Chicago Sun-Times
Lewis Lazare follows Chicago media and marketing news

DDB/Chicago's creative purge: Tribal DDB merger possible?


How much grimmer can it get? This week's staff purge at DDB/Chicago -- some two dozen creatives our sources are reporting -- is but the latest sign that the DDB we once knew is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

The exit of so many people from DDB's rudderless creative department suggests, at the very least, that this agency -- if it survives -- is going to be something far different than the creatively-driven ad agency it was known to be for decades. Our sources report that creatives still at DDB and those exiting the shop have characterized the place as a sinking ship. No surprise there, except for how long that's sadly been the case. Imagine how much a few strong leaders with a vision could have done to change the course of things.

Our sources say it's still likely there will be a major shakeout in DDB's Anheuser-Busch account, which could be split between DDB's New York and San Francisco shops if they hang on to the business. Minus most or all of that flagship beer account and a huge chunk of its creative department, DDB/Chicago could be prepping for a merger with
Tribal DDB's Chicago outpost to create some sort of new media shop -- the type of operation that (whether true or not) some clients supposedly want to do business with nowadays. Well-respected David Hernandez, who a year ago became managing director and executive creative director at Tribal DDB/Chicago, could be well-positioned to take the helm of whatever kind of creative department remains after the units are merged.

All of this upheaval comes just days before the second anniversary of the suicide of Paul Tilley, the DDB chief creative officer who jumped to his death from a room at the Fairmont Hotel.


I interviewed for a senior executive job at DDB three years ago. They were both arrogant and clueless. I was amazed at how much they just didn't seem to understand that the world was changing. Near the end of the interview, I had pretty much decided that I didn't want to work there and started shooting back challenges to some of the 1995-mindset stuff they were spouting. They really got small-time snippy, like they weren't used to anybody not bowing and scraping.

Dinosaurs. Their days are nearly done. Companies now running on legacy and fear and not much else. By 2015, it's quite possible DDB will no longer exist, because, honestly, many of the good people at DDB Tribal, which is their one great hope, have also left.

Burnett--not the ARC side but the mother ship--is not far behind DDB on its own merits. The innovation and versatility are within ARC. Luckily, Burnett had a vital and impressive star to which it could hitch its dated wagon. DDB isn't so lucky.

are they just frozen with fear over there? how can an agency with such a strong legacy just sit there and stagnate? is nobody willing to take the bull by the horns and try to turn the shop around? sad.

And an important note....the creative staff at DDB is one of the oldest in the business, preventing any positioning/thought for the future to happen. Classic "TV superiority" arrogance. Scarpelli is responsible for allowing the "stuck in time" thing to happen, but Omnicom leadership is even more so--God forbid the siloed agencies should be able to think together for the clients' benefit rather than needing to stay profitable individually for John Wren's bonus benefit

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Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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This page contains a single entry by Lewis Lazare published on February 18, 2010 2:54 PM.

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