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.

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

networks. With 206 offices in 96 countries, it is the sixth largest agency

brand in the world based on gross income ($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


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 expansion.

DDB was a streetsmart, 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 tire 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. Those 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


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

consultancy. 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. '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, but the industry has


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 Omnicom. 'I

felt that some things would always be best done small, and others big. 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


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


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

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 story). The

second is John Bradstock, president of DDB North America and the Pacific


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'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 noticed Ken when he was number two in our LA office,'

Reinhard reports. 'At that time we had no 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 but

he improved on my thoughts too.'

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.

These days it's hard to picture him (basic annual salary $2,999,000,

personal stake in Omnicom worth $85 million) as the emotional and

temperamental creative he might have been when, after ten 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. Staid, then, compared to some

of Madison Avenue's more colourful Kings? Perhaps, but if that's the price

you pay for building one of the most creative of the industry's

multinational networks then most would be happy to pay it.

- Since this interview, in October 1999, Daryl Simm has moved to an

Omnicom group media role and the search continues for OMD's worldwide

chief. DDB's creative positioning has been further enhanced by its

'whassup?' campaign, for Budweiser.


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