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
With 206 offices in 96 countries, it is the sixth largest agency brand
in the world based on gross income (dollars 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
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
DDB was a street-smart, 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 the Chicago-based
Needham’s more homey Midwestern style.
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. There 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 manager.’
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
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 Agency Services.
So how are his relations with Wren now? ’My relationship with John has
been a very positive one,’ he says, diplomatically. ’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 and he
knew about creativity, but the industry has evolved.’
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
’Sure, OMD makes sense,’ Reinhard says, recalling that media was one of
the things he and Rosenshine differed over at the formation of
’I felt that some things would always be best done small, and others
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
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
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
close 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
The second is John Bradstock, president of DDB North America and the
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 know 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 first noticed Ken when he was number two in our LA office,’ Reinhard
reports. ’At that time we had no common 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 for the network but he improved on my thoughts too. That quality
is essential for our federal approach at DDB. We want a network of
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. But sadly he’s not as colourful
as Grey’s Ed Meyer, as charismatic as Y&R’s Peter Georgescu or as
eccentric as Frank Lowe.
These days it’s hard to picture him (basic annual salary dollars
2,999,000, personal stake in Omnicom worth dollars 85 million) as the
emotional and temperamental creative he might have been when, after
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.
Boring, then, compared to some of Madison Avenue’s more colourful Kings?
Perhaps, but if that’s the price you pay for building the most creative
of the industry’s multinational networks - then most would be happy to