DDB London looks to gain momentum from planning shake-up

One of the more interesting agency transformations of recent times is going on at DDB London, the UK outpost of one of the great creative agency networks and, before that, the legendary UK hotshop Boase Massimi Pollitt.

BMP’s Stanley Pollitt was one of the founders of what used to be known as account planning as an agency discipline (alongside the parallel efforts of Stephen King at JWT London) and DDB’s planning department is currently undergoing a retread to try to create what DDB hopes will be “a world class integrated communications agency.”

In part this has involved incorporating DDB digital network Tribal into the main agency, a process not without its stresses and strains. It also involves replacing the agency’s highly-regarded head of planning Sarah Watson who departed for Bartle Bogle Hegarty New York in May (BBH NY probably has more planners per square foot than anywhere).

To the latter end DDB has promoted Drew Burdon and Dom Boyd to planning partners, reporting to executive head of strategy Lucy Jameson.

Burdon (left) is the geek in the mix as a former head of strategy at Tribal DDB and, before ads, a work colleague of cutting edge musician Brian Eno. He is reported to be an expert in how technology allows brands to get closer to customers, helping to develop the VW Configurator iPhone app, and will continue as strategy head of Tribal.

Former strategy director Boyd has a classic planning background, starting his career at AMV/BBDO then on to be head of planning at Mortimer Whittaker O’Sullivan when that now-defunct agency handled Waitrose. At DDB he oversees data business DDB Matrix.

DDB is clearly hoping that its new(ish) positioning as an integrated communications agency (ie one that’s just as good at digital) helps it recapture some momentum. The agency has slipped down the UK rankings and is uncomfortably dependent on the Volkswagen account, for which it routinely produces outstanding work.

In recent months it has lost four top creatives to DLKW Lowe (replaced by luring Matt Lee and Pete Heyes back from The Red Brick Road so it may have got the best of the deal) and its second-biggest account Virgin Media is reviewing. It also made a number of redundancies in the summer.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.