Known as The Disruption Company® for challenging conventions, TBWA's global collective of agencies find solutions for clients through boundless creativity. Chatting with Des Jones, Chief Strategy Officer at Juniper Park\TBWA, and Brian Swords, Global Client Lead at TBWA\Worldwide, we learn more about their integrated strategy of central and local that builds lasting relationships with clients.
Can you give us a brief overview of your structure and some of the clients with whom you work across more than one geography / location?
TBWA is The Disruption Company® - a global creative collective in the business of brand building and innovative brand experiences. We solve problems through creativity; bound together by a common faith in the power of big ideas, and the common belief that by challenging conventions, Disruption® can feed growth.
We don’t see ourselves as a network, but as a collective. A group of individually distinct, best-in-class and culturally relevant agencies, that work together to make each other, and our clients, stronger.
Our 30+year relationship with McDonald’s has grown across the globe – producing campaigns in over 20 markets across Europe, Asia and LATAM. From exploring the power of sharing with McDonald’s Netherlands, to developing fashion apparel for McDonald’s Portugal, our agencies have delivered across the full brand experience.
Our global client, Allyson Witherspoon, Global CMO at Nissan, describes us as ‘more than just our advertising agency… but part of the Nissan team’. And our work is testament to that. According to Fast Company, we ‘won the internet’ with our four-hour Ariya ad, driving a 14X uplift in sales for the Electric Vehicle and increasing google searches by more than 400%.
For adidas, where we again work in multiple markets, we created, among other award-winning campaigns, the “Impossible Billboard” - a real-time media placement celebrating Messi’s 2023 World Cup victory on a billboard that doesn’t actually exist. The Dubai Frame campaign resulted in 250 million organic views in two days.
"Impossible Billboard" Addidas
What are the challenges of working with different cultures across diverse regions, on both the agency side and the client side?
During a unique session at this year’s Cannes Lions Festival, four of our clients all wrestling with the need to be locally relevant while being globally efficient, came together on the Omnicom Cove stage. Their overall message was one of a singular global brand identity that can create world beating ideas as well as the ability to truly understand your fans to make a local connection. Ewrin Dito, VP, Global Brand Leadership at McDonald’s emphasized the importance of unity; “if you want to be a global brand and compete well, you want to ensure the whole is more than the sum of its parts”, with Vivek Mohan, Global Corporate Marketing at Abbott saying; “the strength of the core idea at the global level is critical.” This is how our global CEO, Troy Ruhanen captures it:
“Share, speed and scale - that’s the game for global brands.”
So, the challenges are simple. It is the solutions that are often not - a delicate balancing act between central control and local autonomy. That is why we believe in finding the single brand platform on which all communications can stand - an insightful, strategic platform that can work in every market.
At TBWA, our solution to help all our clients’ markets, agencies and stakeholders share a common language, is to build our own global cultural intelligence unit, Backslash. It is made up of over 250 ‘spotters’ across our agencies at the cutting edge of how culture is changing. They codify that change and measure its significance and impact in each market. The result is a coherent representation of the cultural changes that will impact a business, drive a business’ growth and create a sea change in their consumers’ behaviors. What’s more, we’ve created an industry-first Disruption Index tool which allows us to now quantify the strength, speed and spend of a trend in a country or demographic, and use that insight to help everyone, everywhere translate its importance.
Multi-region brands also need operational simplicity. What they don’t need is agency process that is at odds with their process. This is why many multi-region brands opt for bespoke operational models that fit and grow with their business. We have been the pioneers of this approach having created not just Media Arts Lab for Apple decades ago, but also Nissan United for Nissan and unique internal structures for the likes of McDonald’s, adidas and more.
How has the aftermath of the pandemic affected the functionality of the network and the way you work?
Pre-pandemic we had an emphasis on connecting and building relationships in person. This obviously came to a grinding halt in early 2020. But the relationships that had been formed over years, and the benefits they brought to our clients, didn’t. If anything, the introduction of remote collaboration allowed for connections between even more of our staff. Today, it isn’t uncommon to find a data planner from Asia, helping a creative team in North America, crack a concept for a client based in Europe.
And this flexibility has also enabled one of our innovations that we believe will create significant change for the industry. Gartner recently reported that CMOs are looking to extract greater ROI through integration, so, for agencies to thrive, we need to evolve beyond just ways of working, to what we produce too. Overseen by TBWA’s Chief Product Officer, Deepthi Prakash – we’re expanding our products across the entire brand experience. Our products are driven by our global collective of experts, centers of excellence all over the world and an interconnected ecosystem ready to enter the ring for our clients.
From NEXT, our global innovation practice, to PLEX, our B2B expert practitioners, to FEED, our social-first brand platform thinkers, our collective is tooled up for a more integrated future. It’s important to note, that since harnessing this product approach in Asia, for example, more than a third of TBWA’s revenue now comes from specialisms that did not exist there three years ago.
Not only does this global, interconnected, truly integrated approach allow us to develop better ideas and strategies for our clients, it means that a learning in one office is a learning in all.
Can you give us an example of a campaign that defines the benefits the network brings to its clients?
This is a campaign that TBWA created for the 50th Anniversary of the Big Mac. The original idea was generated by our Swiss office. Once the global team became aware of the idea, we decided to leverage the skills of all our offices working for McDonald's worldwide to scale it.
We commissioned an artist to do 10 versions of the original idea and then asked our offices to create their versions, in a format that they felt was relevant to their local country. We then selected the best 50 versions of the idea, to commemorate the Big Mac’s birthday.
The idea was deployed in over 80 markets around the world. This methodology of sharing and scaling good ideas is now a regular practice at McDonald’s. It allows McDonald’s access to all the creative resources of TBWA to generate and scale global ideas, which creates better quality work more efficiently.