Spike Lee is setting up an ad agency with an urban flavour.
Most commercials directors struggle to break into movies, then kiss
advertising goodbye. This is not so for the Hollywood film-maker, Spike
Lee, who last week revealed he was opening a US ad agency.
Called Spike DDB, the shop will be a 50/50 equity venture between Lee
and the DDB Needham network, with Lee as hands-on creative director,
writing and producing films himself.
The office will be based in Manhattan and staff numbers will reflect the
shop’s ‘creative bias’ while boasting a full complement of account
managers and planners. Only media buying will be handled by DDB, which
also plans to expand the office into a US-wide network.
The man responsible for box office hits such as Do The Right Thing wants
to scale down his art for two reasons.
The first is that Lee actually enjoys making ads, as illustrated by the
significant number of commercials he has directed through his own
production company, 40 Acres and a Mule. Clients have included Nike,
through Wieden and Kennedy, and DDB’s own Anheuser-Busch.
The second is that Spike DDB will specialise in ‘urban’ advertising,
targeting ethnic minorities, which will make it an alternative vehicle
for exploring the kind of issues covered in his films.
As far as DDB is concerned, the venture will provide current clients
access to the first group shop of its kind. Anheuser-Busch has already
expressed interest, although Lee’s other work will be restricted to
brands that do not conflict with the network’s main international
For an agency with Spike DDB’s potential, such limitations could prove
frustrating in the long term. But for now, everyone seems delighted with
the deal. Lou Tripodi, executive vice-president of DDB Needham in New
York, sums up the mood when he says: ‘Spike has a special knowledge of
the urban market. He’s attractive to clients and won’t need a new-
business director for the foreseeable future.’
No doubt a few competitors will be watching their backs in the coming