Less than a decade after the merger of a New York agency and a St. Louis shop created D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles Worldwide, the global holding company had doubled annual billings to $4.7 billion, boasts offices in 46 countries and has a client list the features some of the world's premier brands.
But in the eyes of Roy Bostock, there's still plenty of room for improvement. So on this, the third anniversary of his promotion to the chairman's post at DMB&B Worldwide, Bostock is sending a "vision statement" to all 125 of the agency's offices.
Crafted by a task force of the company's most senior officers, this strategy paper has a twofold purpose. First, Bostock wants the company's diverse advertising, public relations and promotional marketing units to work as one. After eight years of blending the cultures of Benton & Bowles and D'Arcy MacManus Masius, Bostock figures, it's time for all the pieces to come together. "Three years from now, if I walk into any DMB&B office, I want us all on the same page," he says.
The second reason for Bostock's missive is to elevate the quality of DMB&B creative output across the board. Given the low-key, almost colorless reputation of the agency's work, this may prove the more difficult task. "When you think creative," says an executive at a rival New York agency, "you don't think DMB&B."
Says Bostock of his plan, "We have defined our business in very simple terms. We want to create startling, innovative ideas that generate results for our clients." Those clients include Budweiser, Cadillac, Burger King, Procter & Gamble stalwarts Scope and Pampers and Kraft General Foods' Cool Whip.
"We're perceived as big and boring" says one DMB&B executive. "But that's the image more than the reality. And the senior people here have finally recognized something that a lot of agencies still don't get: What clients and prospects ultimately buy from an advertising agency is the advertising."
Toward that end, DMB&B's board has approved a new creative compensation plan for 1993 that rewards offices in each region with bonuses based on creative production. And the agency continues to give cash payouts to winners of its five-year-old MAX Awards, which honor outstanding work from DMB&B's global empire.
Then there is Bostock's recent shuffling of top-level personnel, including the move earlier this year of John Nieman into the post of worldwide creative director. Nieman, who joined the agency in 1989 from McCann-Erickson and reviews the work of all DMB&B offices, says his main job now is to coax more creative "spikes" out of the network, such as the Mars/Whiskas campaign from DMB&B/Los Angeles that helped the agency win the account, and the DMB&B/Amsterdam campaign for Bavaria non-alcohol beer that involved putting ads on the hubcaps of public buses in Amsterdam. "We want to take a hard look at where we are creatively, where we want to go, and how we want to get there," he says.
Bostock is also concerned with finding the correct strategic positioning for a brand before a campaign is even undertaken. For clients like Philips N.V. in Europe and Norelco in the U.S., he explains, new strategic planner Joe Plummer and his team were able to come up with positioning that lessened the hit-or-miss nature of the creative process. "If you do the upfront research and thinking before you start, you'll be much more successful during the creative process," Bostock says. "What costs agencies the most monies is the spinning of wheels against ill-defined creative objectives."
The agency's vision statement also stresses the value of "collaboration" among DMB&B's array of units for good reason. Some of its biggest new business wins in the past year--GM gold card and Citizen watches in the U.S.; Hyatt International in Asia-Pacific, and Canon cameras in Germany--were the result of DMB&B units working together on a pitch. For example, sources credit the public relations work and expertise in the high-end market for Cadillac by the agency's Manning, Selvage & Lee division as one of the main reasons DMB&B won the GM gold card assignment.
Of course, Bostock's changes are designed with growth in mind. DMB&B stands 11th in the most recent ranking of worldwide agency holding companies, and it would have to more than double billings to crack the top five. Still, the desire is there. "Our clients come first, but there's a greater realization that we need to grow," says former Wells Rich Greene BDDP president Richard Hopple, who recently moved into a global strategic development position at DMB&B. "Being aggressive on our own behalf will not only benefit ourselves but our clients as well."
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)