In an abysmal year, when staying even was a mark of success, BBDO Worldwide's revenue gain of 11 percent in 2001 is commendable by any measure. Though the network was a latecomer to international expansion, last year's growth came largely from global and panregional marketers such as Gillette, Allied Domecq, Guin ness, Mars and PepsiCo. With its independent-minded affiliates and small share of cross-border marketers, BBDO lacked the network credentials of its peers. Now, if client endorsement is any indication, BBDO—which traditionally has built global growth through the acquisition of local creative talent—is succeeding in forging a broader, deeper client matrix while maintaining regional identities.
Excluding acquisitions, BBDO Worldwide's revenue climbed 6 percent, while net income jumped about 16 percent. Strong global growth combined with creative prowess earns BBDO Adweek's Global Agency of the Year honors for the first time.
"They did outstanding in a miserable year," says Omnicom CEO John Wren. "Omnicom would not have been able to achieve its results without the excellent performance that BBDO delivered."
"The additional assignments from multinational clients show we are, increasingly, a credible global network," says BBDO Worldwide CEO Allen Rosenshine. "Because of our historical growth, we tend to be more entrepreneurial and turf-driven around the world. But we all share a common culture and belief in what's important—the work, the work, the work. We all agree to serve multinational clients with that philosophy and win new business with it. That's the validation of the business model."
The goal of that business model is not to stamp BBDO's outposts with the same personality or client roster. "Last year's split of one-half of new business from multinational clients and one-half from locals is the way to grow," Rosenshine says. "You need to be multinational in a global world, but you also need to be strong locally." BBDO has 323 offices in 76 countries. Nearly half of the $1.4 billion in new assignments last year came in the form of global and panregional business.
BBDO's growing sense of network was further sug gested by Rosen shine's surprise choice of heir apparent Andrew Rob ertson, 41, who had run London's AMV BBDO. The new president/CEO, North America, is already serving as a bridge between BBDO's U.S. and European operations—the agency now handles Guinness' business everywhere except Africa, for example—and emphasizing greater collaboration among BBDO offices in his new territory.
"We're trying to make North America a more cohesive and more powerful creative force through more successful cooperation," Rob ert son says. "It's a question of making the best possible use of the people we've got—this is a business where your success depends upon your ability to attract an unfair share of exceptional people."
Those people came together last year to great effect. Among U.S. wins were PeopleSoft's $30 million account, pitched by BBDO New York and San Francisco; $25 million in additional Bayer brands won by BBDO Chicago and BBDO New York; and a $20 million Wrigley assignment won by BBDO Chicago and Atmosphere, the agency's digital unit. At the Super Bowl, the agency officially launched new work for Cingu lar Wire less, which BBDO New York and BBDO South had won in October 2000. "Given the talent they have in Atlanta and in New York, it works extremely well for us," says Vance Overbey, Cingular's executive director of advertising.
The impetus for interoffice teamwork goes back four years, to flagship client PepsiCo (see sidebar). "Not too many years ago, it was a nonexistent system of real collaboration here," says Phil Dusen berry, vice chairman of BBDO Worldwide and head of the agency's worldwide creative committee. "People now not only know each other, they like working with one another. Each of our agencies operates independently, but more and more we realize it's a win-win arrangement to join forces."
North America chief creative officer Ted Sann calls the approach "independence with collaboration."
It's an imperative that crosses disciplines as well as geographic boundaries. "We're doing a better job in approaching our clients on a more integrated basis," Rosenshine notes. "We're providing strategic consulting and branding, as well as multichannel delivery."
But given the agency's stable of creative stars, how difficult is it to get them to share clients with their less-glamorous below-the-line cousins? "We're all in an ego-driven, turf-driven business," says Rosen shine. "But we've recognized our survival depends on more integration."
As evidence, Rosenshine, a one-time copywriter, points to Prox imity, the customer relationship management unit launched in Sep tem ber 2000. By the end of 2002, it is expected to have offices in 30 countries and billings of $1 billion, he says. In 2001, the agency also partnered with urban and multi cultural marketing firm S/R Alliance and brought BBDO's Euro pean custom-publishing operation, Red wood Inter national, to the U.S.
Nonetheless, it is still BBDO's creative profile that sets it apart. BBDO's offices boast some of the most highly regarded creative shops in their markets, including AMV BBDO; Almap BBDO, São Paulo, Brazil; CLM BBDO, Paris; and Clemenger BBDO, Mel bourne, Aus tra lia. In Cannes, the agency tied with Saatchi & Saatchi for the most Lions, and all 21 went to its international offices. Acclaimed output from overseas included CLM BBDO's campaign for appliance maker Brandt, AMV BBDO's cinematic work for Guin ness and Almap BBDO's Pepsi spots. And as the industry retrenched and commercial production slowed in 2001, BBDO broke high-profile campaigns for U.S. clients such as Mountain Dew Code Red, Red Stripe beer and Fed Ex, a shaky client the agency saved last year.
Despite industry conditions last year, the shop continued to show off its brand-building skills, working on U.S. product launches that included Snickers Cruncher, Orbit sugarless gum and Gillette's Venus razor for women. "We're fortunate to have clients who believe in the power of advertising, bad times and good," says Rosenshine.
But, says Dusenberry, it was a client the agency wished it never had that drew the most attention: the Office of the Mayor of New York. The six "New York Miracle" spots, created in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, drew upon what BBDO does best—broad humor and dazzling star power. The campaign, approved just two days after the mayor's office contacted BBDO, made an emotional connection far beyond Manhattan, drawing international recognition.
The agency's emotional proximity to Sept. 11 serves as an important reminder in a world made closer in terror's aftermath. "We have to become even faster, more nimble than we were before," says Rosen shine. "What 9/11 taught us is all bets are off. In the communications business, we have to deal with things that are out of our control."