A true legend creates the future in the present


“The philosophy has remained the same. The techniques of implementing that philosophy change. You always have to work in the idiom of the times in which you live.” -Bill Bernbach

Our Global Creative Council just gathered in San Francisco the other week to discuss our work, honor our Bill Bernbach Award winners and kick off the meetings of our latest creative initiative the Phyllis Project. At the core, we were there to honor the philosophy that differentiated DDB from the very beginning of our agency and the legacy we are charged to preserve and defend.

Bill Bernbach’s ideals and legendary creative leadership remain central to every DDB office across our network. Last December, as we do every year, our Global Creative Council judged the network’s best work of 2016 against the core principles of Bill Bernbach: to respect and understand the audience and client, to provide relevance to them both in fresh, artistic ways, and to help lift society to a higher level in the process. But the legacy of Bill Bernbach doesn’t just belong to us. Every advertising agency that believes in creativity, believes that finding out what to say is only the beginning of the process and that carries a deep conviction in the need for artistry and originality, are all followers of Bill. So for the second year in a row, we not only honored DDB’s top idea of the year with the Bill Bernbach Award, we also bestowed a Bill Bernbach Award on to the best idea from outside our network. At our recent awards dinner, we honored the team from Alma DDB for their work on Netflix Narcos “Spanish Lessons” as well as our special guests from Venables Bell & Partners who created the fantastic “#OptOutside” campaign for REI. We all compete against each other throughout the year, for awards and business, but we should never forget that we are in this together. By challenging each other, we make each other better. The fight for creativity, integrity and truth in this business can be a tough battle some days. As an industry we will “Do This Or Die” together. It was my honor to celebrate these principles both within DDB and with our colleagues from Venables.

Our 12 female creative stars of the Phyllis Project joined us for our entire meeting and it was the first time we’ve had such gender balance. There was a different kind of energy in the room – yet it still somehow felt the same. As part of the program, each Phyllis creative has been paired up with a member of the Global Creative Council for a unique mentorship program. It will provide learning on both sides, strengthening both our creative culture and, as Phyllis Robinson taught us, our respect for diverse ideas and opinions that is fundamentally necessary for creative freedom to thrive in our business. The creative women of our DDB heritage are often our own hidden figures, but their stories must be shared. And we honor them even more by listening to and opening doors for the strong creative women among our ranks today. (Read more about the new Phyllis generation and the launch in Lemon2020: Issue 62)

It was one of the best meetings we have ever had. And I can’t wait to see what we will accomplish together as we all meet again throughout the year.

– Amir Kassaei, Chief Creative Officer, DDB Worldwide

ALMA DDB Miami: Spanish Lessons

DDB’s 2016 Bill Bernbach Award honored Alma DDB Miami and their edgy campaign for Netflix Narcos Season 2 launch. It is the perfect example of truly knowing your audience and your product. Ideas like this make it look simple, but we all know they can be the hardest to sell. As Bill said, “An important idea not communicated persuasively is like having no idea at all.”

“Freedom is only part of the answer. Freedom is the atmosphere. A lot goes on within that freedom…The respect, first of all, of one human being for another – a respect for his ideas, his opinions, especially if they differ sharply from your own.”

Phyllis Robinson

Venables Bell & Partners: #OptOutside

The 2016 external Bill Bernbach Award was given to Venables for their wonderful REI #OptOutside idea. It incapsulated everything about the brand, strengthened it, and added value people’s lives everywhere. It reminds us of so many of Bill’s famous teachings: “Be provocative. But be sure your provocativeness stems from your product,” “We are so busy measuring public opinion that we forget we can mold it,” and our favorite, “The future, as always, belongs to the brave.”

“We believe in the dignity of the person. We don’t care about how people dress or what they do after work or how they vote. But we are aware that if we destroy their work we destroy them, and we are careful not to do that. We just demand quality from them, and I think they should demand the same from themselves.”

Bill Bernbach

Nurturing relationships and experiences are fundamental to great creative and many were set in motion through thoughtfully paired mentorship sessions. Our San Francisco meeting brought together an unprecedented gender balanced team of creatives. The first of many sessions planned ahead.


In October 2016 creative director Tove Langseth and business director Jacob Sandström took over DDB Stockholm in a shared CEO role. Both had been key to the development of the agency for many years and the move was a natural evolution for the Stockholm office with its history of strong business insights and creative culture. Their latest work continues to be at the forefront of melding creativity, humanity and technology to produce breakthrough ideas. We asked Tove and Jacob about their shared role and how this impacts the inner workings of the agency and the work DDB Stockholm creates for its clients.

So tell us the truth, how do you make this joint CEO role work? Who does the math and who takes the teams out to the club? Do the lines of business and creative ever cross?

Tove Langseth: I guess people find it typical Swedish to share a CEO-role. And we do really share it. From the beginning we had the idea to split up everything quite strict between us, but we often end up discussing most issues together. Which means that even though Jacob naturally is in the driving seat when it comes to money, and I when it comes to the creative stuff, we do bounce most things between us.

Jacob Sandström: I guess we’re much more the same than we thought. Which is good because we trust each other’s decisions when both of us aren’t around. Taking teams out to the club? We both need to shape up there – none of us drink alcohol for God’s sake!

Bernbach felt the environment of the agency was fundamental to great work. “There’s a relationship between the management and the creative person that just can’t be ignored.” How would you say that is reflected at DDB Stockholm today? How does it compare to the early years when it was Paradiset DDB?

JS: To us it’s fundamental that the people at the agency share the same vision, that everyone is interested and contributes to the creative product. We have a saying that is “Creativity in everything” which means that not only the creatives should wave the flag of creativity but everyone, from the guys at reception to a planner working with insights. This mindset is of course extremely important when it comes to the ones leading the agency, that’s where the creativity must start. The group leading the agency really has that belief in common, even though we might go into things with different perspectives.

TL: When I started at Paradiset that was definitely the feeling in the company. Creativity was so natural as two of three leaders were actually creatives. However, today creativity is something much wider and the agency is much more complex in that sense. Creativity is not only communication but also design, digital, PR, media, etc. That makes it even more important to always look at things from a creative perspective. In the end, that’s how we differentiate ourselves from for example a web agency; we always put a creative layer to things.

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