With the award of Advertising Network of the Year going to BBDO, it seems as though the old order has re-established itself. In truth, though, it never really went away.
Indeed, BBDO has always been there or thereabouts when contenders for the title get discussed. It won the accolade three times between 2005 and 2015 and only lost by a whisker to R/GA in last year’s race.
What’s BBDO’s secret? Ask any of its senior executives and you’ll always be referred to its long-standing mantra: "The work, the work, the work." And, of course, the network has always been outstanding at ensuring growth never comes at the expense of creative potency.
Last year continued to offer compelling evidence of the success of this policy. Not only did BBDO maintain top ranking in The Gunn Report for Creativity for the 11th successive year (19 of its agencies won 144 Cannes Lions across 24 categories), it was also named Cannes Network of the Year. "Meet Graham" by BBDO Clemenger was the star of the show for the Transport Accident Commission of Victoria. Other creative highlights included "Beer bottle sand" for DB Export from Colenso BBDO and "My black is beautiful" for Procter & Gamble from BBDO New York.
Taken together, this is further confirmation – were any needed – of how deeply creativity is imbued within BBDO’s culture. But the real secret of the network’s formula for success is how well it combines this with sharp strategic thinking. It believes as much in its commitment to being "relentless reductionists" as it does to creative firepower. As Andrew Robertson, BBDO’s chief executive, puts it: "If you can’t put your idea in a tweet, you haven’t got one."
So it’s clearly no coincidence that BBDO’s creative success during 2017 has been matched by topping the Global Effie Effectiveness Index for the fourth time in its seven-year history – more than any other network. Moreover, this success has been underpinned at regional level, the network having achieved top rating for creativity and effectiveness at the Spikes, the APAC Effie Awards and the Tangrams, honouring marketing effectiveness and strategy in Asia-Pacific.
Most importantly, BBDO’s harnessing of creativity to strategic brainpower continues to produce tangible results. In fact, its 3.5% in worldwide revenue growth this year is all the more remarkable given it’s already the world’s second-largest ad agency network by revenue. What’s more, its performance contrasts with the negative organic growth that some rival holding companies have been experiencing.
All this comes on the back of more than 50 pieces of new business across every geographic area, ranging from regional successes and extra assignments from existing clients to big local wins. Not least in the UK, where Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO landed the consolidated Dixons-Carphone account worth an estimated £25m.
Wins of this kind bear testament to how good BBDO has become at leveraging its combined knowledge, experience and talent. To its already considerable expertise in telecoms (including the $4bn consolidated AT&T business), it can now add a burgeoning retail prowess. Saks Fifth Avenue in Germany and Macy’s in the US were among 10 retail accounts won during the year.
Will BBDO be celebrating again when next year’s winner is revealed? If it keeps its 2017 momentum going, you wouldn’t bet against it.
The one certainty about McCann was that while its creative output never amounted to much, it had an unswerving ability to make money. For years it was Interpublic’s financial engine room, a role it continues to fulfil effectively, recording a 9% growth in organic revenue in 2016.
What has made McCann runner-up for this year’s title is its increasing capacity for producing the kind of exciting creative work you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see from one of the oldest players in the world advertising establishment. "Fearless girl" for State Street Global Advisors won multiple awards at Cannes. So hats off to Harris Diamond, the group’s chief executive, for drawing on McCann’s creative legacy and adapting it to the needs of clients facing the challenges of today’s media environment.
It says something that the group’s current number two ranking in The Gunn Report is the highest in its history. Meanwhile, its $159m net new-business revenue from January to August this year was $70m higher than its closest rival.
DDB continued keeping its end up in uncertain times. Not only did it secure new global accounts, including Lufthansa, Max Factor and Unibet, but there was no wholesale realignment by any of its global clients. And while the network became more selective about awards entries, DDB agencies still scooped up 98 Cannes Lions, including "Give the rainbow" for Skittles by Adam & Eve/DDB.
In its centenary year, Grey has been showing a vitality that belies its staid past. Not only is global revenue up 5%, while new-business revenue has topped $100m, but the group picked up 66 Cannes Lions. At the same time, it is committed to pushing diversity higher up the commercial agenda, including through the establishment of an Advertising Diversity Taskforce in the UK.
Recent winners: R/GA (2016); BBDO (2015); Grey (2014); Ogilvy & Mather (2013); DDB Worldwide (2012)