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STEPPING UP — They may be brash, they may even clash, but they’re also on a roll. Donny Deutsch and Steve Dworin take their agency to new heights By DAVID KILE

It’s tough to knock the rascally smile off of Donny

But Deutsch’s grin almost disappears when he’s asked about reports that his relationship with Dworin is not all sweetness and light. Former staffers and others close to the agency suggest that Deutsch and Dworin present a united front to the public while battling each other in private.
Agency president Dworin admits that he and creative director Deutsch had occasional run-ins during his first year at the agency. ‘But don’t forget,’ says Dworin, who came aboard in 1991, ‘that Donny had never had a real partner, and we were making huge changes in the way the agency did business.’
Most of the difficulties arose, Dworin explains, because the creatives had difficulty accepting his input. ‘I think some creatives thought Donny was giving up too much creative control to a ‘suit,’ ‘ says Dworin. ‘In fact, I do have great input on creative, but Donny has tremendous input on our business strategy.’
Deutsch bristles at rumors that he and Dworin don’t get along. ‘That’s absurd,’ he says. ‘And it hurts me, because Steve has taught me a great deal about the idea of partnership, in my personal life as well as at the office.’
Adds Dworin, ‘When you’re on a roll like we have been, things like that are going to be said, especially by people who missed the boat.’
The 35-year-old Deutsch and the 39-year-old Dworin have been leaving plenty of people in their wake of late. Over the last year, the agency has won Lenscrafters (a $35-million account), Prudential Securities ($20 million), Tanqueray gin and vodka ($15 million), the National Cable Television Association ($5 million), Ikea-West ($10 million) and Benckiser Consumer Products (undisclosed billings).
Deutsch/Dworin also won a $15-million piece of G. Heileman Brewing, but later lost it because of a consolidation. In addition, the agency was recently named a finalist in the $75-million Hardee’s review, an account that would vault the agency over $200 million in billings for the first time in its 25-year history.
The controversial and outspoken Deutsch, who is referred to as ‘Madonny’ by some because of his self-promoting tendencies, credits Dworin for the recent success. ‘I got us to $100 million,’ says Deutsch, ‘and this guy is getting us to $200 million – and in a lot less time than it took us to get to the first hundred.’
Dworin, who joined D/D after leaving his post as director of account management at J. Walter Thompson/N.Y., helped institute a strategic planning program that people both inside and outside the agency call the engine behind the new-business machine.
‘We were totally impressed,’ says Reed Fahs, director of advertising for Lenscrafters, which selected D/D over Hal Riney & Partners and Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor. ‘They came up with a plan for us that we really hadn’t contemplated going in, and it was right on the mark.’
The main benefit of putting planning first, says Dworin, is that it keeps the creatives and the suits working in tandem throughout the process. ‘At a big agency,’ he says, ‘a lot of money could be spent and get through several stages of a creative department before the account people ever saw it. That creates a wall between the two sides of the agency that works against, not for, the client.’
The strategy is working quite nicely for Deutsch/Dworin. Andy Berlin, who helped Goodby, Berlin & Silverstein make the leap from hot regional shop to nationally known creative agency, believes D/D has the potential to make a similar move. ‘Donny is very smart, and not just street smart,’ says Berlin, now chairman of Berlin, Wright & Cameron. ‘He instinctively moves to that which is most pertinent.’
As president of DDB Needham/New York, Berlin competed against D/D during the Prudential review. Deutsch recognized early on, Berlin says, that Pru Securities ceo Hardwick Simmons was a ‘kick ass and take names kind of guy, and he appealed to that aspect of the client far more effectively than we did.’
Because they have articulated their ambition to have D/D join the ranks of elite creative shops like Riney and Ammirati & Puris, both Deustch and Dworin have come in for criticism. Says Deutsch, ‘I know what some people think, that here is this guy who says outrageous things sometimes and who took over his father’s agency.’
But given D/D’s recent record – and the fact the agency bested Riney in the Lenscrafters review and defeated Ammirati in a strategic shootout for Tanqueray – the detractors are a little quieter these days. And the boasts seem a little less audacious.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)