The World: New leaders continue with reinvention of DDB

John Wren believes Brymer and Scarpelli can take Omnicom's network to the next stage of its evolution.

John Wren moved quickly to fill the position of president and chief executive of DDB Worldwide made vacant by the untimely death of Ken Kaess.

It was customarily decisive for a man who has said of succession management that he knows who the candidates are even though they themselves might not.

Together with the promotion of Bob Scarpelli, the DDB chief creative officer who takes on the additional title of chairman of DDB Worldwide, and Keith Reinhard's assumption of the professorial title of chairman emeritus, the appointment marks an emotional break with Reinhard's hugely successful reign.

But if Chuck Brymer, the former global chief executive of Interbrand and the man now attempting to fill Kaess' large shoes, is shocked to find himself back in advertising after 20 years spent building a global branding network, he doesn't show it.

Many in the industry were less able to conceal their surprise-here was a man who last worked for an advertising agency in 1985 coming in to run arguably the most creatively successful agency of all time. One DDB London insider says he had to Google "Brymer" to find out who his new boss was.

Brymer's last advertising job was at BBDO New York. How will he handle the move from the world of pure brand essence into an altogether dirtier business?

"The Interbrand experience is much more relevant than it would appear," Brymer says, adding that, while he's aware that Interbrand habitually fails to appear on the advertising radar, it's a mistake for agencies not to take the company seriously. "Interbrand is sitting at the boardroom table with some of the world's biggest advertisers, helping to solve very complex branding issues," he says.

Besides, there are more similarities than the casual observer might think.

Both companies are about ideas - "creating them, driving them and delivering them across the spectrum of media platforms", Brymer says. And while he recognises that DDB's core focus is above the line, he points to the wider range of services that his network now offers.

"Clients are becoming more demanding in requiring their agencies to deliver deeper and richer solutions," he says. He cites Interbrand's work for Barclays Bank at Canary Wharf and DDB's Times Square "pop-up stores" for the US retailer JC Penny, which he calls "a great example of how to take the idea beyond one-way communication with the customer".

Wren echoes this view, describing Brymer as a "natural appointment".

"If you look at what each of the groups are, they've expanded on a global basis to be companies that include advertising, customer relationship marketing, branding, field marketing, retail, interactive ... all those services," he says. "Chuck started his career in advertising. He's focused his career not only on brands, but everything that comes along with building them. He has a much broader experience than pure branding."

As for Scarpelli, Wren has known him for 23 years. "Bob's steeped in all the values that make up DDB: creativity, the importance of people and talent, and the passion for the product. He's the perfect one to take over the legacy of Bill Bernbach that Keith (Reinhard) grew."

Both men know that legacy is one that will need careful, custodial handling over the coming months and years - the industry is a dramatically different beast to the one with which Reinhard wrestled to make DDB the creative powerhouse it is today.

While Reinhard remains contactable as an adviser, the pair will split overall leadership of the company. Brymer, with his experience of expanding Interbrand from a ten-strong New York branding shop to a global network of offices in 32 countries, will handle enterprise. Scarpelli will manage the creative product and personnel. As Scarpelli describes his position, he's the "keeper of the culture and the flame" and the "carer" of DDB people around the world. He's also taking on his former partner's vision for the agency and where it is taking itself.

"Ken put us on a three-year plan to reinvent where we are and where we're going," Scarpelli says. "We're a year-and-a-half into it. My job will be to continue that vision and take us into a productive future."

Scarpelli sees Brymer's hiring as crucial to achieving this aim. "We're trying to take DDB into the consultative space where we get more involved with our clients; take ourselves beyond just being the 'ad guys' and be more business partners with our clients. That's the space Chuck's playing in already, and he'll bring some interesting knowledge and expertise."

He'll also bring the chance of greater collaboration between Interbrand and DDB - a logical step, Scarpelli says. "What he can bring to our current clients and what we can bring to Interbrand's should be pretty powerful." Although, Wren adds, such collaboration will not be prescribed by Omnicom.

Meanwhile, both men acknowledge there are conspicuous areas of concern dotted among the DDB successes. London, in particular. Wren says fixing the UK head office is "very high up on the agenda. It's the only market in the world where we don't have the management in place that we want."

"Losing (Paul Hammersley and David Hackworthy) was a blow, but the agency is moving on," Scarpelli concedes. Brymer, less familiar with the wider DDB empire, will be speaking with the Europe chief, Michael Bray, in the coming week to get a better sense of what's going on in London.

Nobody will be drawn on where the next chief will come from. Although Wren's record of finding candidates in Omnicom sister companies being what it is, the next London chief could be closer to home than he or she realises.

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