DDB Group Photo

Gold — DDB

For the second year in a row, DDB nabs the top Agency of the Year spot. Who knew a little animated salt shaker and a Snuggie-busting commercial could pack such a punch? The agency proved once again that it delivers the big (i.e. clever) ideas that, well, deliver.

“I’m very competitive and I’ll do anything to win that’s legal,” chairman and CEO Frank Palmer jokes (or perhaps he’s not joking), but he’s not just talking about awards. “We’ll go out of the way to do something for a client that will [result in] sales for them.”

After all, no other agency can take credit for the ridiculous (yet brilliant) Lap ’n Snack, as seen in the second round of Subaru “Get Out More” fake-out spots. The product innovations didn’t stop there – just check out those Chair Pants for BC Dairy Foundation’s Weak Shop.

When Palmer started in the ad business 40 years ago, there were six television channels, he recalls. It goes without saying that he’s seen media change drastically. “There was a time, looking at the Mad Men [era] commercials, you didn’t have to be good at everything, you had to be really good at one discipline – TV or radio or outdoor,” he says. “Today, it doesn’t matter how young or old you are, you have to be up-to-date on everything clients want to talk to you about.”

Which perhaps explains Palmer’s penchant for developing new practices – the shop currently has seven offshoots, the latest being DDB Hodes Recruitment Communications, a strategic alliance between DDB Recruiting and Bernard Hodes Group formed in the spring.

When asked what the agency of the future might look like, Palmer questions whether there will be agencies at all – at least in the form they take today. While it’s difficult to predict the nature of its structural evolution, Palmer says, “The new model of agency has to be living in continuous beta. They have to be innovative and unlimited in their ideas, they have to have a constant need for discovery…and they need to spend as much time [as possible] learning about technologies and human culture and behaviour,” noting that with today’s connective mediums, people are influencing each other in new and changing ways.

He also hopes that the way agencies get paid will change in the future to reward results. Palmer believes they should be paid to win like tennis pros and golfers, not just to play like hockey and football teams. Making another analogy, he says, “If I’m not the best heart doctor, why would you come to me? Your life is going to be in danger.”

As for DDB’s own structural evolution, this year saw former president of DDB’s Toronto office David Leonard promoted to president and CCO of DDB Canada. Todd Mackie and Denise Rossetto were named co-CDs of DDB Toronto after the departure of nine-year vet Andrew Simon. And Tribal DDB Vancouver is now headed by former business and strategy director Marty Yaskowich, who now takes the managing director title.

And besides nearly 20 new clients on the roster worth approximately $6 million for the agency, DDB also pitched and retained old clients Canadian Blood Services and BC Hydro. As for what DDB’s future will look like, Palmer says it will “still have to be about producing the big idea that can be delivered in any channel, because that’s our job at the end of the day.”

“We won’t be reckless, but we’re not going to play it safe. If you want to be noticed and you want to be around for the future, you better be doing something that doesn’t look like everybody else. I don’t think our game plan is going to change, I think [we’ll] continue to say, ‘how do we do the best job for our client, and beat the other agencies at doing it?’”

The Facts

Offices: Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal

Staff: 248

New hires: Lance Saunders, EVP, managing director, DDB Vancouver; Dustin Rideout, senior account manager and digital strategist, Tribal DDB; Barry Lachapelle, AD, Tribal DDB; Ed Lee, director of social media, Radar DDB Toronto; Lee Ann Smith, recruitment account manager, DDB Hodes Recruitment Communications; Amanda Mitchell, managing director, Rapp Canada; LP Tremblay, CD, Tribal DDB Toronto.

New business: National Hockey League Player’s Association, New Brunswick Tourism, Tourism Kelowna, La Siembra Cooperative (Camino), Unilever (Becel, Breyers, Klondike, Popsicle), Langara College, Ledcor Group of Companies, Shoppers Drug Mart (Optimum, Quo, Etival and Amigo), La Senza, BC Lions, Nature Conservancy of Canada, The Portuguese Cork Association (APCOR), Plan Canada, Canadian Dental Association, Health Sciences Association of British Columbia, Pennington’s Canada, Teletoon, Travel Manitoba, The University of British Columbia, Asana Woman