Like just about every other powerful advertising agency, DMB&B is the product of several mergers. The first of its ancestors was the D'Arcy Advertising Company, founded in St. Louis in 1906. MacManus, Inc. began offering its services in Detroit in 1911; and Benton and Bowles opened its doors in 1929, right at the start of the Great Depression. That turned out to be a positive thing for the firm because clients were looking for innovative ways to move goods during such tight times. D'Arcy's first client was Coca-Cola; MacManus won a place in the Advertising Hall of fame for its Cadillac campaign; and B&B was responsible for such memorable advertising as Crest toothpaste's "Look Mom, no Cavities!" tagline.
By 1985, the different agencies had merged to form DMB&B. In 1996, the MacManus Group was formed as a holding company with DMB&B as its largest subsidiary. The company has offices and affiliates throughout the Americas, Asia, and Europe. Coca-Cola is still a devoted customer, and the agency still handles ads, catalogs, and brochures for GM's Cadillac and Pontiac brands. Other customers include Procter & Gamble, Burger King, and M&M Mars.
In 1997 the agency conducted extensive reorganization, shuffling top execs and restructuring its "global strategic services" in an effort to strengthen its business development and strategic planning services. In January 1998, former J. Walter Thompson CEO Susan Gianinno was hired as the agency's new chief branding officer and global marketing director. There have also been changes in response to the recent economic strife in Asia. DMB&B has made staff cuts in several Pacific Rim countries, including South Korea, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Meanwhile, industry observers report that the agency has been eyeing an independent Thailand agency and may take advantage of the opportunity to acquire it at a discount.
Wins and losses
In March 1998, the agency lost its Gateway 2000 account, which was its largest account win for 1997. Three months later DMB&B filed a breach-of-contract suit against the computer maker, and asked for $9 million in compensatory damages. (The case is still pending.) But all was not lost: the agency did get the assignment for Procter & Gamble's latest antacid, Prilosec, and in August 1998, it was tapped for global duties on the $100 million Ernst & Young account. Industry observers say this unpredictable set of wins and losses has a lot to do with the agency's lackluster creative work -- especially in its North American offices. But the agency claims its creativity is on the rise.
Breaching the Atlantic
DMB&B announced in 1999 that it planned to reorganize the company and form a trans-Atlantic operation. The goal is to link offices in North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa to access talent more readily. The company hopes that the reorganization will aid the company in landing more accounts. In June 1999 the company announced that as part of its restructuring, it would unofficially change its name to, simply, D'Arcy. The company will keep its full name legally, but its letterhead will use only the D'Arcy moniker, which the company prefers to the "faceless" set of letters it previously used. Also in 1999, the company did gain an ad account for Firstsource.com, a computer products retailer, and one for Capital One as well that year. The company has also gathered together creatives from around the world to form a "Tooth Care Project Team" aimed at developing advertisements for Procter & Gamble that will spread the word on dental hygiene across the world. Other clients in 1999 included the Australian Tourist Commission, Demasiado Holding, and Pfizer, Inc. All in all, the company obtained $500 million in new business for that year.
In November 1999, the MacManus group, D'Arcy's parent company, announced that it would merge with The Leo Group (parent of the Leo Burnett ad agency) to form an international advertising company with offices in 90 countries. The new holding company, to be headquartered in Chicago, was called BDM. Tokyo's Dentsu Inc., the world's largest single brand agency, acquired 20 percent of the new agency, making it BDM's largest shareholder. The merger was finalized in 2000, and the firm was renamed B COM3. The merged company boasts an estimated $1.7 billion in revenue and advertising spending of $13 billion.
DMB&B's new web site posts listings of job information and openings on its job track. Applicants should send resumes and cover letters to Human Resources in the office you want to work for or submit a resume online in the "drop box". The company also uses headhunters, and lists openings in industry publications like AdWeek and Ad Age.
When going for an interview, sources say "it's helpful to know some of the accounts we have, and don't be afraid to smile and laugh a little -- remember we spend eight or more hours a day with whoever we hire." The "very relaxed" interviews are usually conducted in three or four rounds. Prospective hires first meet with "human resources, followed by the group manager, and several members of the team they would be working with."
Losing the conservative edge
Sources say "a few years ago, DMB&B was a very conservative place," clients wanted conservative work, and "there was more interest in keeping clients happy than in trying to do breakthrough creative work." But "all that has changed," says one source from the Detroit office, "now we're pushing our own people and our clients to do better and better work." Whereas "our offices used to be very different from each other," today's DMB&B is more diverse, and "we're working on more global ideas." Things are "fast-paced," "exciting," and "fun." The company hires a lot of "recent college grads who tend to hang out together." Many of them "go out or hang out in the lounge area at lunch and gossip." You might find that "people get a little cliquey, but that's just because they spend so much time together."
Let your mind lead the way
"Dress code? Ha! Not in this office," reports one insider from creative who likes to wear "T-shirts, shorts and Teva sandals. I'll dress a little better when I'm seeing a client, but rarely ever wear a tie." As one source puts it, "we creatives are generally considered a strange race, and dress in whatever way our messed up minds tell us in the morning." Those in account planning and media wear business casual, suits if they're going to see clients, and "on Fridays most people wear jeans." Work hours vary from "eight hours a day to around the clock" if there's a big project going on.
Thumbs up for training session
Workers extol DMB&B's stellar training program for recent college grads, called the Professional Development Program. During an 18-month course, new hires rotate between three different departments (including media, account planning, PR, events marketing, and others). This allows newcomers to determine the area that interests them the most. One warning: "If you're entering the world of advertising on the account side, be prepared for long hours and major ass-kissing as prerequisites for getting ahead. As the rules are made (and often changed) by the clients, you will be expected to do whatever is necessary to keep them smiling."
Good perks, bad pay
Compensation is typical for the industry -- low. As one employee puts it, "DMB&B strives to be average in pay and benefits." But once you're there for a while, annual bonuses "can be good in a good year and non-existent in a bad year." Insiders warn, however, that when the agency loses clients "there is not that job security you'll find at other jobs." Perks include complimentary subscriptions to magazines, client lunches, cars home after 8 p.m., and freebies from the clients -- "we have the [M&M] Mars account, so the receptionist on every floor puts out chocolate bars at some point in the day. Then someone sends an e-mail around to the group announcing the treats in reception."
Fair and equal
"Opportunities for women and minorities are excellent in advertising in general," notes one source who adds that "this is definitely the case at DMB&B." "There are women on every level," reports one female employee, "and I've never felt that being a woman would affect my being promoted or not."
"You definitely learn a lot during the training phase," says one insider. Plus, "the DMB&B name can open doors for you in the ad world." "If you feel like you're not moving up," one source remarks, "you can always go somewhere else and make more money. That's just the way it is in this industry."
BBDO Worldwide;DDB Needham;Corinthian Communications;Grey Advertising;J. Walter Thompson;Leo Burnett;Saatchi & Saatchi;TBWA Chiat/Day;True North;WPP Group;Young & Rubicam
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