“A person’s work is really the result of two things: his own talent and the environment in which he works.”


A Winning Formula

Simone Tam and Jeffry Gamble are President and CEO and Group ECD of DDB Group Hong Kong & Guangzhou respectively. Their unique management style has created an environment that allows their people to produce creative and powerful work that truly brings relevance to clients’ business. We talked to them about McDonald’s ‘I’m Amazing’ – a campaign, which similarly created a whole new environment for children to express themselves, be creative and make a difference.

JG: The one thing that defines my relationship with Simone is trust. It’s this trust, which I believe has led to our success. Her trust in me, my trust in her and our trust in our people. Without it, everything simply grinds to an argumentative halt.

We have faith in each other’s abilities – we don’t always have to agree, in fact we seldom do. But because of our trust, we both know when to stop the arguments and follow each other’s lead. In the same way, I’m allowed to do things a lot of people probably wouldn’t let me get away with. Sometimes we are right, sometimes we are wrong, but either way we just keep on going.

ST: Jeffry has many great qualities. But what I value about him the most is his honesty. It’s the same quality that I believe has formed the basis of our partnership. He’s the first to say when the work he’s reviewing with me is not quite there yet. And he’ll work on it, sometimes all night, until it’s outstanding. Jeffry keeps me honest. He’s my go to person when I need some words of truth – even though most of the time I don’t enjoy the content. We have this partnership of trust – we challenge and push each other to do great things and at the same time, we are honest enough to admit mistakes.

JG: When we started on this journey, we knew the first thing we had to do was get our house in order. There was a lot of discontent at the agency and people just weren’t working together. That’s why we developed a ‘people first policy’ and focused on creating a happy environment within the agency.

ST: It’s this happy environment that keeps our people motivated. We will always be people focused, that will never change. Any change in our environment in the future will always be to match our people’s different needs.

JG: Our people are all that we have, they are the machine that keeps us going and happiness is the oil that helps it run smoothly. When people are happy, they work better with each other, they trust and respect each other and the creative product will be better because of that.

ST: Insights are everyone’s business; it shouldn’t be just the planners who are coming up with them. So we ask everyone to contribute. And this is especially true with McDonald’s.

JG: Whenever we work on a big McDonald’s campaign, the first thing we do is go out to the stores and talk to consumers. This was how ‘I’m Amazing’ came about.

The interesting thing about this campaign is that the seed of the idea was actually sown a few years back. We developed a TV spot called ‘Lesson Learned’ – a spot that was developed after we spoke to a mother in McDonald’s. The story revolved around a child being dragged by his mother from one class to another all day long – from piano lessons to swimming classes to chess competitions. The pair stopped off at McDonald’s for a quick bite in between classes. The end of the spot is a touching moment where the mother, for the first time that day sees her child just being a child and enjoying himself. That day it was the mother who learned a very important lesson.

So when we started on ‘I’m Amazing,’ we went straight back to the same insight, because the Tiger mom hasn’t gone away; she’s actually become more fierce. We wanted to create an idea that helped mothers see their kids as kids and how important that is.