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Doner advertising & marketing assignments

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Doner was until recently one of America's biggest independent advertising agencies. In 2012, though, it sold a significant minority stake to MDC Partners, and is now wholly owned by what is now Stagwell. It operates only in the US, though there was previously an international operation led from London. The main office in Detroit is partnered by satellite operations in Los Angeles and Norwalk, Connecticut. WB Doner & Co was originally founded in 1937 by Wilfred Broderick ("Brod") Doner, then just 22 years of age, and he ran it for the next 40 years. The agency grew rapidly during the late 1990s following the capture of the local Mazda account in 1997, and was responsible for developing the car company's popular and long-running "Zoom Zoom" campaign. However, Doner struggled after 2006 with a series of client losses. It attempted to stem that losing streak with an updated image and, following the retirement of longtime CEO Alan Kalter, a refreshed management team. Those changes were not enough to prevent the departure of Mazda as well a few months later. Doner mounted an aggressive new business drive, which began to deliver results towards the end of the year, not least a position on what is now the Fiat Chrysler roster. Even so, the loss of such a major account also encouraged a complete change of corporate strategy, and Doner's manager-shareholders finally agreed to surrender their independence, selling an initial 30% stake to MDC Partners in 2012. MDC has since increased that holding to 100%. David DeMuth remains CEO of Doner. AdAge estimated revenues of $87m in 2019. That year, MDC realigned its portfolio of agencies, shifting six smaller diversified units into a newly created Doner Group entity. As a result, the main agency is now partnered by digital marketing and PR unit Veritas, shopper marketing agency 6Degrees, branding shop Yamamoto, Canadian creative agency Union, strategy and PR business KWT Global and luxury and lifestyle PR HL Group. In 2021, Union and 6Degrees were merged to create DonerNorth in Toronto. Doner established an outpost in the UK in 1988 and a few years later acquired the London office of GGK, renamed Doner Cardwell Hawkins. This became the hub for Doner's international BP business until 1998. Following the loss of BP, DCH added new local clients, and eventually dropped its original name in 2012, becoming Doner UK. However, the client list dwindled and the agency finally closed its doors in 2019.

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Historical profile information for Doner

Capsule checked 23rd December 2020

Recent stories from Adbrands Update:

Marketer Moves 9th Mar 2022: New CCO TBC at Doner. See Marketer Moves (members only).

Adbrands Update 8th Dec 2021: Stagwell's Detroit-based agency Doner re-established its own branded outpost in Canada with the merger of creative boutique Union and shopper agency 6 Degrees to form DonerNorth. The new shop is being positioned as a "creative commerce" agency.

Marketer Moves 19th October 2021: New CCO at Doner. See Marketer Moves (members only).

Adbrands Daily Update 8th Feb 2021: "The Middle". No one beats Olivier Francois when it comes to scoring the ultimate celebrity marketing coup. Almost a decade ago the former Fiat Chrysler - now Stellantis - CMO managed to persuade Clint Eastwood to drop his long-held reservations about advertising to promote Chrysler. He has also managed to secure the services of Eminem (in 2010) and Bob Dylan (in 2014). For last year's brilliant 'Groundhog Day'parody for Jeep, it was Bill Murray. This time around, Francois was able to persuade The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen, to make his first ever ad, also for Jeep. The new film, made by Doner and featuring luminous photography of the American mid-West, is much more in keeping with Eastwood's serious film than Murray's comic turn. Springsteen delivers a heart-felt plea to Americans of all political persuasions to abandon the rancour of the past five years and meet again in "the middle" of these Reunited States of America. [Updated: Clearly the message came too soon. According to widespread media reports after the game, roughly half of viewers (mainly Republicans?) responded negatively to that message of unity. The situation was further damaged by subsequent reports that Springsteen himself had been arrested in New Jersey towards the end of 2020 - presumably around the same time the ad was filmed - and charged with driving while intoxicated.)

Adbrands Daily Update 15th Sep 2020: "Pale Blue Dot". We'd have to hand it to Fiat Chrysler for being arguably America's most creatively inspired advertiser. All credit to CMO Olivier Francois who has consistently pushed for some of the industry's most memorable car ads over the course of his tenure - Fiat's "Little Blue Pill", perhaps, or RAM's "God Created A Farmer", to name just two, or Bill Murray's first ever commercial earlier this year for Jeep, in a reprise of the movie 'Groundhog Day'. Here's another. After years of gentle persuasion, the widow of renowned astronomer and author Carl Sagan finally gave permission for his celebrated 'Pale Blue Dot' speech - from his book of the same name about the Earth - to be used in an ad for the new all-electric Wrangler Jeep. Credit too to agency Doner, whose idea this first was, back in 2016. Four years later, here's the spectacular result.

Adbrands Daily Update 5th Dec 2019: MDC Partners made further moves to consolidate its large collection of agencies. Six of its smaller diversified shops are being realigned to support lead advertising agency Doner. The six in question are Canadian creative agency Union; brand strategy agency KWT Global (previously known as Kwittken); influencer marketing and digital content unit Veritas; creative boutique Yamamoto; shopper marketing specialist 6Degrees; and lifestyle PR agency HL Group. All will retain separate identities but become satellites of newly created Doner Partners Network. "Doner has an over 80-year track record," said its CEO David De Muth. "We have a big client roster. But we don't do everything, and our clients are looking for more and more specialised services. We've already been collaborating with a number of these agencies, so this isn't really a force-fit type thing."

Adbrands Daily Update 22nd Oct 2019: There has been a noticeable absence of big name account wins since Wunderman and JWT joined forces nine months ago, with Duracell virtually the only banner bolt-on. As a result, Wunderman Thompson can ill-afford high-profile defections. This week, long-time JWT client Johnson & Johnson announced the transfer of its US OTC "self care" business to Doner. That includes megabrands Tylenol, Listerine and Zyrtec. The Listerine account has been with JWT for almost 60 years, and combined billings for those three products alone is well over $200m annually in the US. That represents the biggest single account win for Doner for several years.

Adbrands Social Media 3rd Dec 2015: "The Force Gathers". There seems to be a bit of excitement about some new movie opening soon... Star something...? Anyone know about it? Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have gone completely overboard with cross-promotions with no less than seven (and counting) new spots, covering all of the group's brands, all ads from the Doner agency. The quality varies a little. This one for Dodge is the best, for its sense of humour. 

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