BBDO New York has had a great year. The agency won the Best of Shows at the ADDYs, sponsored by the American Advertising Federation; they were named Agency of the Year at the Clios; they were the single most awarded individual agency at The One Show with six Gold Pencils and also Best of Show for Design and with the festival circuit having come to an end, it has topped off the year by being named agency of the year at the recently concluded Cannes Lions 2008, with their Voyeur campaign for HBO earning them metals and a lot of the spotlight. And David Lubars, chairman and chief creative officer, BBDO North America is the man at the helm of it all. Campaign India caught up with him at Cannes and spoke to him about the future of the advertising industry and the need to refashion outdated compensation models for agencies.
Lubars, who quit creative hotshop Fallon to join the Omnicom owned agency in 2004, says it was the challenge of leading a giant like BBDO forward that interested him in the job in the first place. He said, “I had thought about starting my own little shop a few years ago. At that point, I had this counter intuitive thought, after meeting Andrew (Robertson) and his team at BBDO and being so impressed with them. Instead of doing that, what if one were to go into the bowels of a historic gigantic New York global agency, that would be historical. It seemed workable with the team that was there. Creative has always been a legacy at BBDO with Phil Dusenberry, it’s always been the best network. Now we are evolving into a more global fast, nimble boutique.”
Lubars is a man who dislikes boxes. He would much rather believe in the fluidity of the idea, in allowing it to gather its own shape and momentum. And taking this change forward is critical according to Lubars. He said, “It’s true, most of the industry doesn’t get it. I had thought (when we did the BMW series) everything was going to change now, the power of the idea to transcend the medium. We sent it to Cannes that year and they sent it back, they were not sure how to categorise it. I was really upset about that; My point was; they shouldn’t be asking whether it's an ad or not; the question that should have been asked then was - what is an ad? You had a new medium. Then it was picked up by the One Show (they gave it the best of show that year) and it started to gather momentum. Then the next year, Cannes presented the BMW series with a Titanium Lion. I thought now all the agencies are going to be doing all this great stuff and blow us away with it. But they didn't. Nobody really had anything and I thought how can that be? Ever since, it’s been like that with a few people doing things but it hasn’t reached mass, yet. I guess it’s just a human thing, it takes a longer time than you think.”
Delving into the HBO Voyeur campaign, Lubars said, “HBO had a lot of competition in the marketplace. All the networks were coming up with great compelling content. HBO wanted to say ‘We are still the most superior storytellers and by the way we don’t want to just say that on TV anymore, we want to put it out on different mediums.’ The idea was- Don’t just say it, demonstrate it. Then the creative came up with this voyeur Hitchcock type idea and off it went. We told a great story. The big insight that we had to work on was the fact that HBO was the best storyteller not just in one medium- they were the best storyteller in any medium.”
At the moment, Lubars is advocating the idea of agencies being compensated for the generation of successful ideas. It is a topic that he touched upon at the 2008 ANA (Association of National Advertisers) conference on Advertising Financial Management in USA recently. He explained, “We create ideas for clients that keep giving results, and we get paid for the hours put in. That’s not how it should work. If the idea keeps giving, you as an agency should keep getting rewarded for it. Instead we are penalized for giving a client a great idea because it keeps giving and you tend to put in less hours because the idea already exists. You cannot be paid on the basis of old fashioned 20th century TV fee models for all these new things that we are doing. I spoke about the new models for payments at the ANA. Its not an arbitrary thing, what we are saying is let’s get paid for success; if that idea is successful, then we need to be motivated.”
Despite the skepticism, Lubars says it’s a model that is worth looking at. At the moment, he says they will take it one step at a time.