by Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) NEW YORK CITY: Day 1 of the 2015 AdForum Worldwide Summit saw us visiting a total of  eight agencies — three network agencies and five independents — which has to be a record!


First up was Wunderman, which has undergone a rapid transformation, with a whole new top leadership in place and a commitment to creative levels, as well as its historical data expertise. There is much focus on collaboration, and a belief that it should be providing “data-inspired creativity” to the consumer. It is blessed with long-term client relationships and the new thinking that the chief data officer of any agency now probably has the “sexiest job in the world”, according to Forbes magazine.

Johanna McDowell with BBDO global CEO, Andrew Robertson
Johanna McDowell with BBDO global CEO, Andrew Robertson.


Then it was on to BBDO, whose research keeps informing it that, while rational thinking might produce the strongest messages, emotions produce the strongest actions. We experienced a brilliant presentation from global CEO Andrew Robertson, where we learned about the effect of dopamine (confidence boosting and addictive) and oxytocin (bonding, warm feelings, trust and love) and why it is so important to have both of them in advertising campaigns.

Case studies for Wrigley “Origami” and Pedigree Dog Food “feed the good” are perfect examples of emotions producing great reaction and results to brands, and Robertson has ensured that we understand the importance of crafting of advertising. These campaigns have to be thought about and developed, and that managing risk does not mean that clients should only “pursue certainty” when evaluating a campaign idea.

Work & Co, Fancy

Five shorter sessions followed, with agencies Work & Co (mainly digital and mostly ex-HUGE) which has grown 100% in the last 12 months and employs 98 people, having started up in 2013. Then it was the all-women-owned and -run Fancy, an agency committed to advancing the lives of women in every advertising assignment that the agency gets.


A media industry overview from MyersBizNet gave us a great insight into what is happening in the media industry, why there have been so many global media reviews (driving down costs), and why the industry is not commenting on the issues regarding transparency and rebates.

Big Spaceship

A 15-year-old agency, Big Spaceship was born at the early stages of the digital revolution and has seen the changes through time with a range of clients, including YouTube, and a philosophy that everyone is creative and everyone takes responsibility within the agency — no layering.

Cool Brands

Cool Brands, an agency without offices but with two partners (one from Sao Paulo and one from Amsterdam), travels the world and works with “curators” in 30 countries — a refreshing approach to the industry.

Cheil Worldwide

And, finally, Cheil Worldwide, which treated us to a series of experiences in order to illustrate its product innovation via its Global Creative Product Council, its Tu:Hon philosophy (which is the ability to see things in a new way), its whole new leadership, too, and its commitment to building a Network for Now. While always seen as Samsung’s in-house agency, Cheil has successfully broken away from that positioning through mergers and acquisitions, and a new approach to leadership and development.

The evening ended with an excellent Korean style dinner but, with the “soul in Seoul” provided by Ghetto Gastro of New York, 30 consultants had a suitably busy start to what will be a highly informative and demanding week.

More tomorrow!

@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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