DDB South Africa
mouth is. Staffers conducted on-the-ground research, visiting communities across South Africa to discuss their daily challenges and see where or how the bank could simplify them. Lomas cites the example of a female client living in a Pretoria township: a visit to her nearest bank entails a 3 km walk, followed by a taxi ride (at R8 per ticket) – all to conduct a transaction that could easily be completed with her mobile. Lomas points out that in creating such clear examples of what the bank does to smooth the path for customers, it is essentially demonstrating how it delivers against its brand promise and, in so doing, showing how it adds value. The results speak for themselves: FNB is ‘doing exceptionally well’ as a result of the campaign.
Type of agency
Brilliant, Full Service core agency discipline
Persuasion % of time devoted to above/below the line
All day and most of the night Preferred media agency
The most appropriate for the task in hand. Normally OMD. Number of accounts/clients
20 biggest spending client/s
FNB, Unilever, McDonald’s accounts won in 2010
Not enough accounts lost in 2010
C apti o n f o r ph o to
number of pitches won in 2010
Not enough company ownership
49% Local (29% BEE) 51% International contact details
Glen Lomas CEO Glen.firstname.lastname@example.org
key moment in 2010
The whole agency going to the World Cup! Bedding down FNB win. Number 2 agency at APEX. Emmet becoming a father. Boating in Cannes.
Most agency heads will tell you that theirs is the best agency because its mantel groans under the weight of its awards, or because it uses a model that promises enormous things and is sure to change the world. Not Glen Lomas.
Examples of this ethos abound. In fact, it wouldn’t be incorrect to say that the entire agency has been built on a foundation of empowerment, which continues to fuel its growth. That’s why 12 agency members attended the Cannes Advertising festival this year, and why three of those people went on to attend an intensive course at the Berlin School, going on to meet many of the world’s leading thinkers. It’s also why another staffer was sent to Macau to attend client training. Their minds cracked wide open, it’s inevitable that they return to Lomas with challenging questions – but that’s what makes them good at what they do, he believes.
It’s not that Lomas doesn’t believe that DDB is the South Africa’s best agency and, indeed, the best network in the world. And yes, he speaks with the pride of a new father of the people, their talent and the uncommonly sound work that’s produced as a result. He’s also got compelling reasons as to why DDB’s approach makes it different from
Another example of empowerment is the fact that executive creative director and industry heavyweight Gareth Lessing has recently been given the thumbs-up – and all the support he needs – to go solo. Lomas notes that the day of the announcement was an emotional one for the agency, and adds that what strikes him is the fact that,
the agency snapshot in 50 words
The best fun you can have with your clothes on.
Omnicom rules say top secret
top 15 clients
agency revenue (gross)
FNB, Unilever, McDonald’s, MTN, Honda, Energizer, Schick, Mango, HTH, J&J, Wrigley’s, Ster Kinekor, SA Fashion Week, Nelson Mandela Square. Life Healthcare
Omnicom rules say top secret key awards in 2010
2 x APEX silver Lots of creative stuff nuMber of staff
96 number of staff lost/gained
Gained 26 We did lose an account exec for a few hours, but he was later found cowering under the stairs... key agency staff
Glen Lomas CEO, Emmet O’Hanlon MD, Stuart Walsh Head of Strategy, Gareth Lessing ECD, Michael Udell MD Tribal DDB SA, Matt Ross ECD Tribal DDB SA, Shane Fenthum COO, Julie Maunder CD, Donovan Bryan CD, Kerry Friend CD, Michael Bender Business Development Rockstar. 00 – The Annual 2010/11
its industry peers. But, he insists, the real reason for the agency’s catapulting – and continued success – is simple: it believes in its people.
although there was some sadness, there was also genuine joy and pride in a fellow worker leaving to fulfil a dream. That leads us to another point of pride: the fact that each member of DDB is someone Lomas wouldn’t mind sitting down to have a drink with. In an industry where your popularity is judged on the outrageousness of your hairstyle and you can’t fit another person in the room for all the egos battling for space, it’s refreshing to find people who can’t be bothered to play the cool game – and who are sincere about it, too. But nice never got any work done, nor did it win new accounts. That’s where pure, raw talent and ability come in – and DDB’s people have that in droves. The work completed on behalf of FNB, an account gained during 2009, is a case in point. “When we won the pitch, we were aware that the tagline ‘How can we help you?’ had great potential. However, unless the bank can put action behind this promise, it becomes another throwaway statement, like ‘have a nice day’.” That’s why DDB’s first action was to make the bank put its – ahem – money where its
Unilever is another example of a client where DDB’s intervention has made a tangible difference to business performance. The agency handles all savoury brands across the Africa region – which happens to be Unilever’s fastest-growing market. It’s also worth mentioning that South Africa is the fastest growing region within that market. So, yes, effectiveness is most certainly a hallmark of DDB’s approach. And it has the accolades to prove it: during 2010, it took home two Silver Apex awards and one Bronze. Only one other agency received as many awards at the festival. But what of creativity, that Philosopher’s Stone of the advertising industry? Lomas doesn’t pretend that it’s unimportant – he’s proud that DDB had the third-highest number of Loeries entries, as well as four Cannes and Clio finalists. But, he explains, the agency’s view is that creativity is not an end in itself; rather, it’s a tool for effectiveness. “I believe that agencies should be strategically led,” he says, adding that in South Africa, the opposite is true: most are led by the creative imperative. The problem with this approach, though, is that as dazzling and creatively extraordinary as an ad may be, if it doesn’t persuade consumers to adopt the desired behaviours, it’s a dud. “Creativity is there to inspire and engage people, but it’s the strategic insights that are important,” Lomas opines. That’s why DDB takes care first to identify clients’ targets, and then
hone in on what behaviour they would like to see from these consumers as a result of the communication. He cites the example of McDonald’s. In stark contrast to prevailing perceptions around fast food, the global giant’s activities offer practical encouragement for children to adopt a healthier lifestyle. For example, any child wishing to participate in the player escort programme is required to provide such information as what sporting clubs they belong to, or what they’ve done to help a friend recently. More than that, the initiatives create actual change in children’s lives. Lomas has firsthand experience of this, having accompanied Taryn, one of McDonald’s Olympic Kids, to Beijing in 2008. Taryn had never been on a plane before; in fact, she had never before ventured beyond the Cape Flats. Small wonder, then, that she had retreated into a shell of shyness on the journey toward her destination. It was a different child who flew back to South Africa, Lomas reports. Her experience had granted her new confidence and curiosity, and yes, it’s entirely possible that her newfound chattiness was the byproduct of excitement and feeling more comfortable in unfamiliar surrounds. However, this wouldn’t explain her improved performance at school. What Lomas finds most remarkable about this campaign is that 1 500 children shared the same experience. The expense borne by McDonald’s in this area is hefty; and would more than likely yield far more impressive business results if it were directed toward a conventional advertising campaign. But would it have as much impact on the lives of individuals? The answer is obvious – and that’s how Lomas knows the brand is sincere when it speaks about its concerns for children. What’s more, the impact of such a campaign is obvious when compared with those implemented by other FIFA 2010 World Cup sponsors – yes, their catchy slogans and creative executions may have given you a smile at the time, but have they really changed your behaviour or outlook toward the brand?
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Lomas maintains that DDB’s almost uncanny knack for striking the right note amongst consumers is thanks to its planning department. And Stuart Walsh, who heads that department, agrees. “I think that many agencies have forgotten what advertising is supposed to be about,” he muses. “The point of what we do is to find something interesting about a product, and draw consumers’ attention to it. The industry has made this far more complicated than it needs to be, and with all the models and theories that have come about as a result, we’ve lost sight of the beautiful simplicity of what we do.” What DDB does differently, he adds, is consider the role of planning before a campaign gets under way, and not as an afterthought in order to sell clients a creative idea. The heft afforded the planning department is hardly surprising, given that DDB globally is known for its prowess in this area. Lomas is confident that the South African agency maintains this standard, going so far as to call it the best planning department in South Africa. He lays the credit for this with the expertise of strategic MD Emmett
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O’Hanlon and with Walsh, and his expertise gained through experience in creative and strategy. The extensive focus on planning is what helps DDB pin down shape-shifting consumer perceptions, Lomas explains. “Few people are willing to tell you what they really think,” he points out, “because none of us wants to reveal our less than attractive attributes.” He illustrates his view: take two car brands, one with a sound enough reputation but lacking the prestige of its luxury German competitor. Fundamentally, there may be little difference between the vehicles: both deliver the same performance, and their quality is also of a muchness. So, why do people prefer to drive the luxury brand? They’ll manufacture all kinds of reasons, largely related to technical minutiae, in order to hide the real fact that they would like the status intrinsically associated with the German model, because it may hint at shallowness. Of course, if advertisers respond to false motivations, their brands will fail to strike the right note – which is why it’s important for a planning department to sift out the
truth. And a truly effective department does this sufficiently well, through observation rather than simply listening and recording opinions, to develop a comprehensive understanding of the consumer. This is more important than ever, given that advertisers are operating in what is essentially a brand-new landscape. Lomas draws a stark contrast between our current era and that of the 1950s and 60s, when TV advertising was gathering momentum to create a volcano among consumer mindsets. Back then, the people who were most admired, and whose opinions therefore mattered most, were parents, teachers, the church and even doctors. And then came a medium that didn’t so much simply tell consumers what was out there, as encourage an emotional attachment to those brands. Lomas recalls that DDB founder Bill Bernbach was one of the true pioneers of TV advertising, and it was his observation that as a multisensory medium, TV could be used to play with emotions that engendered brand love and loyalty rather than mere respect – an outlook
which continued until three years ago. That’s when disillusionment with consumerism, and the massive debt that tends to accompany it, set in, bringing with it an appreciation for purchasing more durable goods that last longer and ultimately cost less. This rejection of hedonism coincides with another interesting global trend: a loss in faith for the bastions of society which previously held our respect - governors, teachers, the law and religion. “As a result, we’re in a place now where people don’t trust authority. They’re not interested in mass consumerism, and they don’t want to be spoken down to, or given advice, by any institution posing as an authority,” Lomas comments. Add the massive rise of social media, and you have all the ingredients for a Perfect Storm that’s certain to have as deep and far-reaching an impact on consumer mindsets as TV did all those years ago. “Rather than turn to ‘authority figures’ that have been proved fallible to corruption, people prefer to seek advice from those they truly trust, like their friends. That’s why
a 30-second TV commercial is no longer enough to convince us to try a product. It may be sufficient to spark interest, but from there we will canvas the opinions of our friends, perhaps on Facebook or Twitter, and we’re more likely to consider them in our final purchasing decision.” As a result, advertising no longer has the power to influence behaviour through sheer emotional persuasion alone. Moreover, the emphasis has moved squarely to the product, and what the brand and the company itself stand for. They’re less likely to be swayed by amazing graphics and copy lines, and false claims simply won’t fly: “The days of style over substance are over. People have too many opportunities to find out the truth about a product,” Lomas comments. And DDB is ready. The past year saw it setting up its digital division, Tribal DDB. Taking its cue from its London counterpart - that largest and most acclaimed digital agency in the world, according to Lomas - the division is fully integrated within the broader agency, so that digital becomes one of many possible channels rather than an entirely separate entity. Lomas is particularly excited about the calibre of talent that characterises the agency: he’s convinced Michael Udell and Matt Ross, both formerly with Tribal DDB London, to join as MD and ECD respectively. “Matt
Ross has been voted one of the top creative people in the world, alongside the likes of Avatar director James Cameron. He’s also won Grand Prix and Gold Cannes Lion for Phillips and Monopoly, which points to the quality of his work. But the best thing about him and Michael is that they’re really just nice, funny guys, which is the type of person we strive to attract.” Having set up its Cape Town offices in March, Tribal has already attracted clients like Mango, Ster Kinekor, Douglas Green and FNB.
best potential employees to other areas.
Lomas believes that, once the industry has got to grips with the challenges of digital as a medium, there will be other obstacles to grapple with. “Marketing is, at present, greatly underfunded. This has a knock-on effect on how companies work with advertising agencies. And, since both are human-driven disciplines, this ultimately impacts on the availability of talent in the industry.” The solution, Lomas adds, is either to pay more for better skills (the brunt of which is felt by the client), or to offer an attractive work environment, which the DDB approaches.
“I encourage our people to challenge clients, not for its own sake, but to show the impact that our work has made. If I agree when I know a marketer is wrong, then I can’t complain when they pass the cost on to me – and this is a spiral I am not prepared to perpetuate. That’s also why we invest so much time in getting the brief right. It’s not profitable to go back and forward until you ‘think’ you
It’s also important for marketers to bear in mind that all agencies are not the same. “Putting the squeeze on agencies inevitably comes back to haunt you, because it reduces their ability to attract the best people. You can’t get a Rolls Royce if you’re paying jalopy prices,” Lomas states. He has responded to challenges presented by such conditions by insisting on high standards within DDB.
have what the client wants – you have to get it right first time.” Going forward, Lomas is looking forward to helping brands grow: big international brands that give the agency a chance to develop its knowledge of global trends; and small brands that give it a chance to flex its creative muscles. “I’m excited about being part of this incredible country and I want to work with people who feel the same. After all, South Africa is ideally placed to be a creative powerhouse – and I’m looking forward to taking brands into new areas on the back of that.”
The money question remains an issue, though. In the past, advertising was a respected profession which could, therefore, attract bright people. With better salaries offered elsewhere, Lomas is concerned that the industry is losing the The Annual 2010/11 – 00
Agency Profile DDB South Africa