DDB aims for top three in region


  • Business
  • Saturday, 04 Jan 2003

By M. HAFIDZ MAHPAR

DDB International president (Asia-Pacific) Michael Bray is generous in his praise of DDB Worldwide's Malay-sian operations, Naga DDB. “This is a model that all other DDB agencies in the region should look at and think, 'I want to be like that'. If all our agencies in Asia are as good as this one, I'd be really happy,” he gushes. 

Naga DDB has two characteristics that Bray hopes other DDB operations in the region would emulate:  

(1) Strong creativity (Naga ranks among Malaysia's top advertising groups, netting the biggest haul at the last Kancil Awards), and  

(2) Diversified offerings (Naga’s range of services includes advertising, public relations, customer relationship management, and event management). 

Bray is not a very happy man yet. DDB as a group is still not among the top three in the region in terms of creativity and that, he says, is not acceptable in the long term. “I’ve seen some numbers in various publications which depress me. Fortunately, Naga DDB has not let us down,” Bray says. 

His dream is to see every DDB office in Asia-Pacific being ranked among the top three most creative agencies in their respective markets. 

Asked when he expects DDB as a group to reach a top three placing regionally, Bray replies: “If cornered, I would say in five years. But I’d like to see it happen in two or three years. I would be very upset if we weren’t there in five years because I think that is more than a reasonable timeframe – and not particularly aggressive. Aggressive would be two or three years.” 

One way in which DDB hopes to boost creativity is through a new incentive structure that it plans to implement this year for its managers worldwide.  

Instead of just financial targets, managers’ bonuses and remunerations will also be linked to quality of the staff, quality of the product, and quality of the relationship between the agency and its clients. 

“It will take time to implement this because we have to put in proper (performance) measurements,” says Bray. “We already know how to do it. It’s a question of having the will and the willingness to do it, and to do it consistently and do it right.” 

Bray says the DDB group’s new battle cry is “People, Product, Profit.” “If you have properly trained people who are motivated and happy in their jobs, then your product will be better and inevitably you’ll be more profitable. So it’s a chain of thinking that we’re trying to reinforce to everybody. If you start at the profit end, it’ll be much more difficult to achieve that than if you start at the people and product end,” he explains. 

“What used to be called ‘the profit plan’ is now more than that, because now we’re also asking our people what they’re doing about training, what they’re doing about their staff, what they’re doing about their creative work, and how they’re going to achieve better results,” says Bray, who is in Kuala Lumpur for a regional meeting to discuss 2003 financial plans. Bray is based in London. 

According to him, one of the biggest challenges this year is coping with globalisation of clients’ businesses while maintaining the quality of the work produced, the high level of staff motivation and profitability.  

“Companies are globalising accounts (i.e. getting one agency network to handle advertising worldwide) for a reason, and a lot of it is related to cost-savings.” 

Bray notes that tension develops when decisions on marketing communications are made overseas, snatched away from the local offices that nonetheless still have to bear revenue responsibilities for their respective markets. 

Agencies also need to cope with the shift away from traditional advertising to more integrated communications. In this regard, Bray praises Naga DDB for having built up a diversified group comprising various marketing disciplines. 

He says that while DDB doesn’t force its offices to build groups, it does urge them to do that – in some cases, it applies “gentle pressure.” 

Besides advertising, a strategic area Bray particularly wants to develop in each market is customer relationship management (CRM). Currently DDB Worldwide’s CRM arm, Rapp Collins, is present in only about half of the markets where DDB operates advertising agencies. “We plan to have more Rapp Collins offices in 2003,” he says. 

Bray declines to divulge revenue figures, but says that DDB is targeting double-digit revenue growth for its South-East Asian operations this year. 

As for his forecast for the whole of Asia-Pacific, Bray says 2002 was a difficult year due to the economic situation, and he expects 2003 to be about the same. “Certainly from the planning point of view, we’re taking a conservative approach,” he says. 

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