Patience finally pays off for DDB

A year of solid business wins, recruiting top industry talent, impressive organic growth and an equally impressive portfolio of work, has seen DDB Group Hong Kong take out Overall Agency of the Year for the first time.

Across the key categories of Creative Agency of the Year, Integrated Agency of the Year and Most Outstanding Client/Agency Partnership, DDB Group Hong Kong secured gold. In the newly created Best Agency Culture category it was narrowly edged out of top spot by independent agency Fluid.

But if there’s another thing the Omnicom agency can hang its hat on, it’s a client retention rate that is unique in today’s advertising world.

Among its top four clients are a total of 96 years, and yes, while that does sound dramatic when tallied up like this, it remains impressive even when you break it down.

McDonald’s tops the list with a 39-year working relationship. Another is ExxonMobil with 23 years, PARKnSHOP (22) and Vitasoy (12). Not a lot of agencies can boast these types of numbers.

But it’s not just legacy that won over judges throughout the judging process.

The past year has seen DDB add a raft of new business, including Melco Crown (Studio City), Hong Kong Tourism Board, Fonterra’s Anmum brand and Hongkong Land – all this with no client losses.

On the back of this momentum were several key hires in the areas of planning, creative, activation and social.

In January this year Andreas Krasser shifted to Hong Kong as an integrated associate planning director; while Valiant Yip, the winner of the 2013 Grand Kam Fan, took on the role to spearhead DDB’s new activation unit, DDB Live. Tammy Lui also signed on as social media manager for McDonald’s, Manulife and Anmum.

While last year the agency lost two long-standing staff members in president and CEO Simone Tam and chief creative officer Jeffry Gamble, overall, DDB managed to keep its staff turnover rate well below the industry average of churn and burn.

So what changed in 2014?

John Zeigler, CEO of DDB Group Asia Pacific, says the past year has seen the agency embrace the spirit of “significant change”.

He stresses that having the right people in place to see the agency through this evolving marketing world has been crucial.

“What has been important to me was stability for ourselves and mostly our clients.”

Right across the board, he says, DDB Group Hong Kong exceeded all expectations. So was there any secret formula?

“The secret is all in our people, or to be exact, in our unwavering belief in putting our people back at the centre of everything we do.

“If we hire the right people and provide them with the environment to shine and grow, they will be happy; being happy will allow them to do the best work in their lives with us; great work will then attract/retain client partnerships. A simple, but often overlooked formula.”

In the past year this has included significant resources in training and development, from sponsoring external training and ramping up talent mobility between offices and departments, in addition to the monthly core skills learnings.

Zeigler stresses that as the market shifts, so must its core offerings.

“For the growth of our clients’ business, we are not afraid to always find a better way.”

So what’s next for DDB in Hong Kong? After finding initial success in the areas of PR, live event marketing, content, social and activation, you can safely assume we’ll see more.

“These are for sure part of the campaign ecosystem for the digital world, and another one is the application of technology.

“You can expect to see more of whatever is needed from DDB Group Hong Kong to help our clients to grow their businesses.”