Chile's Earthquake Flattens DDB Offices and Damages Other Agencies

Lowe, OMD, Ogilvy and Wunderman Are Also Hit, Along With Clients GM and L'Oreal

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NEW YORK ( -- The devastating earthquake that struck Chile early Saturday morning destroyed DDB's offices and damaged another Omnicom agency, OMD, as well as Interpublic's Lowe Porta and WPP's Ogilvy and Wunderman. All the agencies are located in the same hard-hit Ciudad Empresarial office park on the outskirts of Santiago that is also home to marketers including Xerox and Shell, as well as CNN.

The DDB Chile offices on Sunday afternoon.
The DDB Chile offices on Sunday afternoon.
When Eduardo Fernandez, president of DDB Chile, went to check out the damage later that morning, he said that he found that DDB's reception area and main staircase, located on the fourth floor of the office building, had collapsed and plummeted half a dozen floors into the garage, three floors underground.

Employees and families safe
That's exactly the escape route -- to reception and down the stairs -- that DDB staffers usually took to evacuate the building during the more minor tremors that often shake earthquake-prone Santiago. Since Saturday's magnitude-8.8 earthquake happened at 3:30 a.m., no one was at the office, and DDB Chile's staff of about 100 people are all safe, he said. Their homes, including Mr. Fernandez's house just five miles away, were all untouched by the earthquake. Other agencies that reported damage to their offices also said employees and their families were unharmed.

"We don't have any computers, or any furniture, or any data," Mr. Fernandez said. Some of the agency's servers are in another location, but others were in the wrecked building. "But the most important thing is that although we don't have anything, we have ourselves."

View of Ciudad Empresarial office park on the outskirts of Santiago.
View of Ciudad Empresarial office park on the outskirts of Santiago.
He said he expects the firefighters to allow him access to the building Friday, after they erect temporary stairs, to see if he can at least salvage a few computers. "Then we'll know what we can recover, but I have a feeling it won't be much," he said.

Replacement space
Reached on his cellphone while driving through Santiago late Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Fernandez said he was on his way to the store to buy plastic chairs and tables so DDB staffers can start working Wednesday in the emergency office space the agency rented for the next two weeks. One of DDB's clients, Sancela, a marketer of feminine-hygiene products, has relocated its Santiago office to the Sancela factory, so the space was available.

"It's very probable we'll stay there," Mr. Fernandez said. "No one wants to return to the Ciudad Empresarial."

He said DDB's clients, including Movistar, Philips and Terra are fine, although Movistar closed Monday so structural engineers could examine its high-rise building for any earthquake damage. Other marketers weren't as lucky. Two McCann Worldgroup clients, General Motors Corp. and L'Oreal, suffered serious damage to their offices, factories and dealerships.

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"We are working with them, of course, and trying to help," said a McCann spokeswoman. McCann's offices were slightly damaged, but there are no structural problems, and most people returned to the office Tuesday.

Omnicom agencies appear to have been the hardest hit, with DDB and OMD, located in the building next to DDB's offices on a street called Av. del Valle, and a BBDO second agency called Fiebre all badly damaged. WPP's Wunderman is in the same building as OMD.

"Our [ Y&R] offices are structurally fine, but the Wunderman offices were badly damaged, so we're hoping to relocate those people into our offices," said Y&R Global CEO Hamish McLennan."Everyone is fine; thankfully, there are no casualties. The structural damage was quite severe [at Wunderman], so we are moving all the people and equipment out and relocating them."

Lowe Porta offices 'uninhabitable'
Lowe Porta, located on a different street, Av. del Parque, in the same Ciudad Empresarial complex is "uninhabitable," said a Lowe executive in New York. Ogilvy is nearby, also on Av. del Parque.

"All of our employees are safe, but there is substantial damage to our building, and our client teams are continuing to work from home," said an Ogilvy spokeswoman.

Agencies and marketers have flocked to the modern, shiny new Ciudad Empresarial office park, conveniently located in the city near the airport, in the last few years. But it didn't withstand the earthquake as well as other buildings in Santiago, where construction is usually done to a high earthquake-resistant standard. "I think that's the end of the Ciudad Empresarial," said the Latin American head of a U.S. network.

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Contributing: Rupal Parekh

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