by Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) NEW YORK CITY: Day 2 of AdForum Worldwide Summit, 23–27 April 2018, was another very packed day of meetings — seven in total. This time we saw MullenLowe, Project Worldwide, Oath, Kiip, WPP (Mark Read), TBWA and CP+B.


MullenLowe CEO, Alex Leikikh, gave us an update on the merger of the two agencies, which had happened some three years ago. It has been very successful, and when so many mergers like this fail mainly due to culture and ego clashes, MullenLowe can be very pleased with what it has achieved. It has been named the most-effective agency network for seven consecutive years —quite an accolade.

The agency shared some significant statistics with us: 253 new business wins across the network over the past three years; 25 new offices; the acquisition of Salt PR, giving it 12 PR dots on the global map; 456 effectiveness and creative awards; and 86 office dogs! What has been particularly successful for it is its hyperbundling concept, especially with its Media Hub. It has won some significant media business in pitches against the traditional media agencies. It certainly intends to become best in class in media, along with its creative excellence. The intention is to become the media shop for challenger brands.

The PR network, MullenLowe Comms and Salt PR, has added a new dimension to the network; I know from our SCOPEN research that more and more clients are seeing PR as an integral part of the agency mix and they expect to see it as part of an integrated offering.

[Full disclosure: Scopen Global and Mazole Holdings (the company that owns IAS 100%) have formed a company in South Africa called Scopen Africa. Scopen Global holds the majority of the shares; Mazole is a minority shareholder. Johanna McDowell is a director of Scopen Africa, as is Cesar Vacchiano, Global CEO of Scopen.]

Activations are also part of the integrated offering, with 350 people directly working in this area across 16 offices.

MullenLowe Profero is leading the way in experience-led digital and “creating moments through unfair advantage” in the use of data and content.

Leikikh wrapped up the comprehensive session with the following comment, “Creativity will be the last legal means of differentiation.” A wise remark, indeed.

Project Worldwide

This network of agencies operates mainly in the activation and event space, with a strong emphasis on music and technology. Its case study revolved around the forthcoming three-year tour planned by Sir Elton John (it will be his last) and the use of virtual reality (VR) tech, which it employed to good use for the press conference announcing the tour. This took place in several different locations, all simultaneously, through the use of augmented reality (AR) and VR tech.

We all had chance to experience the technology, which included original footage of Sir John’s performances updated with newly created motion tech that allows viewers to recall memories of early performances by him and allows newer younger audiences to understand his music. His manager was part of the session, and shared insights and experiences of what happened during the creative process.

Project Worldwide will, no doubt, continue to work with the Elton John team over the next few years, ensuring that new footage is also captured for future uses.


Next we met digital prophet, David Shing, who shared all sorts of future predictions about brands and tech, and data and geo location, as well as trends in culture. This was a highly energised session with fast-moving commentary, and magnificent and relevant slides. A session for us all to think about.


Kiip (pronounced KEEP) is a mobile app that allows brands to engage with consumers during moments when they are the most-attentive and using their apps. Founder and CEO, Brian Wong, now 27, started the company at age 19 with three partners. He now has 150m users. Wong talked about blockchain, bitcoins and the proximity of tech — in our bodies eventually. A very inspiring and informative session.

WPP — Mark Read

Newly appointed joint COO of WPP, Mark Read, came to talk to us re the recent changes at WPP. He shared as much as he could with us (a separate report on this to follow). Essentially the message is “business as usual” but perhaps with a more-radical approach to growth.


One of the day’s highlights was a full report back from the TBWA collective — proudly NOT a network. It’s been three and a half years since global CEO, Troy Ruhanen, took over and the achievements are significant. He has particularly focused on getting the gender balance right, highlighting that, when he took over, only three of the 35 country CEOs were women. Since then, the number of female CEOs is up by 15%, female CSOs by 28% and female creative directors up by 29%.

Ever-restless, TBWA is looking to continuously improve these figures to gain the balance that it wants in the collective — eight of the women leaders conducted the presentations to us, making a strong statement regarding the determination of TBWA to correct the imbalances of the past. 12 000 people — not 97 offices — they bring the people together on the projects and clients as they are needed; assemblage is the process.

The highly innovative Backs\ash technology platform. which provides daily news at the speed of culture, now has 320 spotters across the world. This has evolved into an important tool for both clients and agency over the three years since it was created.

A very impressive session and definitely an agency that has already reinvented itself.

CP+B (Crispin Porter + Bogusky)

This is an agency also reinventing itself, with a new top team and some impressive work in the past 18 months after a period of relative quiet for an agency that was once one of the star creative agencies in the world. Its ethos is still “[t]o create the most talked-about, outrageously effective work in the world” and it couldn’t care less about any of the other jargon that normally accompanies agency methods, intentions etc.

Clients are at the centre of everything it does and offices are now in Los Angeles, London, Copenhagen, Beijing and São Paulo, with headquarters in Boulder, Colorado.

A very experienced top creative team and a new approach, with some great case studies for Domino’s Pizza, Carlsberg Liverpool beer, and Amazon streaming. Great insights and great fun.

An early start tomorrow with five agency visits, starting at 7.15 am.

And, so, to bed.

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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