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Ari Weiss on leaving DDB to launch indie: ‘You’re only as good as your latest bit’


By Sam Bradley, Journalist

March 5, 2024 | 6 min read

Quality Experience’s Ari Weiss – one of the best creatives in the business, according to our World Creative Rankings – discusses his decision to follow a successful career at DDB with indie agency launch.

Ari Weiss

Ari Weiss, co-founder of Quality Experience / Norman Jean Roy

You’re one of the best commercial creatives in the ad industry. You’re at one of the best shops in the business, making some of the best work in marketing, full stop. What next?

In November, Ari Weiss landed on an answer to that question: start over. The former chief creative officer of DDB Worldwide was ranked among the top five chief creative officers in the industry in this year’s World Creative Rankings.

But last year, he left to launch his own indie shop, Quality Experience, alongside Cristina Reina (formerly of McCann), Colleen Leddy and Dan Gonda, both formerly of Droga5.

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“In this industry, you’re only as good as your latest bit – all the pedigree in the world means nothing until we do something together,” he says.

“We have three things in the pipeline right now and all three are quite different.” All three, he adds, are projects that couldn’t have come out of DDB, McCann or Droga5, either. For one thing, the shop is focused on creating work that consumers experience rather than consume.

“This value proposition, ‘experience is everything and everything is an experience,’ it’s going to define the work we do and I think it’s going to define the clients that seek us out,” he says.

The agency, he says, aims to bring high-end creative thinking and discipline to modern, multichannel campaigns. A firm curating hand, he argues, is lacking among even the biggest advertising campaigns. “Everything is an experience now,” he says. But creatives and marketers don’t spend as much time perfecting work that goes out on TikTok, or Instagram, as they do for TV – despite the fact that consumers might only find it in those environments.

“How many platforms did Super Bowl commercials run on, on average? Seven? If they see one of those seven pieces, it should still be as rewarding as if they see three. Otherwise, you don’t end up building a brand; you just add to the clutter.”

Weiss – who is speaking with The Drum the morning after the Super Bowl, with watch party decorations still hanging above his laptop – says he doubts viewers enjoyed the event’s advertising fiesta as much as marketing professionals do.

“I think a lot of brands are forgetting their audience and I think they’re kind of getting caught up in interesting advertising case studies. The regular person we’re trying to reach out there… I just can’t imagine they can follow the plots any more.

“When you try to kind of campaign those types of narratives out across multiple platforms, it’s really hard.”

Weiss’s solution is to return to the foundational ideas at the heart of creative work. “It always comes down to making sure the idea is dead simple.” It’s difficult to use simple ideas across channels, he notes, but not impossible.

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DDB’s ‘Broadway the Rainbow’ work for Skittles, he says, was such a concept – beginning as a PR-grabbing rejection of the Super Bowl itself and culminating in a Broadway musical seen only by 1,500 members of the seated audience.

The work was successful as a whole and in its separate parts, says Weiss. “You have to keep hammering it, but you make sure each bit works individually.”

“Ultimately, focus and simplicity are important to do these modern experiential pieces.”

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