THE KINGS OF MADISON AVENUE: Keith Reinhard - DDB Worldwide’s chief has forged a top creative network. What’s next, Caroline Marshall asks

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.

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

created Omnicom.

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

model solution?

’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

different countries.’

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

Palmer Jarvis.

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

the category.

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

Pacific region.

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

pay it.


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