TBWA is A-List 2022 Network of the Year
TBWA for decades built its reputation on iconic advertising, from its much-heralded Absolut vodka print ads to the classic “Mac vs. PC” campaign for Apple. But the Omnicom-owned network’s move beyond advertising is what is fueling its success these days—including in 2021, which TBWA calls the greatest growth year in its 52-year history. It posted a 5-to-1 global win-to-loss ratio—including snaring big accounts like Discover in North America and global health technology marketer Philips, while retaining its top 20 clients, growing its relationship with 65% of them.
The agency’s 2021 work often had very little to do with traditional ads. For Nissan, TBWA in South Africa created a version of the Waze driving navigation app that made use of IsiZulu, a commonly spoken language in the country not previously available on Waze. The product fed into Nissan’s “Intelligent Mobility” brand position, while endearing the automaker to local residents by feeding into the movement to promote native African languages.
TBWA even got into the toilet business, creating a prototype voice-controlled public toilet in Japan meant to ease COVID fears and aid accessibility. The effort came from TBWAHakuhodo and TBWA’s Disruption Lab, an innovation and design studio.
The approach stems from a pivot TBWA made a couple of years ago to up its strategy game, hiring new heads of planning and other consumer intelligence experts who are guiding clients on a lot more than advertising. Its top creative executive, Ben Williams, who was hired last year from R/GA, has the title global chief creative experience officer, a moniker that is indicative of TBWA’s mindset.
“The problem is when you just get classified as an advertising person, then you are there just to solve a communication challenge. We are much more than that,” said Troy Ruhanen, CEO of TBWA Worldwide. “I believe the only viable business model going forward is proactivity. That is where you have to lean on intelligence and knowledge and insight and data and turning that into proactive business partnering and thinking for our clients.”
By E.J. Schultz