by Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) NEW YORK CITY: Just over 30 global pitch consultants set out on Monday morning, 23 April 2018 for meetings with a total of six agencies. The first session of the Spring AdForum Worldwide Summit, 23–27 April 2018, started at 8.15 am and the final one finished at 21.45 pm. We were fed and watered all day, and transported by coach all around New York —a fantastic experience that I never get tired of.


DDB was first up and it’s fascinating to see how a leadership change in the past 18 months has changed the way that this agency presents itself. We were taken into the middle of the agency and tables were set up for us to work from, and that is where the presentation took place. No more dark boardrooms or mini cinemas. It was very refreshing and apparently the way that the agency conducts most of its presentations these days, including new business pitches.

Led by global CEO, Wendy Clark, the content and principles within the presentation were clear and concise. Some highly creative, results-driven case studies for McDonalds’ (International Women’s Day), Skittles, Marmite and Joh Lewis were shown to us. Inspiring work with excellent returns on investment.

We learnt more about the cross-capabilities teams that have been set up to work on clients. These teams include other agency partners, media partners and marketing partners; it all depends on what is needed for that client. It has built several of these teams across the business in order to deliver the service that its clients require and can connect with.

DDB certainly set a very high bar for the rest of this summit.


GREY was next with global CEO, Michael Houston, and his team telling us about their approach and how they are breaking down barriers, re-thinking creativity and how GREY New York is investing 75% of its resources into creativity. The consumer is at the centre of everything that they do. The investment is going into various aspects of creative talent, especially in the area of production (they call it best sourcing). With offices in 96 countries, 154 cities and 5000 employees, GREY is still one of the smaller networks in the world and it has flattened its structures in order to ensure that clients have access to the broadest, most-diverse creative minds.

Work & Co

Work & Co is a digital agency that defines, designs and launches digital products. An independent agency with six offices, it involve its clients as early as possible in the design process of products such as mobile apps, websites, ecommerce platforms, in-store digital tech, digital kiosks and bots. Ninety percent of its business is repeat, with clients as long-term partners and the agency focusing on continuous optimisation.

You & Mr Jones

David Jones gave us an account of what has been happening with the company in the last few years since we saw it. It is firmly in the sector where brands and tech meet, and this has been a very successful positioning with many large investments in various businesses that deliver content, marketing solutions, data. This is not, and never will be, an advertising agency or holding company of the typical kind that we’ve been used to in recent years.


Part of the M&C Saatchi network, SS&K is an agency that has a track record of political and cause-related advertising but which is equally comfortable with typical consumer brands. It’s an agency that wants clients who want to make a change, who are ambitious.


Born out of VICE in 2013, the agency has grown all over the globe, including a small presence in Johannesburg and Nairobi most recently. It has strong creative and production capabilities, a full data-analytics team and an impressive list of clients. The agency is hungry for more pitches — that was its message to us as pitch consultants. One of its clients (from PARK MGM) was present and told us what it was like to work with the agency and the successes that they had achieved together as a team. A fresh approach at the end of a long day — just what we needed.

And, so, to bed.

Seven agencies to meet on Day 2. More tomorrow.

See also


Johanna McDowellJohanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) is managing director of the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS), which is partnered with the AAR Group in the UK. 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, keep in line with international trends and remain competitive. Johanna also runs the IAS Marketers Masterclass, a programme consisting of masterclasses held in Cape Town and in Johannesburg.

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