We don't need no stinkin' Slack

Forget fancy software. When collaborating globally, BBDO prefers to keep it old school

There is no such thing as a mutually convenient time for a conference call between Sydney, New York and Beijing. Yet with all the collaboration platforms now available, all the tools that allow teams to "socialize" ideas, BBDO Worldwide – one of the largest advertising agency networks in the world – relies on nothing more than e-mail messages, video conferences and phone calls to collaborate on global campaigns.

A recent conversation from the office of David Lubars…

Campaign: And again, I know I asked you before, but really – there’s no Slack, no internal software? It’s really just phone calls? That’s all
there is?

Greg Ketchum, executive creative director, BBDO New York: I said right out the gate, it’s not like some kind of big…

David Lubars, chairman and chief creative officer, BBDO WORLDWIDE: E-mails, phone calls…

Ketchum: Yeah.

Kirsten Flanik, managing director, BBDO New York: Really.

Campaign: Just massive reply-all e-mail chains that go on for days and days and days?

Flanik: No.

Lubars: Yes there are. Of course there are. And because we all know each other, we’re not like: "Wait, what’s this?" And it’s not massive. We’re like ten people.

Ketchum: Yeah, exactly. It’s not too many people.

Lubars: We’ll use titles for the
outside world, but here we work as a team, as I said. And we just get stuff done.

Flanik: And then David will make fun of somebody and then 25 e-mails will be about that joke.

Lubars: Exactly.

What does this mean for BBDO offices outside the US? A lot of 10.30pm calls, Bryce Coomb, the managing director at Clemenger BBDO in Sydney, says.

But it has its advantages too. "We can work and write all day, engage with our local clients during the day, send it to New York and let them digest it while we’re sleeping," Coomb adds. "Then we come in at 8am to suggestions and approvals. So it kind of syncs up reasonably well."

Whether the agency is just incredibly well co-ordinated or incredibly behind the times is hard to say. There is no shortage of much smaller agency networks using collaboration technology to streamline their creative process (see page 52). But maybe there is a paradox at work: the larger the agency, the less technology needed to connect its people. Because the big guys can afford the travel expenses.

"Andrew [Robertson, the president and chief executive of BBDO Worldwide] does a really good job getting us all together in the same
place a couple times a year," Flanik says.

"So if someone calls you for a favor or help, it’s not like: ‘Who the fuck is…,’" Lubars says. "No, like, I know them. I had drinks with them in Barcelona and it was very cool."

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