School Reports 2012: DDB UK

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Recent work for Volkswagen
Recent work for Volkswagen

Ironically, the same thing that made DDB UK's 2010 so positive derailed it in 2011: Virgin Media.

Score: 3

Agency fact file: DDB UK
Type of agency Integrated creative communications
Company ownership Omnicom
Key personnel Stephen Woodford chairman and chief executive
  Jeremy Craigen executive creative director
  Lucy Jameson executive strategy director
  Nick Fox chief client officer
  Jonathan Goulding chief operating officer
Nielsen billings 2011 £182m
Nielsen billings 2010 £109m
Declared income £55.6m (2010)
Total accounts at year end 26
Accounts won 5 (biggest: Mars Wrigley)
Accounts lost 3 (biggest: Virgin Media)
Number of staff 395 (-11%)

The company came and went in the space of a year and tested nerves at DDB to the limit. To its credit, the agency surprised everyone when it made it down to the final two on the pitch shortlist. However, the account ultimately moved to Bartle Bogle Hegarty. Philips also exited after its $500 million global review.

To add to the pressures, DDB became a poaching ground. Fallon lured the creative partners Sam Oliver and Shish Patel to join its team of creative directors at the beginning of the year. In addition, the creative directors Dave Henderson and Richard Denney joined DLKW Lowe as executive creative directors. Separately, DDB's head of planning, Sarah Watson, left to join BBH in New York as its chief strategy officer.

To shore up these losses, DDB promoted Drew Burdon and Dom Boyd, both senior planners at its Tribal DDB unit, to replace Watson. And to boost the creative department, DDB coaxed The Red Brick Road's Matt Lee and Pete Heyes to rejoin the agency.

New-business wins were not very much in evidence, though DDB did pick up some Mars brands, including Skittles, as a result of the brand's global realignment into Omnicom. Consequently, however, DDB had to resign its Terry's Chocolate Orange business.

There were some high points, though. The agency created some charming work for Gu, a wonderfully nostalgic ad for Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet and some standout work for Harvey Nichols. Cannes was a modest success, with DDB winning three bronze Lions. The agency also opened a technology unit.

However, this year will prove challenging for DDB, after such a knock to its confidence in 2011. The agency will have to get back into the new-business fray and work hard to recoup the Virgin Media loss.

Score last year: 8

How DDB UK rates itself: 5

"After a terrific 2010, last year was one when we celebrated some great new client wins and award-winning work across a broad range of brands. We will remember a hard-fought Virgin Media repitch, not for the final result, but for our swan-song work featuring Usain Bolt and Richard Branson. We launched our digital innovation business, Tribal Spark, won new assignments from existing clients and played our part in retaining the global ExxonMobil account."

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