CLOSE-UP: GLOBAL BRIEF; Spike does the right ad thing

Spike Lee is setting up an ad agency with an urban flavour.

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


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