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Visiting DDB Hong Kong – changing my view of the big advertising agency

To be honest, my personal opinion of the big advertising agencies hasn’t been very good in the past. I’ve always had this impression that they bring in employees with a ‘churn and burn’ mentality and that there’s no real loyalty or empathy for staff. I guess this is based off my own individual experience working in two agencies with teams of 10 people or less. I’ve always been in small, family type offices where everyone’s mates with everyone and we all know each other personally. So coming into the DDB Hong Kong office today, I was looking forward to seeing their workplace culture and the dynamics of the big agency environment.


A little background on DDB – the company was originally formed by Bill Bernbach, Ned Doyle and Mac Dane in 1949 starting Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB). Dane ran the administrative and promotional side of the business, Doyle handled client relationships and Bernbach controlled the creative force behind the studio. Throughout the years together they developed the company into a major player within the advertising industry creating the infamous ‘Think Small’ series for Volkswagen and the ‘We Try Harder’ campaign for Avis. Both projects were major successes for the agency revolutionizing the advertising industry and bringing them multiple awards and accolades for their work. DDB went on to merge their shareholdings with BBDO to form the worldwide holding company Omnicom Media Group Inc, one of the world’s largest advertising holding companies. Today, the agency continues to dominate the advertising landscape with work that consistently wins awards all over the world.

Irene Tsui, the Managing Director of the DDB Hong Kong office, led conducted the discussion at our industry visit. Irene started off with a brief introduction about herself and her history working within the advertising industry. She’s a HK native and chose to spend majority of her career in this city, I guess proving how exciting and vibrant Hong Kong can be to choose to spend your whole working profession here. The talk moved to reviewing the typical creative agency structure in HK, explaining the key positions and the usual hierarchy of new employees up to the senior roles. She then went on to describe how projects usually span out with timelines and the responsibilities each member of the team plays within the process. Within the schedules I noticed that from initial client meetings all the way to final production, the roles of the account managers, marketing strategists, creative designers and the media planners all kind of moved in and out of the process. I asked Irene what her opinion was on the this type of structure because I felt with my own experience that projects can really benefit when all members are on board from the start to the finish. Different departments provide unique opinions and recommendations throughout the project schedule. She agreed, reflecting that DDB Hong Kong uses a similar approach to their work and that she believed creativity and business minds should come from everyone in the business.

DDB Hong Kong's incredible work
DDB Hong Kong’s incredible work

Irene followed with introducing some of DDB Hong Kong’s finest work. The first case study was their campaign for McDonalds Hong Kong ‘I’m Amazing’. McDonalds approached the agency with a brief basically asking to promote their recurring line of Hello Kitty toys for their Happy Meals. DDB Hong Kong pushed the brief further finding out what McDonalds was missing, and finding the gap in their business where the agency can really help out. McDonalds needed to reconnect with children and young families, so the agency put together a campaign giving the creative power back to the children allowing them to create their very own McDonalds restaurant. DDB Hong Kong turned the kids’ illustrations and concepts into reality, bringing all their furniture ideas to life. This process allowed HK parents to give some freedom to their children and some creativity and imagination into the lives of their kids. This campaign became very successful for McDonalds allowing the brand to build a new bond with the younger demographic, and for DDB Hong Kong winning multiple awards.

The second case study on Volkswagen’s introduction to the Polo line of cars to Hong Kong consumers was equally as impressive with a perfect understanding of their target audience and the best way to speak to them through appropriate media channels. The level of creativity was inspirational.

Our study tour team with Irene from DDB Hong Kong
Our study tour team with Irene from DDB Hong Kong

I’ll admit, after visiting the DDB Hong Kong office, having the chance to meet and listen to Irene talk about the HK advertising industry and seeing the incredible creative work they have produced over the last decade, I definitely would love the opportunity to work here. Like I mentioned multiple times, I am super impressed with the ideas and concepts generated with the above campaigns and the type of inspired environment in their studio. Being a graphic designer myself and now studying advertising, I really believe creativity is the driving force behind every successful campaign, and it seems that DDB Hong Kong promotes that type of vision in the agency. After I graduate at QUT I would love the opportunity to return to HK and potentially find a job here in this creative landscape. Fingers crossed DDB Hong Kong has some job opportunities available for ambitious, dedicated Australians!


Bachelor of Business (Advertising)

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