This week's King of Madison Avenue is likely to make some of the
others feel quite sick with jealousy. He is on that sunny plateau of
Grand Old Advertising Manhood where, even in the unlikely event that he
never utters an interesting word again, he is sure of a lasting place in
the rather slim history of great creative American admen.
Keith Reinhard, 64, is the chairman and chief executive of the DDB
Worldwide Communications Group. Under his leadership, DDB has been
acknowledged as one of - if not the - most creative of the multinational
networks. With 206 offices in 96 countries, it is the sixth largest agency
brand in the world based on gross income ($1.007 billion in 1998) and the
seventh largest in the US. In 1999, Advertising Age made DDB its first
Global Advertising Agency of the Year.
Reinhard is an award-winning copywriter in his own right (he is best known
for his work on McDonald's, notably the 'you deserve a break today'
campaign) and has been president of the Cannes jury twice. Seven kids, and
an accomplished rollerblader to boot - he is, to put it mildly, a
compulsive over-achiever. 'I hate losing, I'm always trying to find an
advantage,' he says.
Campaign's usual excursions into the lairs of the Kings of Madison Avenue
mean visits to functional office suites on the 46th floor of a New York
skyscraper. This time-one tries to be incorruptible, but still - it
brought an invitation to DDB's 50th anniversary party at New York's Museum
of Modern Art.
Average age 45-plus, tuxedos for him, big taffeta numbers for her and name
badges all round, it was a staid shebang by London standards. But the star
attraction was worth the trip: a 93-year-old Maxwell Dane who has outlived
Ned Doyle and Bill Bernbach, the two partners who put their names around
his when they founded Doyle Dane Bernbach in 1949. Dane, the money man,
told the party crowd that he had been asked to give a ten-minute speech.
'That's only 12 seconds per year,' he said, 'less than a commercial!'
The following day, the interview kicks off with Reinhard's account of the
deal that changed advertising history. In 1986, along with Allen
Rosenshine, chairman and chief executive of BBDO Worldwide, he was one of
the architects of 'the big bang' - privately owned Needham Harper, which
Reinhard headed, merged with publicly owned DDB plus BBDO. It created
It was a daunting challenge, and at the last minute it emerged that DDB
was considering a late bid from the Saatchis. They were desperate to avoid
losing their headline as the world's largest agency and went on to buy
Bates. Reinhard recalls: 'The merger was the most intense, hectic,
chaotic, nerve-racking, eight-week emotional roller-coaster ride that any
of us could have imagined.' And he acknowledges the DDB-Needham marriage
seemed a misfit, albeit that both wanted international expansion.
DDB was a streetsmart, savvy New York agency built on the teachings of the
legendary copywriter, Bernbach. At the height of his powers in the 60s, he
had inspired a generation of advertising people to join the business.
'Think small' for the Volkswagen Beetle and 'When you're only No. 2, you
try harder: Or else' for Avis were prime examples of Bernbach's work,
which contrasted sharply with tire Chicago-based Needham's more homey
So when the deal was signed, four years after Bernbach died, Reinhard had
to resolve vicious turf wars in key markets. Nonetheless it was upon the
foundation of mutual high creative standards that DDB Needham began to
gain strength. More than 30 years after what many call 'the real DDB'
died, does a creative positioning have any currency?
'Yes,' he says. 'But it's a different definition today from 30 years ago.
It's based on the importance of brands and the need for creative,
business-building ideas. We create values that the best manufacturer can't
put into products.'
Two issues dominate Reinhard's agenda for DDB. The first is payment by
results. Everyone - even Procter & Gamble - is on that bandwagon now but
Reinhard was an early and lonely US advocate of the system back in 1990.
His original concept of 'guaranteed results', however, was over-ambitious,
requiring guarantees from clients that could not be made. Nor can he point
to any global payment by results deals in the style of Young & Rubicam's
arrangement with Colgate Palmolive. Those are local examples but it seems
major DDB network clients like VW, Budweiser, Johnson & Johnson and Compaq
have yet to see the light.
The second is expansion upwards into consultancy and horizontally into
tactical communications areas like direct marketing. 'Twenty-five years
from now,' he says, giving himself a generous timescale, 'DDB won't stand
for 'we make ads'. If you look at the communications food chain now, we're
in the lower tier of tactical advisers. We're not in the boardroom with
the marketing and brand consultants, we're waiting in the lobby for the ad
This seems a tad disingenuous, coming from a trusted advisor to fellow
chief executives like Jack Greenberg of McDonald's. However, let's pursue
the thought. How to expand upwards?
'By attracting talent,' he says. 'Ex-clients or those with a consulting
background. And some of the talent will come from our existing planners
who could be advertising planners, brand planners or communications
He would also consider buying a consultancy. Doesn't that risk further
denigrating the contribution of the ad agency? 'I wouldn't look at it that
way,' he says. 'Buying is a low probability anyway. We're going to
leapfrog the consultancies and we're not going to brand ourselves as a
consultancy. What we're doing is thinking about other aspects of a
client's business. We'll work with consultants and then we'll replace them
as strategic advisers. We'll give good advice, we'll execute it and we'll
be accountable for results too.'
One wonders what John Wren, Omnicom's chief executive since January 1997,
makes of all this visionary talk. For it's well known that Rosenshine and
Reinhard were opposed to his elevation. Their invitation to Bruce Crawford
to return from the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1989 to take over from
Rosenshine (who was hankering to return to his agency roots) bears some
testimony to their view of Wren as the barbarian in the camp. Crawford had
endeared himself to his agency managers with a belief that a business
should be creatively led. Wren, the outsider, cut his teeth in an
influential financial position at BBDO then built Omnicom's Diversified
So how are his relations with Wren now? 'My relationship with John has
been a very positive one,' he says. 'His background is perfectly suited
for what Omnicom has become. When Omnicom was about advertising I wouldn't
have said that because Bruce was an adman, but the industry has
Reinhard reports that Crawford, who is now chairman of Omnicom, is still
'a wise counsel and a resource for us in all kinds of things' and that
Wren keeps his distance from the advertising networks: 'John's exactly
like Bruce in that, with rare exception, he says 'here's your numbers, go
and run your agencies'.'
And so to media. Omnicom has a global media network, OMD, which was
launched in 1996. But it is no MindShare. Conceptually, if not in reality,
WPP is further down the road towards creating a global media brand. The
nub of the problem is that in many local markets Omnicom has strong
individual media brands. In the UK, for example, there is BMP OMD, while
Manning Gottlieb Media is aligned with TBWA and New PHD with BBDO. Is OMD
therefore a model of confusion or a model solution?
'Sure, OMD makes sense,' Reinhard says, recalling that media was one of
the things he and Rosenshine differed over at the formation of Omnicom. 'I
felt that some things would always be best done small, and others big. In
my view media buying is best done big, but planning should be kept
In February 1998, Omnicom hired Daryl Simm, the wunderkind who was named
P&G's worldwide head of media three years earlier at the age of 33. His
arrival signalled Wren's determination to turn OMD into a stronger force
but insiders suggest that Simm is encountering the classic new boy
difficulties of how to make things happen without a proper power base.
Does Simm have power over Reinhard, for example?
'No! Hah-hah-hah-hah!' he chortles, adding, as if he has just returned to
a prepared script, 'but Daryl has brought a lot to our party. He has
agreed to set up a worldwide board so that Page Thompson (DDB'S worldwide
media director) will be able to represent our interests in different
The other thing Rosenshine and Reinhard disagreed on was the role of what
became the DAS group: 'I believed that each one should be aligned with an
agency and Allen felt they should be pulled off into a separate division.'
As it turned out, Rosenshine had his way in the US, while in Europe -
where DDB owns Rapp Collins - Reinhard won the day. That said,
relationships between Rapp Collins and BMP have never been close and BMP
has made repeated, and until recently, unsuccessful, attempts to launch
its own DM brand.
But Reinhard is clearly pleased with and proud of BMP: 'They're one of our
gems, one of the strong drivers of the network.' To the list of strong
drivers he adds DDB's Paris, Chicago and New York agencies, while as
creative gems he cites Brazil's DM9, Sweden's Paradiset and Canada's
VW is one of the reasons for his flattery of BMP In the US, DDB lost the
business in 1996 to Arnold Communications, whereupon great advertising
emerged in the form of the 'drivers wanted' campaign. But in Europe,
thanks to BMP, the creative has emerged as some of the finest in the
Reinhard also refers flatteringly to James Best, president of Northern
Europe: 'He's the smartest person I know.' Until recently, Best was one
of the contenders to succeed Reinhard. He lost out to Ken Kaess, DDB's
44-year-old North American president, who emerged as Reinhard's heir
apparent at a management meeting in May this year. It was a sign of rare
foresight in a business not known for its succession planning, as
insiders expect Reinhard to continue in the job for several years.
Best and the three other candidates Michael Bray, managing director of
worldwide accounts; Keith Bremer, chief financial officer; and Herve
Brossard, head of DDB France and president of Southern Europe - ended up
with positions on DDB's executive committee. At a dinner at New York's Box
Tree restaurant last November, each man was asked to prepare a vision for
the future of the network and Kaess - mutterings that he hired a
consultant to help him out aside-won the day.
Kaess' nimble entrepreneurial style appealed to Reinhard and the two
advisors who helped him chose a successor. One is Bernard Brochand, the
Paris-based president of DDB's international division (and potential
mayoral candidate of Cannes, his home town, but that's another story). The
second is John Bradstock, president of DDB North America and the Pacific
Of the two, Bradstock is the more influential. An insider reports: 'John
is Keith's consigliere. He keeps a low profile but if he turns up in
your country without warning you're in the shit.' The secret of the
Reinhard-Bradstock axis lies, it appears, in an extraordinary pairing of
opposites. The visionary and the pragmatist, Reinhard with his head in
the clouds, Bradstock checking the figures. It sounds like Kaess is more
of a Bradstock. 'I noticed Ken when he was number two in our LA office,'
Reinhard reports. 'At that time we had no strategy system. I'd visit an
office and they would have cobbled something together from JWT's or
Y&R's thinking. Ken not only embraced the need for a strategy system but
he improved on my thoughts too.'
In many ways, Reinhard is the exemplary network chief, a far-sighted and
client-focused workaholic who leads by example and enables local agencies
to retain their individuality.
These days it's hard to picture him (basic annual salary $2,999,000,
personal stake in Omnicom worth $85 million) as the emotional and
temperamental creative he might have been when, after ten years of
struggling to be an art director in backstreet commercial art studios, he
started as a junior copywriter at Needham in Chicago. He's folksy, true to
his Midwestern roots, considered, doesn't go off the record to offer the
tiniest nugget of juicy background detail. Staid, then, compared to some
of Madison Avenue's more colourful Kings? Perhaps, but if that's the price
you pay for building one of the most creative of the industry's
multinational networks then most would be happy to pay it.
- Since this interview, in October 1999, Daryl Simm has moved to an
Omnicom group media role and the search continues for OMD's worldwide
chief. DDB's creative positioning has been further enhanced by its
'whassup?' campaign, for Budweiser.