Insights from DDB North America's Business Development & Growth Director, Adrienne Marcino, and Chief Growth Officer, Elaine Purcell, on COVID as an accelerant of internal and external changes, leading to agency growth, and their ethos of Unexpected Works.
Where does most new business come from, where does the process tend to begin?
Organic growth is our largest and most important source of growth - there is no higher testament to our strong client relationships and the success of our work than when we expand a relationship with a current client. Recently, we've expanded our Kroger business significantly and this is a source of huge pride for us.
Referrals, recommendations or clients we’ve worked with in the past make up our second largest source of growth. We are lucky that many growth opportunities come from former clients and colleagues who know us, trust us and call us when they need help. The best relationships are based on trust, respect and shared ambition. When an opportunity comes to us from someone who we’ve worked with in the past, the likelihood of success for both parties is exponentially higher so we prioritize those over all others.
Opportunities within Omnicom are increasingly important as clients look for integrated solutions. Our work with the US Army, where we lead a team of 9 cross-discipline agencies, is evidence of the extraordinary outcomes we can accomplish when we unite the power of Omnicom. Bringing media and creative closer together results in far superior outcomes and clients recognize the value of this partnership more and more.
Search Consultants play an essential role as they help clients navigate the industry as it undergoes huge change. We’ve built excellent relationships with a network of consultants who know our leadership team and our capabilities, and we value their partnership tremendously. We participated in the AdForum Summit and received great feedback from search consultants. It’s up to us to ensure search consultants know the DDB of today as we adapt and evolve our capabilities to match the needs of clients’ businesses.
It seems that many clients are moving towards project work rather than the old AOR model and there is a growing shift to client-side in-housing. How, if at all, has that changed how you approach a pitch? How are you positioning the benefits that your network brings, amid these trends?
DDB has always created models that work for clients of all sizes and all needs. While the model may change, what remains consistent is the value that we seek to provide for our clients. Bill Bernbach once said, “Memorable never emerged from a formula,” and so our job is to consistently provide ideas that are inherently unexpected, regardless of the model that the client is proposing. We know that unexpected work drives growth, it transforms businesses, and this philosophy guides where and how we show up in consumers' lives. We call it Unexpected Works. It’s the philosophy that underpins everything.
Since we are part of the DDB network globally, we also tap into our Centers of Excellence for pitches - sharing knowledge, best practices and learnings that allow us to be nimble and more efficient. The network also gives us access to a suite of proprietary tools, including OMNI, our behavioral data and insights platform, and Q, our AI-powered cultural data platform. So regardless of whether we’re pitching for a project or a global AOR we show up with the same culture-driving tools and creative philosophy.
In your opinion, what are the key things a client looks for in a pitch presentation, aside from the work?
To us, winning a pitch comes down to four things:
● Chemistry: Casting is critical - clients must feel something when they meet the team assembled before them. Teams win pitches, not individuals. So we pay a ton of attention to assembling the best possible team that will have chemistry and energy together.
● Diversity: As it should be, clients are looking out for diversity of team members from the outset. DDB’s North America leadership team is one of the most diverse of any agency network. One of our principles on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion is simple — “No duplicates.” It’s our ambition to always put diversity — of thought, of experiences, of cultures, of ethnicities, of gender identification, and, of course, of skills — at the heart of how we build our teams. This remains true for pitch teams as well as client teams.
● A POV from the outset: It’s up to each agency to get off the fence and make it abundantly clear where they see the opportunity - creatively, strategically, from a growth perspective - don’t leave anyone unsure of where the agency POV sits. After all, that’s what we get paid for!
● Passion: The competition for pitches is so fierce, and there’s no shortage of smart and innovative agencies, so clients are looking for evidence that they matter to you. We always express a sincere declaration of how much we care, what it would be like to work with us, and proof that their brand and their business will be in safe hands.
How did you adapt your process during COVID? Were there any advantages that emerged?
Across many aspects of life, COVID has been an accelerant and the communications industry is no different. COVID changed consumer behavior drastically - where they spent their time and what occupied their attention - and clients needed partners to help brands respond, not just react. The combination of both internal and external changes reinvigorated every part of our business - including, and perhaps most significantly, growth. Many agencies have emerged from COVID healthier than before and I’m happy to say that DDB is one of them.
Our centralized North America team was born of this wave of transformation as the need for connectivity was heightened while we all worked from home. As a leadership team, we are more connected than ever. We see more of each other and have found a way to collaborate effectively and efficiently. The Growth Team is in service of eight offices across USA & Canada, and we are often on video calls with every office in a single day.
During COVID, our teams were faced with new challenges, which truly tested our ethos of Unexpected Works. Every day, we were forced to adapt and consider new ways of working and looking at the world. It changed our work culture and brought us closer to colleagues as we were able to meet spouses, children, and pets over the course of the day. In a way, it expanded creativity in our work, our relationships, and the way we structured our team.
What are your predictions for agency growth in 2022, where do you see opportunity?
There’s no question the market is on fire right now - Q4 will be very busy and we expect 2022 to follow that trend. We’re most excited to bring unexpected ideas to existing clients and prospective clients that fuel transformation and growth across all aspects of their business. We see huge potential in the gaming sector, in automotive, in retail and financial services. But what’s more interesting to us than industry growth is the kind of work we are creating for our clients. We’re seeing more clients come to us for commerce-driven solutions, more fame-driving brand experiences and more journey-driven solutions. Clients choose DDB for our promise of Unexpected Works, and how that manifests for clients is more varied than it has ever been.