Critical Mass CEO Dianne Wilkins, whose agency partnered with TBWA for the first time, is aware of TBWA's traditional preference for flying solo. But, she says, "everyone we've worked with has been open and [collegial]. It's because we're trying to do it in a very different way. There's no room for turf" battles.
DeCourcy, who likens the partnership to "the Vikings burning their boats," sees such linkups as essential to TBWA's digital evolution. "This is the way we intend to move forward in general: carving out units around clients, bringing the best talent to bear on the work, being nimble and strategic, selling solutions, not headcount, and then passing those learnings back to the network," she says. "The common theory behind it we're calling, 'Advertising at the speed of culture.'"
Speed was a factor in Playa del Rey's pursuit of Pepsi and Diet Pepsi -- an opportunity that arose after Clow and office president Carisa Bianchi presented their plan for revamping Gatorade. After a meeting at PepsiCo's headquarters in Purchase, N.Y., Americas Beverages CEO Massimo d'Amore took Clow and Bianchi aside and invited them to tackle the flagship brand, which had been at BBDO since 1960.
That was Oct. 3. Six weeks later, a team led by Clow, Bianchi and Playa del Rey ecd Rob Schwartz presented their vision for Pepsi with "refresh everything" as a key theme. Clow describes the approach as "re-examining equities in a way that would be true to the brand and also be kind of a reinvention." He adds Pepsi "has always been a brand about young people and we layered in that kind of young people's optimism." (The first work, including a TV spot, outdoor ads and guerrilla marketing, broke last week.)
While TBWA faced competition for Pepsi from incumbent and sibling BBDO, its initial PepsiCo win, Gatorade, came without a pitch. Much like Mars in 2002 and Procter & Gamble in 2007, PepsiCo was drawn in by TBWA's creative rep and disruption methodology. "The thing I am most proud of is we've built a company with a strong reputation," says Dru, 61, who handed off the CEO role to Carroll, 53, in December 2007. "Three of the top blue-chip companies in the world came to us without a pitch."
The L.A. operation was at the center of much of 2008's success, as it has been many times in the past. The 750-person office is anchored by Clow, but owes a lot of its energy and determination to Bianchi, 50, president since 2004, and Schwartz, 43, ecd since 2003. "It just happens to be the driving force of the network. And it's not just Lee," says Carroll. "It's what Rob and Carisa and Lee and those guys have built together out there. Obviously, you can't overstate Lee's role. Yet, at the same time, you'd have to see what goes on to realize just how much other people out there are driving things."
L.A.'s success was crucial given the New York office's downturn after the loss of Sprint Nextel in 2007 and London's inability to regain market leadership after years of top talent walking out the door. In September, Carroll took a stab at reclaiming some of that talent when he talked to former TBWA\London cd and chairman Trevor Beattie about acquiring his 3-year-old agency, Beattie McGuinness Bungay. (The shop wound up selling to Korea's Cheil Communications instead.) In New York, Carroll installed Mark Figliulo from Young & Rubicam in Chicago as chairman and CCO after ecd Gerry Graf left for Saatchi & Saatchi last February.
Carroll -- a self-described "dumbfuck from Schenectady" -- has brought something more "visceral" to the job than Dru, who comes at creativity from a more intellectual angle, according to Clow. "He has the 'We love the work' thing," says Clow. Or as Coots, 51, a 26-year veteran of the agency, puts it, "More people are walking the walk than were before. There's just a lot more intensity."