BBDO: Network of Year

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Omnicom Group wanted Chrysler Group's entire $2.4 billion global account so badly that President-CEO John Wren was willing to buy rival True North Communications just to clinch the deal. In November, BBDO Worldwide saved Mr. Wren the trouble, snatching the business it previously split with TN's FCB Worldwide in the biggest and most dramatic account win of 2000.

BBDO last year picked up more global new business and earned more prestigious creative awards throughout the world than any ad agency network. For that stellar double coup, BBDO wins the accolade of Advertising Age's annual Global Agency Network of the Year, selected for the first time in conjunction with sibling title Ad Age Global. Past winners include Leo Group in 1999, Young & Rubicam in 1998 and DDB Needham Worldwide in 1997.

In 2000, BBDO captured more than $2 billion in new accounts, bringing its total to $15 billion. In addition to the $2 billion-plus in new billings from Chrysler, it picked up additional global assignments from existing clients such as Charles Schwab, PepsiCo, M&M/Mars and Visa International, along with major local wins including the $200 million Cingular Wireless business in the U.S. and Electricite de France, valued at $55 million. One devoted client, Tricon Global Restaurants, liked BBDO's global work for Pizza Hut so much it handed the agency its $165 million U.S. account for the KFC chain on an interim basis. BBDO, naturally, is already plotting ways turn that into another global win.

In the Gunn Report, an authoritative creative ranking based on agency networks' performance in ad shows worldwide, BBDO toppled sibling Omnicom network DDB Worldwide, which slid from the No. 1 slot as most creative agency network in 2000.

The unstinting focus on creative, however, has led to an image of BBDO as the epitome of an old-style network, winning kudos for lavish commercials but lagging in building integrated communications services and interactive offerings that competitors have been quicker to tackle. "Our business is to create great work on behalf of our clients," said Allen Rosenshine, BBDO's chairman-CEO. "If we start looking at our business as growing volume in non-related categories, then we run the risk of confusing our clients about what we do and what we're good at."

Belatedly, BBDO is integrating the pieces. In September, it set up London-based Proximity World-wide, a Customer Relationship Management network that combines BBDO-owned direct marketing and related businesses around the world into a single $630 million network operating in 23 countries.


Interactive is next. Names are being debated for an interactive network launching midyear that will combine acquisitions and startups with existing BBDO-owned companies from online agency @tmosphere to high-tech Web site design.

"Today we are far down the road of a global CRM network and currently formulating an interactive network," Mr. Rosenshine said.

A big challenge facing BBDO is management succession. Mr. Rosenshine, 61, and Phil Dusenberry, 64, vice-chairman of BBDO Worldwide and chairman of BBDO North America, have logged 67 BBDO years between them since joining the New York agency as copywriters in the 1960s. Mr. Rosenshine has started signaling his retirement, although at BBDO's last worldwide managers' meeting in Rome in October he indicated everyone would see him at the next one in 18 months. Tom Rosenwald, a partner at executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles, is working with Mr. Rosenshine on a project, believed to be a wide-ranging search outside BBDO for his successor. John Hayes, exec VP-global advertising and branding at American Express Corp., was believed to be very close to being named, but he and Mr. Rosenshine both denied his candidacy.

For any worldwide agency network, a global media-buying arm is essential. BBDO parent Omnicom struggled to forge a media brand even as its three sibling agency networks determined to keep media planning in-house by working with their own local media buying outfits. U.K. agency Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, London, for example, owns hot U.K. media buying shop New PhD. In February 2000, Omnicom set up a two-network holding company called Omnicom Media Group, incorporating the main $13.8 billion OMD Worldwide media brand with Omnicom's independent media shops under the $2.3 billion PhD banner. Agencies keep their own media planning.

Unlike rival global networks that opened offices country by country to handle international clients, BBDO started its international expansion relatively late in the 1970s and took a different approach: buying minority stakes in hot creative agencies. Independent, feisty, and a challenge to manage, BBDO shops are often the most brilliant in their markets.

AMV BBDO, for example, was the most-awarded single agency in the world in 2000, according to the Gunn Report. Its celebrated Guinness beer commercial depicting surfers awaiting the perfect ocean wave won more creative awards than any in the world. And although "Surfer" ran only in the U.K., AMV BBDO still walked off with the bulk of Guinness's global account, previously shared among six agencies, after a year-end review.

In the U.S., BBDO wins fewer awards at industry festivals than abroad, but the U.S. work scores big with consumers in ad polls by popular publications. BBDO's U.S. campaigns have transformed the images of clients as diverse as Schwab and Pepsi-Cola Co.'s Mountain Dew. The soft drink's Dew dudes and their extreme sports are wildly popular. Schwab has a hip, smart investor image, thanks to ads like the spot featuring tennis star Anna Kournikova discussing her investments as a competitor quips about other players being jealous of her portfolio.

Further measure of BBDO's creative skill: Its agencies shine even in countries with the most humble track records for creativity. In the Middle East, where ads generally are dire and done on a shoestring, Impact BBDO in Beirut produced a simple but striking commercial for the Lebanese Asthma Board: A cork in a bottle painfully illustrates asthma sufferers' desperate struggle for air.

Contributing: Laurel Wentz

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