The creation late last month of DDB Digital out of three often fractious Web agencies did more than just put a clever new nameplate on the Omnicom Group interactive operation. It was an acknowledgement by Madison Avenue executives that the fend-for-yourself theory of incubating a Web agency business isn’t tough love, it’s fiscal suicide.
“Our feeling was that by having three separate interactive agencies … the individual ones didn’t look that strong, so we weren’t able to put as much resources [toward it] as we could,” said Ken Kaess, president of DDB Needham Worldwide’s North American operations. DDB Digital “wasn’t designed to replace these individual operating units, it was designed to enhance them.”
The DDB interactive triumvirate–previously known as Beyond DDB–will now be called DDB Digital with new recruits from other top Web agencies and from within Omnicom. The urgency to form the unit may stem from the fact DDB has been eclipsed in the online arena by its counterparts in Omnicom’s Communicade unit of interactive shops, most of which have surpassed DDB in terms of revenue and certainly in reputation.
DDB Digital’s creative department will be lead by former Modem Media.Poppe Tyson vets John Young and Matt Freeman. DDB also hired Steven Marrs from Blue Marble ACG and promoted Paul Ahern and Bob Habeck to managing partners of the unit. Ahern said the focus is on winning more agency-of-record assignments. He added: “We basically have been doing it without a corporate strategy.”
Under the old structure, the interactive offices in Dallas, Chicago and New York each managed clients and operations autonomously. New York clients include Lockheed Martin and Amtrak; Dallas has Pepsi-Cola and FootAction USA; and Chicago has Anheuser-Busch and Clorox. There was little communication between the offices then; how they intend to work together in the future is yet to be worked out.
“I think there was a lot of pride in those offices,” said Mike Knaisch, president of DDB Interactive in Dallas before moving in August to client Level 3, a Colorado telecommunications company. Knaisch later recruited DDBI creative director Chris Hess. He described the intra-office relationship as a “healthy competition, but one if we were going to grow as an agency we would need to overcome.” Kaess countered: “It wasn’t so much competition, I think, as a lack of communication.”
Last week, the Dallas office named George Campbell, formerly of Brierley and Partners, a managing partner. Mike Heronime, from Temerlin McClain, Irving, Texas, was hired as the new creative director. Melanie Angermann, formerly of DDB Dallas, is the new director of client services.
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