DDB North America’s Plan to Bring Unexpected Creativity to Unexpected Places

Justin Thomas-Copeland, Eric Zuncic and Britt Nolan on putting people at the centre of the agency’s transformation.

“An idea can turn to dust or magic, depending on the talent that rubs against it”. Talent and people are the foundation stones of a successful agency. DDB co-founder Bill Bernbach knew it and decades later, after one of the most difficult years the network and indeed the industry has known, the agency’s current leadership know it too.

For the DDB North America leadership team, looking after its people and helping them grow is key to their strategy for 2021.  When Justin Thomas-Copeland joined as North America CEO in July last year, he plunged straight into a change agenda. As the network was running to figure out (and help clients figure out) the Covid reality live, he and the leadership team knew that they also needed to use the 2020 shake up as a chance to strengthen the agency, to allow it to respond to clients’ changing needs but in a sustainable, healthy way.

And so, Justin, along with North America CCO Britt Nolan and CSO Eric Zuncic have been working closely over the past six months to do just that. That process started with people – auditing the talent and capabilities they really had, identifying gaps and finding ways to up-skill and educate their existing employee base on live client work, with the help of mentors and specialists from across the Omnicom holding company.

“One of the first things we did was a real audit to connect with what our talent base in DDB North America is. So, we did a complete review of everyone in our organisation across the entire region, bar no one,” says Justin. Similarly, they’ve also been making sure they really understand the capabilities across Omnicom and know who they can draw from. “As an example, we’ve got one client, whose strategy and North Star is to become a connected commerce brand. So, we’ve brought in people from our commerce group in Omnicom, who are subject matter experts that are working now with our business leads. And after four months the business leaders have got a new perspective on the business, they’ve got a new vocabulary, they’ve got a new skill set. Give them another six months, they will be even deeper.”

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