Opinion: Perspective - Chuck Brymer must help DDB London find its feet

It's not every day you'll get a Prime Minister writing a testimonial about an advertising creative, but that's exactly what Tony Blair was moved to do in honour of John Webster and his work (page 24). Much more important, however, is that Webster's output has inspired creatives in the UK and abroad for decades and has made a significant contribution to the status of advertising in boardrooms around the world.

And, of course, as his repertoire became famous, so did the agency he worked for, what's now DDB London. But today DDB seems a far cry from the successful agency it was in Webster's heyday. One senior industry figure recently asked me a shocking question: "Is DDB the new CDP?" The two agencies have very different stories to tell, but at this interim to question whether or not DDB's glory will be consigned to the past does seem valid.

The exit of Paul Hammersley at the end of last year has wreaked havoc at DDB. It has damaged the agency's confidence to take on the future and has contributed to the list of DDB clients reviewing their business: The Guardian, Weetabix, Arla, PG Tips.

Michael Bray, the agency's European chief, has been searching high and low for a successor, but chief executives are thin on the ground in the UK. Under the stewardship of the executive creative director, Jeremy Craigen, the agency still has an enviable creative output, but without the guidance of a chief executive, that will undoubtedly begin to falter.

Nevertheless, DDB has a key strength, something that never really seemed to come to the rescue of CDP: its network. Not only will a long list of internationally aligned clients keep the agency ticking over, the global management team will work hard to make sure DDB's London office is a strong outpost.

This week, the network's newly appointed chief executive, Chuck Brymer, flew to London for a day. He's only been in the job for a week, so his presence, although brief, demonstrates that London is a priority. I met with him, but unsurprisingly he hasn't yet got much to announce. However, here are some observations: He has moved across from Interbrand, so is very aware of life outside advertising agencies.

Expect Brymer to work hard at developing DDB's non-advertising credentials.

The second is that he's not shy of an acquisition, something he thought important enough to mention to me in our brief meeting. If DDB's hunt for a chief executive is proving fruitless, perhaps under Brymer it will change strategy and seek to acquire.

Although the support of the network should get DDB out of its current rut, the agency will then need to rebuild its domestic reputation. When Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO retained its crucial BT and Sainsbury's accounts last year, it earned the right to remain Abbott Mead Vickers and not become BBDO. DDB, more than simple recovery, needs to accept the network's help in the short term and then earn a UK reputation reminiscent of its Boase Massimi Pollitt heritage.

A DDB returned to rude health would be the ultimate tribute to Webster.

Vodafone is coming late to the music scene. T-Mobile already runs live music events, as does O2. Music is an obvious conduit to mobile phone companies' youth target audience, so it's not really surprising that they're all at it. However, what Vodafone lacks in alacrity and originality, it makes up for in depth because Vodafone's music plans go further than those of its rivals.

The move into advertiser-funded programming will take Vodafone's association with music to a wider audience than live events. The range of programming (televised awards and documentaries as well as radio shows) means the initiative will get noticed by its target market.

- Claire Beale is on maternity leave.

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