Advertising History

DDB North America’s Mark O’Brien Recaps Advertising Week

Mark O'Brien We are pleased to welcome Mark O’Brien as a contributor to The Makegood. Mark has been President of DDB North America at DDB Worldwide Communications Group Inc. and DDB Chicago, Inc. since December 2010. Mr. O’Brien first joined DDB in 1994. He was instrumental in establishing the DDB interactive business unit as a new profit center.   

The 10th Annual Advertising Week held in New York City, September 23–27 was an appropriate mix of learning, connecting, and partying while we celebrated an industry that is hustling to keep up with technology habits of the consumers that brands are trying to connect with today.  With an attendance estimated at 90,000 across a wide range of venues and 198 panels with over 798 speakers, Advertising Week has grown to a scale that its founders never dreamed would happen 10 years ago.

I was working for Ken Kaess when he was CEO of DDB Worldwide and Chairman of the 4A’s over 11 years ago.  He began to pursue the idea for Advertising Week brought to him at that time by Matt Scheckner.  It took a team of people, led by Ken and Matt along with Burtch Drake,  then head of the 4A’s, Ron Berger, CEO of Euro RSCG, and Mike Donahue, part of Burtch’s 4A’s executive team, to put together the plans for the first Advertising Week, held back in 2003. After the first massive effort, I remember Ken wondering if anyone could possibly pull it all off ever again!  Unfortunately, Ken passed away in 2006, but as Burtch Drake, Matt Freeman, Chairman of this year’s Advertising Week, and Keith Reinhard, Chairman Emeritus of DDB, all observed during the Opening Gala on Monday night, Ken is likely looking down on all of us with great pride at what Advertising Week has become (and laughing at all of us for the effort that it still takes to put it all together some 10 years later).

My agenda for this year’s Advertising Week included watching as many panels with DDB speakers as I could manage. DDB New York’s Monday panel, “Unlocking Client Creativity,” held at the B.B. King Blues Club, was one of the more popular panels during the conference. DDB New York President Peter Hempel and Account Director Rebecca Rehder took to the stage alongside sparks & honey CEO Terry Young and the 4A’s Nancy Hill to discuss how collaboration and upfront honesty are necessary to generate value for customers. Peter Hempel said, “Co-creativity is about making the work better.” Terry Young urged both clients and employees to “open your eyes and see the conversation space around your brand,” ensuring that there are “surprises almost every time.” Nancy Hill provided insight into operational aspects around collaboration saying, “You need to have a sense about how people will work together and the guidelines and guard rails.”  Peter included a nod to Bill Bernbach, with, “DDB founder Bill Bernbach was the first to legitimize the idea of having a partner by pairing creative and copywriters.”

Being the hot topic of the day, Monday’s Mobile Media Summit at New World Stages drew a wide range of professionals seeking valuable insights into industry growth. Panelists included DDB Worldwide’s Chief Creative Officer, Amir Kassaei, CEO of Celtra Michael Mikek, COO Continuity of McGarryBowen Steve Hicks, VP Global Brand Marketing of Activision, Jonathan Anastas, and SVP/Digital Director of MediaVest, Vanessa Newkirk.  The topic of Digital stole the show as panelists debated on whether or not online and mobile should be seen as a tool or an entirely different concept of human interaction still at its infancy. Amir described how mobile is merely an entry point to a greater form of interaction and also tackled the complex topic of Big Data by applying his three principles of what he believes Big Data is all about: Volume, Velocity, and Variety.

Advertising Week showcases an industry that remains vibrant and relevant, despite the prognostications of many of its constituents. Ken Kaess and the other Advertising Week founders can rest assured that their baby will continue to grow into its second decade.