BBDO Brass Talk Creating Fame for Brands

Robertson and Lubars on creativity and clients

CANNES, France—Fresh off a panel comparing admen to some of history’s great artists, Andrew Robertson, president and CEO of BBDO Worldwide, and David Lubars, chief creative officer of BBDO North America, met with Adweek on the rooftop of the Palais des Festival to discuss creativity, clients, and why the Omnicom agency's leaders are really here.

Adweek: What're you hoping to get out of Cannes this year?

David Lubars: The same thing every year: To see what everybody's doing. Not to do trends, because trends mean it's done already. But just to see how open creativity can be, you know, to help our clients.

Andrew Robertson: The wonderful thing about Cannes is it is a truly global show. The work that you see here is work that you don't see showing up anywhere else. I always find that quite inspiring.

Anything from a commerce perspective?

Robertson: We've got a lot of clients here, I’m happy to say. The number has been increasing steadily over the years. What I’m seeing is there are fewer clients coming from each individual company, but more companies coming, which I think is a good thing. So, we've got a lot of stuff going on with clients.

Lubars: The thing I like about the clients coming is they understand that creativity can really be an economic multiplier. So this isn't just some beauty contest. This is to come see how to jack up your efforts.

Any work you're feeling particularly good about—are expecting to win?

Lubars: I try never to feel good about anything, or too bad. But I think our Carlton work from Australia is fantastic. I think our Smart Car work from Germany is fantastic. So I have high hopes for some of those things.

Any sense of the kind of work we can expect to see for Emirates Airline, and when?

Lubars: It's so new, we don't know.

Robertson: It'll be a few months.

Any other plans for bouncing back from the Gillette loss?

Lubars: Yeah, keep on keeping on.

Robertson: We fight again at dawn. It's what happens.

More broadly, is viral a key driver for success?

Robertson: If you look at the work that was done by Peter Field, he did an analysis of the IPA effectiveness winners: 396 cases, so a pretty good sample, all of which had passed the hurdle of proving that they were effective. Then he separated out those that had won creative awards from those that hadn't, and they measured the difference in the efficiency of the ones that had won creative awards from the ones that hadn't. The answer was 11 times—and that's the universe of effective advertising. If you took the whole universe, you'd measure it in thousands. Then, [Field looked at] what were the characteristics of work that had won creative awards. The two most significant things were the vast majority of things leverage emotion, which makes sense the minute you say it, and the second thing was fame—work that was famous. It was creating fame in and of itself and fame for a brand. That ability to generate fame for a brand—one of the dimensions of which these days is the way in which work gets shared through social media—is a really, really big driver of effect.

Lubars: In fact, I think it's a failure without it. Because that's a free way … that's today's word of mouth. To have it passed around because you want to and love to. That means the viewer is investing in the brand rather than just being a receiver of it. And that's how you really create relationships.

Does that mean brands no longer control the message?

Lubars: That's been for a long time already. I found it very liberating to let people decide if you're doing a good job or not.

Robertson: They do anyway. They just didn't used to be able to tell you.

@GabrielBeltrone Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.