Board

Bob Isherwood, New York-based worldwide cd of Saatchi & Saatchi, has had one for years. Miguel Angel Furones, the Madrid-based CCO of Leo Burnett Worldwide, leads one that, like Saatchi & Saatchi’s, has been in place for about a decade. Craig Davis, the London-based CCO worldwide of JWT, recently helped reinvent his agency’s upon his promotion in January. Jonathan Cranin, worldwide cd at McCann Erickson, formed his two years ago when he was promoted to the global role. And Bob Scarpelli, Chicago-based worldwide CCO of DDB Worldwide, named to the global post in March, is considering starting one.

Whether they are called worldwide creative boards, committees, councils or panels, and whether they include formal or informal gatherings, global agency networks are increasingly mobilizing their top creative talent around the world to better compete, improve work and act as more cohesive units with unified missions. While some agencies, such as DDB, have never had a worldwide creative board, others like Leo Burnett use groups to review and uphold standards.

“Every agency does it differently, but the most important thing is setting a standard and a focus. One of the things that the GPC allows us to create to great effect is creative consistency,” says Mark Tutssel, deputy CCO of Leo Burnett Worldwide, in Chicago. Burnett’s 11-year-old Global Product Committee judges its work using a 10-point grading system with the goal of each ad achieving a score of 7 or more. “It’s really a barometer of the Leo Burnett brand and the brands we have in our custody,” Tutssel says. “If you are going to act as a global agency, you need one mission. You need to act as one and speak one global language.”

While many agency worldwide creative boards rose to prominence in the mid-90s, when the globalization of client business began requiring worldwide monitoring of the agency product, at least one agency network, Publicis Worldwide, is attempting to modernize its role. The agency’s worldwide CCO David Droga is using his 18-member creative board not only for the traditional internal worldwide reviews of work and guardianship of creative standards, but for global briefs and new business ventures. In addition to the traditional use—an internal barometer and motivational and standardization tool—he is creating a formalized working task force of the agency’s best creative minds.

“It’s not just about being a sort of naval-gazing board,” says Droga, who formed the group shortly after joining Publicis two years ago. “I run my creative board as a virtual agency.” Plus, he adds, “It adds some meat to my role.”

Last fall, the Publicis creative board pitched a Coca-Cola assignment for the Latin American market in Mexico. It didn’t result in a win, but it helped garner an invitation to pitch campaign ideas for the prestigious global “iconic brief” assignment for Coke Classic. The agency is currently putting finishing touches on a print and TV campaign for the Atlanta beverage maker that is scheduled to break later this month. To create the work, Droga culled 20 or so ideas from a handful of offices before a campaign from the New York headquarters was chosen.

“Coke was really intense, but really rewarding. We holed up for two weeks and just blitzed,” describes Nik Studzinski, ecd of Publicis London. “Because everyone comes from all over the place and brings in different experiences, you get to the solution much quicker.”

Utilizing the board, the agency also sold through a pan-European campaign for Champion sportswear out of Italy last fall that features contributions from Brazil, Seattle, New Zealand and London; is in a few weeks making final recommendations on a global Minute Maid campaign spearheaded out of London with creative contributions from Seattle; and is working on global briefs for UBS out of London and Switzerland and Garnier out of Paris. “It’s a useful way of working. It brings the network together, the creative directors together, and you get a massive amount of perspective,” adds Studzinski, who joined Publicis two years ago after working with Droga at S&S, London. “It’s a global creative community in one room.”

While some networks invite existing clients to board meetings and global product reviews, Droga is taking client participation a step further by inviting prospective clients. When the Publicis board was holding its meeting in Rome last March, Droga invited the Diesel marketing team and cd to sit in for half a day at the three-day confab. It was an informal introduction to the network with no hard-sell attached. About eight months later, when the Italian apparel maker began a review for a global assignment to produce its fall-winter campaign, it invited Publicis to pitch for the business. “It suddenly made them realize we’re not this big, daunting machine they would never consider,” says Droga.

Antonella Viero, Diesel’s head of communications, sat in on the meeting and says it provided an interesting perspective on global shops. “We like to experiment, so seeing a big agency doing an experiment is always interesting for us,” she says.

Diesel bypassed Publicis for the assignment, but Droga says the experience was invaluable and helped cement the idea that through the use of the creative board the worldwide agency network could be “incredibly nimble.” And more importantly to the future growth of the agency, it proved that there was value to occasionally inviting existing and prospective clients to the quarterly meetings.

“There are some other clients that have come that I can’t mention because it would not be good for their agencies,” says Droga. “At the moment there is this divide between the boutique agencies and the big mainstream ones. What we are saying is we can compete in both arenas.”

Saatchi’s Isherwood says the idea of bringing clients into his agency’s Worldwide Creative Board is “a different thing.” The board evalutes the network’s work and also assembles the Cannes New Directors Showcase each year and rewards the most breakthrough world-changing idea in communications with the Innovation in Communication Award. “That would be a working thing. This is about us and about our work, and it’s a very personal thing,” says Isherwood. For clients, he says, the agency uses “tribes,” made up of a mix of global talent, to problem-solve.

“It’s all about making the work better,” adds JWT’s Davis, who describes the agency’s seven-member Worldwide Creative Council that meets every quarter, as “the engine of the network creativity.” With the industry going through such a groundswell of change right now, explains Davis, global collaboration and the unity that comes out of creative council meetings has become more important to agencies such as his. “These are revolutionary times. To have any kind of revolution, you need a few people that have banded together and have a lot of simple, shared beliefs about what the future looks like,” says Davis.

JWT’s evaluation process is similar to Burnett’s, using a 10-point scale established this year when Davis became global creative chief. “It’s a forum to look at the work, to discuss major issues and challenges, particularly looking forward,” says Davis, who put the system to the test last month in New York, where the board reviewed more than 2000 ads, all produced by the network since the start of the year.

Like JWT, BBDO Worldwide’s six-year-old, five-member Worldwide Creative Committee—which is hosting a two-day conference in Rome this week, where about 100 creative directors will discuss the agency’s current challenges—is primarily used as an internal tool to promote consistency. “It is [our] intent to try to capitalize in every way we can on the abilities to utilize our creative fire power in more than just traditional media,” says Allen Rosenshine, chairman of BBDO Worldwide. “While it will certainly review the work we’ve done in traditional media, the thrust of the conference will be about other opportunities that have not been historically either the agency’s purview or the agency’s mandate.”

Yet not every worldwide cd is convinced that a board is the way to get an agency network’s offices happily playing together for the creative good of the agency. “We don’t have an official anything, which I think is the strength of it,” says John Hunt, worldwide creative director of TBWA Worldwide. “We have terrifically talented people all around the network, but once you start treating creativity like a corporation, it becomes a bit of a problem.”

While the agency’s creative directors meet a few times a year, with a large network meeting taking place once a year at Cannes during the International Advertising Festival, led by chairman and CCO Lee Clow, Hunt prefers to direct TBWA’s top talent around the world by, like Clow, leading by example. “I’m suspicious of trying to bureaucratize creativity. You can harness that if you point it in a direction, but I don’t think ideas bounce well in a bureaucracy,” says Hunt, who mobilizes what he calls talent “SWAT teams” around the world to work on assignments on an as-needed basis. “No matter how you want to package it, it starts smelling of a pecking order. Who cares where an idea came from?”

Members of Droga’s board hardly complain of ego-clashes. Instead they speak of an easy-going environment where members feel free to lend a helping hand and can operate on a larger platform than if limited to their local markets. “It’s really working. We feel that we are performing globally,” notes Sebastiao Bernardi, ecd of Publicis Salles Norton Brazil in São Paulo. “We have a lot to do yet, but I feel that we are moving in the right direction.”