How the Alchemy of the Unexpected Allows DDB to Span the EMEA Region’s Chasms of Culture

DDB EMEA president Glen Lomas explains to LBB’s Alex Reeves how unexpected backgrounds, models and skills blend to strengthen creativity across the network.

Glen Lomas’ whole career has been at DDB. And he’s lived its culture from day one. When he first started at DDB London in 1995 he received a book of Bill Bernbach quotes. He devoured it. “It was brilliant. He was a sort of Hemingway of ads.” 26 years on Glen is president of DDB for Europe, Middle East and Africa and he stands by the network founder’s truth nuggets.

One that particularly stands out in today’s context is: “Memorable never emerged from a formula.” Just a few weeks ago the global agency network launched Unexpected Works, a campaign and evolved brand promise that DDB has launched to refocus its goals and ethos. It’s central message being that creativity is at its most powerful when it’s unexpected, or in the famous B of DDB’s words, not emerging from a formula.

Having been immersed in DDB’s approach to creativity for two and a half decades – working first in the UK, then for 10 years in South Africa, before taking up a series of regional network management roles – Unexpected Works feels true to DDB’s ethos going back to Bernbach. “Unexpected Works is true to what he believed and what our entire company is based on,” he says. “So, I don’t think Unexpected Works is new.”

The difference now, Glen stresses, is that rather than just feeling that it works, the industry is able to back that hunch up with facts, figures and behavioural studies. He rattles off Ehrenberg-Bass, Les Binet and Peter Field – familiar sources of some of the research that’s given scientific credence to Bernbach’s musings. “Now we can demonstrate that creativity does work.”

The fountain from which unexpected creativity flows, Glen considers, is based on the hundreds of unique people he’s encountered in his DDB career. “There’s no cookie cutter type of person that works at DDB,” he says. “We have all sorts of people in our agencies from unexpected backgrounds, with unexpected talents and unexpected skills. And it’s that weird, wonderful alchemy that means you get more interesting ideas than if you were all born in the same place – which has never been the case at DDB.”

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