Financial Mail AdFocus 2019 profile

Creatively driven, effective advertising that delivers on its objective is a hallmark of DDB. The agency is a consistent winner at the Apex Awards, which recognise advertising and communication effectiveness. Previously, in 2017 it was voted the best performing agency at the Apex Awards. In the final Apex ceremony held earlier this year, the agency was handed the only Lifetime Grand Prix ever awarded — for its iconic FNB “Steve” campaign. The work, co-created with client FNB, was the most successful ever run by the bank and one of the most effective campaigns in SA advertising history. The agency has long driven an effectiveness agenda, says CEO Emmet O’Hanlon. “Clients come to us in the knowledge that we produce work that works. This accolade from the Apex Awards is the culmination of our efforts over the past decade to produce hard-working advertising that achieves results for clients.”

What many clients don’tr ealise, he says, is that not all agencies factor effectiveness into their work. “Creativity without effectiveness doesn’t make for a sustainable client relationship long term ,” he says. “Our approach is to use creativity in order to ensure the brands we represent are truly distinct; creativity is an amazing tool to achieve effectiveness.” Despite a constrained economy over the past year, DDB has successfully consolidated and grown revenue from a number of existing clients. The agency also acquired the prestigious Coronation Fund Managers account after a hard-fought pitch process between some of SA’s leading agencies. A large and extremely well received campaign has since been rolled out in key channels. He notes that a challenging macroenvironment for the past five years has affected most agencies. Fortunately for DDB, an aggressive new business approach with a strong, steady rate of conversion, has largely insulated the agency from this downturn.

“This year was quieter for the industry in terms of new business pitches compared with the flow of opportunity that has occurred in past years. We’re predicting another tough year economically for SA, but ultimately we’re confident that an upturn cannot be too far away. We don’t believe in waiting for such things though, and will continue to drive even harder with our existing clients and in new business and awards. Further to that, we were highly gratified to be a major winner at the prestigious African Cristal wards this year and to see our efforts contribute to DDB being named Network of the Year for the second time in a row,” says O’Hanlon. The agency’s push into the integrated digital space continues to gather pace. “Around 80% of the work we’ve done in the past year has been digital,” he says.“We were fortunate not to ignore this trend and rather began to build our digital capabilities organically several years ago. This focus is now paying off with significant expertise in all things digital.”

The agency has had some staff changes this year. Conan Green was promoted to executive creative director (ECD) when longstanding ECD Liam Wielopolski emigrated to Ireland. Green returned to the agency after a stint at DDB earlier in his career, and brings additional digital expertise to the operation. O’Hanlon is confident that the agency is well placed for further growth and continued outperformance of the norms despite any economic headwinds.“ Quite simply, we love what we do here and have relished fighting our way to success, year in, yea rout, for nearly two decades now.”