DDB Moves Global Creative Center, CCO To China
In a move that speaks volumes about how the economic, marketing and advertising worlds are changing, DDB, part of the Omnicom agency network, has confirmed that its Global Chief Creative Officer Amir Kassaei will relocate from New York to Shanghai to establish the agency’s “global creative center” there.
Kassaei took over CCO duties at the agency about a year ago from Bob Scarpelli, who remained its New York-based chairman. He retired at the end of 2011.
The shop said the move is believed to be the first time a global Madison Avenue agency has shifted its creative headquarters to China. It makes sense, given China’s rise as an economic power and the fact that companies based there, as well as multinationals, are boosting marketing spend in the region as their businesses grow.
According to a recent forecast from GroupM China, a unit of WPP, ad spending in the country will climb 17% to over $64 billion in 2012. That’s on top of the 17% that spending grew in 2011.
Commenting on the move, Chuck Brymer, CEO, DDB Worldwide, stated: “This is one of the most significant moves we have made in the history of DDB. The world as we know it is changing, and our industry’s growth market is now without doubt the Asian region.”
Marketing consultants and other industry followers agreed, saying they believed the move was unprecedented among major U.S. agencies.
“This is a huge deal that is highly symbolic of the changes happening in the world today,” said Russul Wohlwerth, principal at External View Consulting Group, a marketing and agency advisory firm. “We’ve seen this massive transfer of power and wealth shift from West to East,” he said. “You need to have a global mindset today, and this changes the perspective.”
Others agreed, but questioned how the move might affect non-Asian clients.
“It’s a good long-term move based on the growth going on in China right now,” said one veteran industry consultant. But the advisor also questioned the short-term implications. “What does it do to help clients who are 12 time zones away?”
While it might go over big with some of the agency’s multinational clients, like McDonald’s and Johnson & Johnson, which are trying to expand their markets in Asia, “how good is this for big domestic clients like Wells Fargo?” mused one industry insider.
Another source wondered whether the move was a “PR stunt,” perhaps driven by the shop’s “disappointing year” in 2011.
Others suggested the move could save the agency some manpower costs, since salaries are lower in China.
Like many of the holding company ad agencies, DDB already has a significant presence in China and other parts of Asia with key regional hubs in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore. In total, the agency network has 21 offices in 14 countries throughout the region.