DDB ANZ boss says local agency will save ‘hundreds of thousands’ from awards cull

'End the obsession with awards': O'Halloran

‘End the obsession with awards’: O’Halloran

The head of DDB’s Australia and New Zealand operations has said the agency is set to save “hundreds of thousands of dollars” as part of its decision to cut back its involvement in global award shows.

This week the agency group’s global creative head Amir Kassaei announced the Omnicom-owned agency network would be scaling back involvement in awards shows globally and look to find new ways to measure their creative output based on how much their ideas had benefitted clients.

Chairman and CEO of DDB Australia and New Zealand Marty O’Halloran told Mumbrella the move was driven by the desire to get off the never-ending award treadmill and was about “drawing a line in the sand”, as well as focussing their people on client results.

“There’s an absolute obsession with awards and as a result more and more shows have cropped up with more and more categories, and it’s become this sort of game. Everyone is chasing success in that environment,” he said.

“What we’re saying is let’s draw a line in the sand and as a result globally make this stand, but also from a local point of view to direct our people.

“We’ll still be supporting our local shows, but what you will see is we’ll be really selective in what we do globally and we’ll only be concentrating on the ideas and campaigns that create great results for our clients and are fully supported by our clients and also ideas of scale that have had a positive impact on society rather than clever little ideas that have never had any scale and have made no impact.”

Pushed on the effect a focus on awards has had on the agency he conceded it probably had acted as a distraction, but said the new edict was a chance to remedy that.

He said: “We’ve not had clear direction to our creatives in terms of what management want out of our agencies. With that direction the creatives will know what’s expected and know what the boundaries are and what’s important to us and most importantly our clients.

“I think there’s no doubt that globally – and we’ve seen it at this part of the world and it’s even worse in South America and Asia – the boundaries have been stretched and a lot of the work that’s being recognised doesn’t fit the criteria we’re setting ourselves going forward.”

Cannes Lions logoO’Halloran said while the agency would still enter big shows such as the Cannes Lions, it would cut down on the amount of work entered save some of the “hundreds of thousands of dollars” spent locally on entering.

“When I look at the business we have two full-time editors putting together case study videos and it’s a crazy waste of resource instead of doing other things that move ours and client business forward,” he added.

Clients will also get a greater say in the work the agency takes to these shows.

“We want our clients to endorse everything we enter because of the positive influence they’ve had on their brands, whether that’s a sales lift or some other criteria,” he added.

“And that’s really where we’ve got to draw that line in the sand and say we’re not going to just enter pretty ideas that have never had the scale.”

Effectiveness awards will remain a focus while local awards will remain on the radar for the group with O’Halloran saying: “For us our local shows are really important as it connects our local industry and local talent moving up, and it celebrates the best ideas in the local markets here in Australia and New Zealand.

“For us recognition on the global stage is really important and things like Cannes is a really important global show we’ll continue to support, but under the guidelines Amir’s talking about. What we classify as the right things to enter.”


The Gunn Report, which ranks agencies and networks based on how many awards they have won at various global shows, has grown in influence for many creatives in recent years. However O’Halloran said that will become “less relevant” to the agency after this decision.

The Gunn Report

He added: “The industry has to settle on how to rank and measure different agencies, and I’d be asking all those bodies what is the best way to measure who is being successful at the end of the day.”

DDB counts McDonald’s as one of its biggest clients globally. When the fast food giant was named Advertiser of the Year at Cannes in 2014 its global head of brand Matt Biespiel told an audience the company saw awards as important, saying they had research showing award-winning work yields a “54 per cent increase on spend”. The previous year, McDonald’s Asia head of digital and media Andrew Knott said the increased presence of clients at Cannes helped reduce the opportunity for scam to creep into the show.

Explaining why creativity is important to the brand Biespiel said: “Competitors can replicate the tangible aspects of our brand, but they can’t replicate the intangible assets of our brand, like creativity, culture or the five sonic notes.”

DDB's campaign changing the fast food chain's signs to say Maccas for Australia Day was highly awarded in 2013

DDB’s campaign changing the fast food chain’s signs to say Maccas for Australia Day was highly awarded in 2013

However O’Halloran told Mumbrella he believed McDonald’s would “applaud our move”.

“We’re extremely tight and we’re always coming to them with ideas to move their brand forward and we’re known as one of the most creative agencies for McDonald’s globally,” he added.

“Anything we do to create more time to do that for them I know they applaud that, and there’s a motive in it for me as at the end of the day I have to build stronger long-term business with clients. This obsession with awards has taken away from what we’re here to do.”

When it comes to the impact an agency group like DDB pulling out would have on some of the second tier award shows O’Halloran said it should make them “look at their role and what their future looks like if the industry truly goes ‘there’s too much right now'”.

“We’re going to be quite ruthless about that and every other agency needs to make their own call on what they’re going to do to make this stand,” he added. “Generally speaking there’s huge support we’re getting from our people and some of the other industry players.”

Asked if this was set to be a long-term commitment from the agency O’Halloran said the board were “100 per cent behind it” adding it had buy-in from local creative directors as well.

“There’s not going to be any stopping or change in momentum from our point of view in being a creative leader, that doesn’t change. It’s how we measure that success based on the shows that we think matter and most importantly the ideas we think are worthy to be entered.”

His comments come a month after David Tang, the boss of DDB Asia, told Mumbrella that effectiveness awards would be the network’s “benchmark,” and leading the charge on that front would be Joji Jacob, head of DDB’s newly launched Asia Creative Council.

Alex Hayes


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