If an idea works locally, it deserves a run globally: DDB Worldwide's Weiss

Ari Weiss, Chief creative officer, DDB Worldwide
Technology is disrupting advertising in a big way. Is the science of advertising taking away from the art of it?

From a science perspective, we are now seeing agencies and advertisers target different communities in more specific ways, using data technology and analytics. I think there are moments when brands want to tell specific stories to specific people. And there are moments when brands want to speak to the masses; address a wider audience. The digital medium has allowed advertisers to present stories in many different ways. But you can’t take away from the soul of advertising, which is about simple ideas that speak a cultural truth. This is what appeals to the masses. Not all of these ideas can travel globally. But I see no harm if a global idea resonates locally.

How do you specifically view digital work since this is increasingly becoming relevant for agencies and their creative people across markets?

To me, digital is a medium and not an idea. The brands that are doing digital work, know when and which stories can give them the vantage point in their creative journey. The best digital work that is happening today includes those campaigns that are most relevant to the consumers they are addressing. So I will not take away from the importance of digital work. Having said that, I am envious of ideas that are simple and can travel across any medium, whether digital or mainstream. To me that is what brings magic to the profession.  

This is your first trip to India since taking over as DDB's global creative head five months ago. What brings you here?

DDB had its first global creative council meet in Mumbai this week. Broadly, I wanted to understand the Indian market better. I've spent most of my time in the US, doing work on leading brands there. But there is a difference between heading a region (as DDB's North America chief creative officer earlier) and the world (as the agency's global chief creative officer). The transition has been huge for me — from 17 offices in North America to 200 offices that I now oversee as part of my new role. The first six months can be both terrifying and exhilarating. You have to find newer and clever solutions to problems you never had to face before. To me, it is like rebirth.

Since you've spent time going through local work this week. What struck you about it?  

I find that the culture, art and craft of India inform its advertising. While the country and its people are making the big leap into technology, using the digital medium in every sphere, there are cultural nuances that still come through in the advertising here. I find it both interesting and exciting. We have a young and talented local team that understands how to bring all of this into their work. I also find them willing and open to try out new things and use a different approach to solve creative problems.

You said earlier "the transition has been huge for me" while talking about moving froma regional to a global role. What does it take to lead a diverse bunch of people?

When you step into a role like this, you realise how little you know about other markets. There are no shortcuts here. The trick is to keep yourself open all the time. I’ve spent the last five months travelling to different places and catching up with the offices there as part of my worldwide induction. I’ve also tried to understand the cultural nuances in different markets. In Mumbai, for instance, I made it to a cricket match. And to be watching the teams playing in a stadium full of spectators has a charm of its own. It gave me a first-hand view why cricket is followed so avidly in India. I plan to do more of this; make myself available as much as possible to the people of my agency across offices. This will in no way be easy.

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