NEW YORK-On the eve of its 50th anniversary, DDB Needham Worldwide has put in place its "next generation of leadership" while dropping the venerable "Needham" half of its name.
In a move that suggests an heir apparent to chairman and chief executive officer Keith Reinhard has finally emerged, the agency installed Ken Kaess, 44, as chairman of the newly formed worldwide operating committee.
Reinhard, 64, in a statement credited Kaess with "rejuvenating our New York office." Despite the apparent designation of Kaess as a successor, sources said Reinhard is not expected to retire for at least three or four years.
At the same time, "Needham" has been stripped from the name; the network will now be called DDB Worldwide Communications Group. Needham Harper represented the Chicago half of the 1986 merger that created the present agency.
Dropping Needham completes a process that began in 1994, when a new logo was put in place. In the last five years, many local offices within the network dropped the Needham moniker to streamline the agency's identity. Today, only about 40 of the agency's 206 worldwide offices have "Needham" on their shingles.
Reinhard announced the changes at DDB's biannual management conference in Puerto Rico last week. Top executives were said to be traveling at press time.
Additionally, several executives, including Alan Pilkington in Chicago, are adding to current responsibilities or receiving outright promotions.
Foremost among them is Kaess' ascension to chairman of the worldwide operating committee. Kaess adds the responsibilities to his current portfolio as president of North America. Reporting to him will be James Best, chairman of BMP DDB, London, and president of Northern Europe operations; Michael Bray, managing director worldwide accounts; Keith Bremer, DDB's chief financial officer; and Herve Broussard, chairman and chief executive of DDB France and president of Southern Europe.
The worldwide operating committee "is a great way of giving these guys global experience," a source said. "This is the next generation of leadership." No member of the committee is older than 49. The group will focus on developing a worldwide profit plan for 2000, and each member will have specific global duties for the committee in addition to their current responsibilities, the company said.
Reinhard said no geographic reporting relationships would change as a result of the new committee or Kaess' role on it. Offices in the Americas, Australia and New Zealand continue to report to John Bradstock, 64, who remains president of those regions. Bernard Brochand, 59, president of DDB International, will continue to oversee operations in Europe, South America, Asia and Africa. Kaess will also join the DDB executive committee alongside current members Reinhard, Bradstock, Brochand and Bremer. Nizan Guanaes, president of DM9 DDB Brazil, is also a new appointee to the committee.
In other moves, Pilkington, chairman of the Chicago office, will oversee strategic development as the network's "counsel for corporate change"; Page Thompson, president of Optimum Media, New York, will add global media duties; and John Ziegler, president and chief executive officer of Southeast Asia, will become president of Beyond DDB Worldwide, the agency's below-the-line operations.
One observer said it isn't surprising that both Bradstock and Brochand will continue reporting directly to Reinhard. "[Bradstock] has always played the role of cleaning up after the elephant, and there's only one elephant he's willing to clean up after."
Since taking over as president of North America last may, Kaess is given credit for helming U.S. and Canadian operations during a period of solid growth. Last year, DDB North America's billings grew 21 percent to almost $3.4 billion. ƒ