteado