Young & Rubicam Brands


Hamish McLennan, Global chief executive officer

Report by Hamish McLennan (above)
Global chief executive officer

In 2008, Y&R’s performance can be characterized by three words: reinvention, relevance and resurgence. Despite the uncertainty that continues to hover over the global marketplace, 2008 was one of solid progress and performance.

We reached into our DNA and embraced Raymond Rubicam’s founding credo to “Resist the Usual.” Resist the usual in the search for talent. Resist the usual in approaching client challenges. Resist the usual with smart consumer research. Resist the usual by creating content for new media. But above all, resist the usual with creativity.

The banner headline for the year remains our creative reinvention, sparked by the arrival of Tony Granger, one of the industry’s top creative leaders, as global chief creative officer. Kerry Keenan joined as director of creative content globally. Across our network, top new talent has refreshed our creative ranks. In New York, Scott Vitrone and Ian Reichenthal joined from TBWA/Chiat Day, and we have infused our New York headquarters group with talent that hails from around the world and across the creative content spectrum, including digital, viral and ambient. Although Tony has been with us less than a year, he has attracted a disproportionate share of the world’s creative talent, organized it as a true global network and created a creative infrastructure and culture that is already producing spectacular work.

In 2008, we drove revenue growth with three major global gains, proving once again that organic growth is often the most gratifying. Our win of LG at the beginning of the year developed into a 50-market assignment by year’s end. Already the agency of record for Danone’s dairy division, we drew the massive Danone water assignment, which includes most of Danone’s water brands except Evian and spans Europe, Asia and Latin America. We also consolidated Bacardi rums at Y&R after a review, winning brands that include Flavours and Gold Rums. Indeed, eight of our top 10 clients grew this past year, both horizontally and vertically.

2008 also saw the resurgence of Y&R North America. Tom Sebok returned to Y&R (where he spent his formative years in the industry), taking on the critical role of president and CEO of the region. John Berg joined the North America network as president and CEO of Y&R San Francisco. New business flourished in the region, with new national clients like Office Depot, DoubleTree Hotels, Cellular South, Giant Eagle, Rubbermaid, Bonefish Grill and, most recent, In Advertising Age’s annual agency report, we were named the No.4 agency, up from No.11 two years ago.

We continued to invest in the emerging markets of the world. We made a major commitment in the Middle East by taking a majority stake in Team/Y&R, a long-standing joint venture and a creative leader in the region. We reinvigorated our operations in China, and brought in Marcus Rebischini to be the chief creative officer of Asia. In Latin America, we continued to have the No.1 agency in Brazil, a creative powerhouse in Argentina and a network of top-flight creative agencies across the region. In Australia, Nigel Marsh, a noted industry luminary, joined as our group CEO and has taken important steps to recharge our agencies there. Agencies in Brazil, London, Melbourne and Barcelona helped raise our profile and outperformed in their markets.

Y&R also continued to make its mark as thought leaders. John Gerzema, along with Ed Lebar of BrandAsset® Consulting, published The Brand Bubble, a prescient look at how companies have overvalued their brands and strategies for combating same. Additionally, we continued our tradition of leading seminars with some of the world’s top thinkers and players. This year, we brought Rupert Murdoch and Peter Chernin to Cannes, where they offered their thoughts on the media and marketing landscape to a standing-room only audience.

Y&R took home more Gold Lions at Cannes last year than previously and has begun to take home prizes in new content and digital categories. SAA/Y&R Tel Aviv, for example, won four Lions at Cannes, Gold at the Clios and swept the national Israeli creative competitions for its ‘Missing Soldiers’ event.

We began 2009 with the announcement that we have formalized our partnership with VML, naming them our global digital partner. VML is a highly-rated digital brand, known for its innovative thinking and resources. In New York, our existing digital operations united with VML’s under the name VML/Y&R. We will carry this structure and name around the world. Matt Anthony, VML’s CEO, added chief global digital officer to his responsibilities. In addition, we announced our partnership with MARS, a leading shopper marketing agency, which we will also build out around the world. Both offerings increase our relevance to marketers and address the challenges they face today and tomorrow.

With our agency network stronger than ever, we are positioned to help our clients weather the global recession with greater capabilities and creativity.