DDB’s Andrew Little On The Debate Between Scale & Specialism In Agencies

DDB’s Andrew Little On The Debate Between Scale & Specialism In Agencies

Speaking on the Managing Marketing podcast with Trinity P3 founder Darren Woolley, DDB’s CEO Andrew Little said in the last five years he has seen the client demand for the full-service creative agency return.

This has driven the market to push in two directions, leaving not much space for agencies to thrive in the middle.

While some standalone specialist offerings remain relevant, Little said he has seen many dilute their core offering by trying to be everything for everyone, but lacking the scale to execute. Little, who has been at DDB for almost 20 years, refers to “full-service” as the inclusion of digital, CRM and CX capabilities, rather than the inclusion of media.

“I would be one or the other. I think if you’re in the middle, you have a big problem. Either be a full-service communications business and target the scale of those clients who require that or be a brilliant, brilliant specialist, but don’t try to be anything more than that,” he said.

Little’s comments follow a wider trend in the industry that has seen several specialist offerings integrated back into larger agencies as clients became fed-up with managing too many vendors.

“We are a full-service creative agency. We make no bones about this, but we do carry our specialist brands as well. So, we have the ability to be nimble and flexible via project work for a client as opposed to the big all-encompassing strategic oversight and creative oversight, no matter what the channel.

“I suppose that’s the interesting part about our business; you can choose to take a bite size chunk, or you can choose to take the whole thing. The majority of our clients take the whole thing.”

While WPP is busy erasing their legacy brands and Publicis is mashing media and creative together, Omnicom agencies, including DDB, are paying homage to their heritage and doubling down on their core capabilities.

Little said despite other creative agencies exploring media buying, DDB won’t pursue media, instead collaborating with Omnicom’s media agencies, such as OMD and PHD, and other media agencies outside the group.

He explained how this collaboration works on McDonald’s: “OMD, DDB and VML are in it together. Every single week, we are at on our offices with the marketing team and the three agencies in together, working on strategies and sharing work with each other. We have a similar relationship on Volkswagen with PHD.

“The agencies share work with each other before it goes to McDonald’s and we come back as a dedicated group. These for me are the best relationships.

“The same goes for Westpac, who has a bespoke media agency embedded in their business. These are the best relationships because they have a great culture at the heart and clear expectations, and no one is trying to cut each other’s lunch.”

He believes in the healthy tension between media and creative as a powerful force in agency relationships, adding that the larger clients that often turn to DDB aren’t pursuing the creative/media agency model at the same rate of smaller brands.

“Was the work exponentially better 20 or 30 years ago when media and creative was together? I don’t believe it was,” he said.

DDB recently revealed a rebrand across its 200 offices that goes back to its roots and recommits to its creative credentials.


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    1. You can have full service with specialist too. This article assumes the traditional agency models available and not new ones. I think it is time the trade press did an article on what the newest models actually look like and how different they really are. This conversation above would be very different I can assure you.

Andrew Little DDB

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