DDB, Fallon, And Agencies That Go Up And Down

In today’s Chicago Sun-Times, Lewis Lazare takes a look at what’s going on at DDB Chicago:

Dick Rogers finally lost his confidence in Dana Anderson.
After watching three years of tumult severely weaken DDB/Chicago, once a commanding creative force within the Chicago ad industry and far beyond, Rogers, the president of DDB North America, said Thursday that Anderson had resigned as DDB/Chicago president and CEO, effectively immediately.
In the end, the major account losses, coupled with the managerial turmoil, might have been the decisive blows that felled Anderson at DDB. Despite Anderson’s downfall, fans who know her well still insisted Thursday that she possesses strong leadership abilities and presentation skills.
DDB/Chicago had long been the major cash cow within the global DDB network. The ugly and unfortunate series of setbacks during Anderson’s reign, however, had put the shop in a much more precarious state. On Thursday, Rogers, DDB’s North American leader, at last moved to try to rectify that.

I’ve always thought that DDB in Chicago had a reputation for doing fairly good work for a shop of its size and nature. So how does a shop move from that to “tumult” and “turmoil”? I saw the same type of story published 2 weeks ago in Ad Age and Adweek about Fallon, which has long been above reproach.
So what causes agencies to go through these upcycles and downcycles? Is it people? Account losses? Turnover? Bad management? Bad hiring practices? It’s the subject of my new column on Talent Zoo.

I’ve always believed the best advertising people have an element of hunger and discontent in their personalities. It’s rooted in a simple desire to improve upon what’s been done before. Which is not the same as being disagreeable or arrogant, although those qualities are easily confused. Most people enter the ad biz hungry. But at a certain point, after initial success, contentedness take over: an impossibly cushy gig, a desire for more family life or merely the belief that one’s shit doesn’t stink. And in the course of an advertising career, that contentedness coincides with promotions to managerial positions. Many great Copywriters, Art Directors or Account Executives have no business managing other people as Creative Directors or Supervisors.
Look, it happens in many fields—take music. Bands start off young, pissed, inspired and raw. They make great music, sell CDs and get rich. Then they’re not so pissed and inspired anymore. So their subsequent albums aren’t all that good. But they still have their fans, and there are plenty of state fairs for those bands to play at for the rest of their careers.

Hey, I never said I had all the answers. But I like to make educated guesses. What do you think? Is it just a nature of all ad agencies to go through ups and downs?

About Dan Goldgeier

Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. Dan is also a columnist for TalentZoo.com and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.