by Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) NEW YORK CITY: Day 4 of the 2015 AdForum Worldwide Summit was another full-on day with visits to four agencies. What is important to remember here is that each visit is at least 90 minutes and then we immediately set out for the next meeting. Inevitably, this is across the city.

So we spend significant amounts of time in the coach which ferries us around all day, spent doing notes from each meeting, catching up on emails (there is wifi in the bus) and talking to the other consultants. Many new businesses have been created in that bus — and partnerships formed. It is a very important part of our AdForum trip.


But first some feedback on KBS, the final agency of Day 3 that provided us with an update — led by global CEO Guy Hayward, recently from BETC ( part of HAVAS), whom we met previously at an AdForum session in Paris.

KBS is a boutique-style agency, though not small. Some interesting new work for the BMW electric car has put it on the map and it is ready for more work as its global footprint grows. The agency set up some cool games for us to play while we were visiting and included a 360-degree selfie booth as part of the entertainment. What was interesting for me to note is that all of its pitches in the last two years have been run by intermediaries — pitch consultants play a big role in this agency’s life. The evening was structured into a series of short, focused presentations, interspersed with an excellent dinner.

So on to Day 4.


First up was SapientNitro and, as always, the agency inspired us with its forward-thinking, its humble approach to its work and its strong track record of being at the intersection of tech and storytelling for the past 10 years. AdForum has played a huge role in the life of this agency, now part of the Publicis Groupe of companies. What with 13 000 people, and 37 offices, its work in “storyscaping” is impressive.

A highly stimulating session, with some insight into Sapient’s role within the Publicis Groupe plus excellent breakfast, set us up for the day. The talk was of “conductivity” rather than simply “connectivity” — as always, ahead of the game. Excellent case studies for Nat West, Target and Lufthansa demonstrated Sapient’s undoubted prowess in connected digital communication, along with its considerable strengths in film. Some fascinating insights. This is an agency that knows what is needed and what is missing in a marketer’s tool kit, and then sets out to help that marketer achieve goals not previously articulated.

Select NY –> Select World

We then moved on to Select NY (now to be known as Select World), a very interesting agency, 25 years old, with a strong sense of humanity and beauty. It has offices in New York, Hamburg and Shanghai, and the agency is committed to “Beautiful can change the world”, with clients such as Wella and Nivea, as well as Merck Healthcare. Exceptional work and a very caring environment are ensuring that this agency remains a great place to work.


DDB was next and it gave us an update of 12 months in order to demonstrate its differences from other networks, as well as their own commitment to constant improvement. The offices that it focused on were New York, Chicago and San Francisco, in terms of their growth and trends. We were made to understand that DDB is a network of agencies, where each one is self-contained in terms of talent and clients, and each one is encouraged to develop its own specific culture. The search for great talent continues unabated, with the normal challenges of competing with networks, tech companies and consultancies.

M&C Saatchi Worldwide and SS+K

Our final stop was M&C Saatchi Worldwide, which has recently partnered with long-established New York agency, SS+K, an agency known for its political advertising strengths — this, of course, resonates with the history of M&C Saatchi. SS +K, which ran the Barack Obama campaigns for both 2008 and 2012, and shared some memorable moments from these breakthrough campaigns, as well as other more recent political examples. The new agency is not only politically focused, but it used these case studies to demonstrate to us its capablities in building campaigns, creating impact over the years and being in touch with what is happening among the new consumer. The synergy between the two agencies is obvious, which is why this new partnership with M&C Saatchi is sure to be a success. And that was the end of Day 4.

Dinner hosted by AdForum

We went on to have dinner, hosted by AdForum, at the City Hall restaurant and all of the agencies we have met this week dropped in to see us — including a couple we have not seen this week such as R/GA — but which are long-term friends of AdForum.

More on Monday!

@jomcdowell @agencyselection


Johanna McDowellJohanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) is managing director of the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS), which stands at the forefront of the complex world of agency selection in South Africa, and she is one of the few experts driving this mediation and advisory service in SA and globally. Twice a year she attends AdForum Worldwide Summits as an international consultant, which helps her lead the SA advertising industry forward to keep in line with international trends and remain competitive.


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