TBWA is the youngest of the three global advertising networks within the Omnicom group. It is positioned as an alternative agency brand, with a reputation for quirky or "disruptive" work. "Disruption" has indeed become the agency's over-riding concept, crystalising a process of challenging or overturning existing conventions about brand marketing in its creative work. TBWA is best known for its work for keystone clients such as Absolut (until 2013), Nissan, Adidas and especially Apple, for whom it has created a series of iconic marketing campaigns stretching back almost 30 years. First established in France in 1970, and acquired by Omnicom two decades later, the agency expanded rapidly during the 1990s to become a worthy partner to BBDO and DDB. Two key developments in the growth of TBWA were its merger with Los Angeles agency Chiat Day in 1995 - its US offices retain the TBWA Chiat Day name - and with Anglo-French network GGT BDDP three years later.
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Adbrands Daily Update 27th Dec 2019: "Freddie". The Dutch National Lottery - the Staatsloterij - knows that there's one sure way to grab the eyeballs of the masses and that's with a cute animal ad. TBWA Neboko stepped up to the plate last year with an adorable spot about ugly mutt Frekkel, who runs away because he thinks his owners will trade him in for a more handsome hound if they win the New Year's Eve lottery. They're back again this year with the even more adorable Freddie, a homeless hedgehog (or egel, in Dutch) whose rescuer might (or might not) have consigned his lottery ticket to a charitable winter hibernation. As is usual these days, the real stars of the film are not the actors but the CG artists who brought little Freddie to virtual life. A fine (though heavily sugared) way to see out 2019.
Adbrands Daily Update 25th Nov 2019: "The Surprise". Apple - and more especially TBWA\Media Arts Lab - might just have delivered one of the best ads of the holiday season. We've not been too crazy about the tech giant's recent Christmas ads, which have generally tended towards the soppy or the overly manufactured. However this new film marks a return to the truth and humanity which marked out an earlier seasonal special - 2013's 'Misunderstood' - as one of the company's best. Like that, this is a truly fine piece of honest story-telling about a rambunctious pair of pre-teen sisters travelling with their parents to spend the holidays with their recently widowed grandfather, with all the inevitable bumps in the road that such a journey involves. The final film ticks all the boxes: it does an excellent job of selling the benefits of Apple's iPad, while also tackling head-on the emotions of life and death and the whole darn thing. If you fail to find a tear in your eye by the end, then you must have a heart of stone.
Adbrands Daily Update 22nd Oct 2019: "Times Are Changing". Unox is Unilever's iconic Dutch culinary brand, a household staple in the Netherlands famous for its traditional smoked sausage, soups and other foods. It truly signifies something when a brand like this introduces a range of meat-free meat products. Times are changing, indeed. TBWA Neboko launches the product with a charming animation which dares to show that even a butcher's family can't tell the difference between the real thing and the vegetarian version. It's a sweet tale, beautifully animated by prodco Ambassadors.
Adbrands Daily Update 25th Sep 2019: "Mondays". The gags in TBWA New York's funny new film for Nissan's Murano model start low-key and then build to greater and greater levels of absurdity. There are some fine laugh-out-loud moments, especially an imaginative use of the car's rear parking camera and that flat-bed truck presentation. We think this boss should really be a little more appreciative of such hard-working and eager-to-please employees.
Adbrands Daily Update 13th Sep 2019: "Introducing iPhone 11". Launch ads for new mobile devices - where the main aim is to provide a run-down of all those new killer features - are generally pretty dull. To their considerable credit, Apple and TBWA\MAL have chosen to try something a bit different for the new iPhone. Those feature-sells are all present and correct, but enveloped in a vibrant, kinetic, witty film that makes the very most of the close-up power of the phone's three - count 'em! - integrated cameras. Regular readers will know by now that we are sometimes left cold by Apple's often excessively narcissistic ads. This one though is a doozy.
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Free to all users | see full profile for current activities: TBWA was formed in January 1970 by Bill Tragos, an American-born executive at Y&R's Paris office, together with three colleagues, Frenchman Claude Bonnange, Swiss-born Uli Wiesendanger and Italian Paolo Ajroldi. ''I think it's fair to say it's the only agency founded with four passports,'' Tragos later claimed. The partners set out to develop a European agency which operated in the aggressive and creative American style. By the late 1980s, Tragos had expanded TBWA's profile dramatically, opening a string of offices across Europe, as well as a small base in New York from the acquisition of two small creative shops, Baron Costello & Fine in 1977 and Flaherty & Co in 1981.
Primarily, though, the agency boasted that its growth had been entirely organic. "Built not bought", as Tragos put it. In the process, TBWA had attracted the attention of Omnicom, the recently created agency giant which owned the DDB and BBDO networks. The campaign which launched Absolut, a previously unknown Swedish vodka, garnered plaudits all over the world as one of the most innovative and creative campaigns of the decade. In 1990, Omnicom bought the fledgling network and supported further growth. This included the formation in 1992 of a joint venture with Japan's Hakuhodo, initially named TBWA\H, to handle part of the Nissan Motors European account. By 1995, TBWA had offices in 34 countries, the world's 14th largest agency, but still with a distinct international focus - only a quarter of revenues came from the US.
The answer lay with West Coast agency Chiat\Day. Founders Jay Chiat and Guy Day had each started their own creative agencies during the mid-1960s but joined forces in 1968 under the Chiat\Day name. (According to legend, they flipped a coin to decide who would be named president. Day lost the toss, and assumed the title, allowing Chiat the freedom to devote himself to creative work). By 1980, that shop had become one of the most admired in the US as a result of work for clients including Honda and Energizer batteries, for whom it created the Energizer battery bunny. However, Chiat\Day truly became the toast of the industry after launching Apple computers with Ridley Scott's celebrated "1984" ad. Ironically, that film was almost canned before it was ever shown. Commissioned to run during the 1984 Super Bowl, Apple's management team was horrified when it first saw the finished 60-second ad. Initial testing of the ad with consumers before it aired seemed to suggest it would flop and at the 11th hour Chiat\Day was instructed to pull the two slots booked and try to sell them to another advertiser. However, according to legend, Apple's semi-retired co-founder Steve Wozniak loved the film and volunteered to pay for half of the cost himself. The resulting ad defied market testing and was greeted with industry-wide acclaim. However, despite the enormous acclaim generated by the 1984 ad, the computer company moved its business two years later to BBDO, partly because Chiat didn't have an international network, but also because a follow-up commercial, Lemmings, really did turn out to be a flop with customers. Another star account, Nike, also moved on despite a stunning set of ads to promote its fast-expanding portfolio of sports celebrities endorsements.
Seeing the problems inherent in its US-centric positioning, Chiat\Day began exploring the possibility of international expansion later that decade. Talks were begun with BDDP and CDP of the UK, but stalled over terms. Finally, Chiat\Day agreed a deal at the end of the decade to acquire Australian creative boutique Mojo, which also had a small outpost in London. However the early 1990s were difficult for Chiat\Day. Its Australian and UK outposts both under-performed - neither was able to pick up the local portion of key US account Nissan - and leadership of the US agency suffered from friction between Jay Chiat's two most senior managers, creative director Lee Clow and account director Bob Wolf. (Guy Day had retired in 1986, and died in 2010). There were also account losses, including Reebok, picked up as a replacement for Nike in the late 1980s but finally lost in 1993.
Rumours of a sale of Chiat\Day began to circulate the same year. A major contributing factor was a fast-approaching deadline for repayment of a $50m refinancing bond taken out at the end of the 1980s. To raise cash, the Australian outpost of Mojo was sold to FCB in 1992 (it eventually ended up in Publicis as a result of those two group's acrimonious divorce), but talks to merge Chiat\Day with other independent agencies failed to reach agreement. Finally, in 1995, Chiat\Day secured a deal to sell out to Omnicom, just as its bond repayment fell due. The US shop was merged into the TBWA network. It was neat fit - TBWA already managed the Nissan Motors account worldwide outside Japan except in the US, where Chiat\Day held the account. Jay Chiat retired from the business and died in 2002.
The subsequent absorption of GGT and BDDP (see separate profiles) gave the new TBWA Worldwide entity billings of some $6.4bn by 1999. But the enlarged network also contained also numerous several differently branded agencies in different countries. A particular problem was London, where TBWA had already had to deal with fierce resistance to takeover from the UK arm of Chiat\Day, which instead broke away to become St Luke's. The first step towards consolidation of the UK portfolio was the merger of the GGT and TBWA London offices in 1998.
Also in 1998, TBWA took a 70% stake in Japanese agency Nippo, previously controlled by its client Nissan. Nippo was then the country's 16th biggest agency with billings of $311m. Just over a year later, as part of its continuing drive to capture a bigger slice of the Nissan business, TBWA proposed the extension of their European joint venture with Hakuhodo to cover the car company's global account. After months of negotiation, this was finally agreed in 2000, under the name \G1 Worldwide.
In late 2000, the agency formally adopted the TBWA\ brand worldwide, instructing all of its subsidiaries to change their names to the new format. The first to seize the opportunity was the UK office, which dropped its mouthful moniker of TBWA GGT Simon Palmer to become simply TBWA\London. Former GGT founder Mike Greenlees, previously worldwide president & CEO of TBWA, moved to a more senior role at Omnicom in early 2001, and was replaced by Jean-Marie Dru, previously president & CEO International.
In 2005, Dru was widely tipped to replace Alain de Pouzilhac as chairman & CEO of rival group Havas. Dru was strongly tempted, but after two weeks of press speculation as well as intense lobbying from TBWA and Omnicom colleagues, he declined the Havas offer. Also during 2005, the president of TBWA\New York, Shona Seifert, resigned after she was found guilty of conspiring to defraud the US government's ONDCP unit in her previous employment as president of Ogilvy & Mather in New York. See full profile for current activities
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