Building a framework for creative thinking
The great work coming out of DDB Sydney is a combination of fresh insights and innovative ideas – ones that may have seemed a bit risky for clients, but proved to strengthen their brands even further. No doubt this fresh thinking is a reflection of the changes within the agency itself. CCO Toby Talbot provides some answers on how to build an environment where creativity thrives.
DDB Sydney feels like a new agency. Where was it at when you first came on board and how do you describe it today?
The building looked tired. The people looked tired. It felt like everyone was sleepwalking through their day when we joined. I heard Lee Clow once say, “Good enough isn’t good enough”. I love that maxim. I injected instant energy and passion into the creative department by hiring four exciting young junior teams from New Zealand (the schools are better there) who joined the day I joined. I hired technologists and integrated them into the department. I jettisoned most of the middleweight teams and created an hour-glass shaped department with Creative Partners (instead of Creative Directors because they move between clients now) at the top. I also had the offices refurbished, working closely with an eccentric set designer friend of mine who made very little money go a long way (the way set designers do). Ad agencies should look like vibrant, fun places to work. Just as importantly they should feel like it too.
You have turned around quite a few offices in your career. Are there any universal truths to getting done?
Ultimately it always comes down to the people. You can have the fanciest offices in the world and do truly terrible work. The people should be your number one investment. And yes, the world has changed immeasurably. Agencies need to prove their relevance now more than ever. I hired an amazing new Head of Integrated Content from JL in New York, Sevda Cemo. She has introduced a new content division. We have created powerful partnerships with Google, Facebook and Instagram and some of the best digital dev people in town. So now some of the best people who work for DDB Sydney don’t actually work for DDB Sydney.
You are a big believer in integrated creative departments. How do you actually define that and what does it look like in the day-to-day practice at the office?
My creative department is a fruit salad of characters, personalities and skill sets. No one is the same. And that means the work has got way more interesting. It’s not rocket science. I have integrated more technologists and more pure social people within the team. We all sit together on one long table. Me included. We take it in turn to play our playlists. There’s more laughter. More fun. More sharing. And the work is better for it.