2020 AOY Bronze: BBDO’s flare for fast work that works

Under new leadership, the agency moves to be more results-driven and further develops its in-house production unit.

BBDO Group Shot

This story originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 2020 issue of strategy.

Remember the week of March 9? It was a bad one. Italy had suddenly gone into lockdown and a worldwide domino effect of city shutdowns was about to begin.

Here in Toronto, BBDO had a call out for creators in Canada, the States and Europe to produce content for a project that was in the works for Doritos. The agency had a wafer-thin window to help creators in different regions (safely) pull content out of their hats before production came to a halt. It was nothing short of a feat.

BBDO was able to gather, animate and edit 20+ short films inspired by, and featuring, Doritos Ketchup chips in just a couple of weeks, says president Christopher Andrews. Some of that content (approx. 1.5 hours’ worth) included sports docs, thrillers, cook-offs, fashion and science-based shows. It was all for a free streaming service, Ketchup+, targeted to Gen Zers until the seasonal LTO was no longer available in Canada.News media gave it a major PR boost and even Heinz Ketchup added to the frenzy, tweeting, “The mystery we’d like uncovered is why you didn’t call us?” (a nod to the platform’s conspiracy show Uncovered Mysteries).

Doritos did well for its first entry into the streaming wars, getting 100,000 “subscribers” to stream and snack while sheltering in place – which ultimately led to a 10% year-over-year increase in sales.

Andrews says the agency pulled the untimely project off as a result of a 14-person production unit it’s been scaling in Canada ever since being shipped here from the U.K. in 2016. Flare, as it’s called, is led by former Big Brother exec Dave Lembke as its VP and executive producer, with the division acting as both a production and post-production arm with a roster of directors, editors, flame artists – the works.

“Clients used to have this triangle [scenario] where they’d say, ‘Make it good, fast and cheap.’ And we would say, ‘Pick two.’ But these days it’s often got to be all three,” says Andrews. “This has been going on for quite some time – but it’s certainly something that’s been heightened by the pandemic – where clients aren’t able to plan incredibly far out because of macroeconomic uncertainty and factors affecting their categories… So we’ve had to learn to be really responsive [and] to do quicker productions.”

The president joined BBDO from The&Partnership in July this year, filling the seat left by ad vet Dom Caruso who retired shortly after. A few months prior, CCOs Denise Rossetto and Todd Mackie left the shop, leaving the creative department in the hands of CDs Derek Blais and Chris Booth.

These days, the teams are having almost daily check-ins with clients, as opposed to just meeting with them over creative presentations, says Andrews. “And I think it’s getting things moving faster,” he adds, pointing to GO Transit’s “Safety Never Stops” spots, which were completed in 3.5 weeks, and Visa’s “Small Business with Dan Levy” campaign, with its one-month turnaround.

Beyond refining its communications and go-to-market speed, Andrews says BBDO is also evolving its mantra from “the work, the work, the work” to “the work that works” as it looks to bring more results-driven ideas to the table.

“We understand and passionately believe that creativity is an economic multiplier and that it can be a source of competitive advantage,” says Andrew. “But ultimately we have to be results-driven, whether it’s higher level brand-building metrics that shift over time or work that has immediate metrics – ‘the work that works’ is going to be very important for us as we move forward.”

New key business: Baycrest Health and Sciences; Sobeys.

New hires: Chris Andrews, president; Mark Holden, VP, CD; Dan Koutoulakis, VP, planning; Carissa Dougall, VP, group account director; Wes Dean, senior account director; Stephanie Balmer and Sarah Atteck, account executives; Lauren Ackley, digital marketing specialist.

Staff: 115

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