CEO of newly merged Adam&EveDDB on bringing the ‘alchemy’ of London to New York
As DDB and Adam&Eve’s New York shops merge, The Drum sits down with global CCO Richard Brim and new boss Caroline Winterton to talk about the move.
Adam&Eve’s global CCO Richard Brim and new CEO Caroline Winterton / Adam&EveDDB
Merging together DDB and Adam&Eve’s New York businesses will plug a “gap in the market” for medium-sized creative agencies, according to Adam&Eve global chief creative boss Richard Brim.
The agencies – standard-bearers among the Omnicom agency stable – are set to operate as Adam&EveDDB, under the leadership of new chief exec Caroline Winterton.
Winterton, who starts the role in autumn, was formerly the president of Digitas’ New York operations and previously led Barton F Graf as CEO, following stints at TBWA and Grey.
“I’m walking into a newly created entity with great clients and some amazing talent already on the team,” she says. “I’ll be bringing them together and figuring out the culture and working with [Brim] to understand the magic, the alchemy that’s happened in London and bring that to New York.”
The combined agency is also actively searching for a new chief creative officer. “Adam&Eve has always been about getting the smartest people we can into the room and having as much fun around business problems as we can. So, the CCO is massively important,” Brim tells The Drum.
“The CCO is paramount,” says Winterton. “We're looking for amazing talent, but also that intangible vibe that we’re looking for, to bring into this new entity. The best work comes from fun and sometimes a little bit of fighting. You’ve got to have the right level of comfort with one another to be able to push and pull the clients and the creative. That’s what we need to find.”
Why merge the agencies?
Brim says the long-planned merger aims to fulfill unmet demand among US clients for a middleweight creative shop, rather than reflecting recent commercial performance. Though Adam&Eve lost the Peloton and Jim Beam accounts last year, and DDB NY lost its Henkel business, Brim says both businesses are currently “doing well” and points to the recent Jet Blue account win for Adam&Eve, as well as yet-to-be-named new account wins.
According to Winterton, “that momentum comes at a perfect time, where we can unleash what we can do together with the two brands as a new entity.”
DDB and Adam&Eve already merged in the UK in 2012. Despite both having a presence in Germany, they operate as separate entities because founding client Deutsche Telekom wanted a “boutique” service. But in the US, he believes clients require agencies with the capacity to offer scale.
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“The German market is very different to New York. [In the US] we’ve got DDB Chicago, and that gives us two chances. There’s no point in having another operates like Chicago because they already do that brilliantly,” says Brim.
“Now Adam&Eve get to play with scale and get to be slightly less startup, slightly less scrappy. And DDB gets the energy, the freshness and the entrepreneurial lesson that can only come from a startup. It’s mutually beneficial.”
“I look at New York and I think there’s a real gap in the market for this. You’ve got indies that are doing great work, and you’ve got behemoths doing great work. There’s [room for] something in the middle that feels a little bit startup, but at scale,” he adds.
Merging the two names in London has been a long-term success, says Brim. The hope is the company can repeat that trick from new premises in Manhattan’s West Village, where Adam&EveDDB will have around 180 staff. Brim says there will “absolutely not” be any redundancies.
“We’re not planning on it; we’re too busy,” he says. “Both agencies are running at full pelt. A lot of people will see this as getting a new job. It’s a kind of reinvigoration.”
CCO is the only leadership role the agency is hiring for but it’s not the only open position. The agency’s final headcount will eventually reach 200, a spokesperson said. Brim adds: “I want to create a creative company in New York that is a place where creatives want to be, that the best talent wants to call home, that doesn’t feel too big or too small. This is the best of both worlds.”
Despite the gradual adoption of generative AI tools by creative agencies, Brim says Adam&EveDDB can still offer clients good creative at the appropriate scale by relying first on human staff.
“Both agencies have been built on humanity and the use of humanity throughout all the different technological advances over the last however many years,” he says. “AI is amazing but it can only go so far; it needs a bit of humanity.
“We’re all really impressed at the moment because of the speed and the quality of the stuff that it spits out. But there’s nothing behind the eyes.”