When it came to winning accounts, BBDO this year was the agency to beat. In addition to S.C. Johnson and ExxonMobil, BBDO’s global wins included digital business for Visa’s 2012 Olympics initiative, BlackBerry, Cutty Sark, Western Union, and Hewlett-Packard’s Imaging and Printing Group. Domestic wins included Arby’s, Frito-Lay’s Lay’s and SunChips brands, the American Red Cross, Guinness Black Label, and Foot Locker. Beyond Visa and HP, other existing clients that expanded their relationships with the agency included Wrigley and PepsiCo.
The addition of several global Mars brands was a big score this year as well. In a major consolidation, BBDO picked up Twix, Dove, Whiskas, and Pedigree.
“BBDO has demonstrated they do great creative work, but they’ve also built a lot of confidence that they will deliver it around the world,” says Bruce McColl, Mars’ global chief marketing officer. “Mars is very decentralized, and that creates a bit of tension for an agency. They can’t get away with weakness in any of the agency networks. BBDO leverages that very well. They can pull together a group of people from different offices and make it work very well locally.”
The Mars consolidation also underscores the progress BBDO has made in China under Carol Potter, who was named CEO in ’06. Prior to her arrival, BBDO China had a reputation for a lack of leadership and struggled to attract talent. It was unable to convert many network clients, meaning that global accounts including Gillette, Wrigley, and Mars worked with rival agencies in the country.
When Mars awarded BBDO China the M&M’s brand a year and a half ago, the assignment amounted to further evidence of the transformation. The recent consolidation handed the agency Dove, Mars’ largest brand in China, and amounted to a significant vote of confidence. “When BBDO has been given challenges, particularly in the last couple of years, they step up to it,” says McColl.
It wasn’t only emerging markets that fueled BBDO’s growth this year. London’s AMV BBDO and CLM BBDO in Paris made waves by snagging new clients, including Foot Locker and BlackBerry in London and EDF (Électricité de France) in Paris. Meanwhile, Australia’s Clemenger BBDO won Most Effective Agency at the Effie Awards for the second consecutive year. Even the hardest hit countries of the Eurozone fared well—notably Ireland, where BBDO added Aer Lingus.
“We believe the worse [the economy] gets, the more opportunity there is,” says Peter Sherman, managing director of BBDO Europe. “If you start as one of the strongest brands in the [local] market and then you have a healthy global brand, you can win at the expense of the competition.”
David Lubars, chairman and chief creative officer, North America, likes to describe BBDO as a global boutique. “We have long hallways from one another as opposed to a hub and spokes,” he says. That’s a different structure than in the past when BBDO was perceived as a New York-centric agency home to celebrity-studded TV ads and a certain degree of arrogance.
“Back then we were a film studio,” says Lubars, who joined BBDO in 2004 after making a name for himself on BMW, among other brands, while at Fallon. “The culture today is one where people are constantly stirring things up, so nothing turns to concrete. Tough times like these play to our strengths when you have to go out there and show what you can do for a client and spend less money.”
But best not bring up tough times to Lubars’ boss. “Some things you can’t control, like the economy—but there is a lot you can,” says Robertson. “No one at BBDO is allowed to start a conversation by saying how difficult 2012 is going to be. It’s a matter of how good can we be.”
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