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Opinion: Diverse Minds Change the World

Deirdre Waldron, TBWA\Ireland

Six months on from the announcement that BBDO Dublin and TBWA\Dublin were merging, Deirdre Waldron, CEO of the enlarged agency writes about the challenges, opportunities and successes along the way and why mergers don’t have to be that difficult.

“Learning is like Wi-Fi. It’s invisible, but it keeps you connected to everything.”  (Unknown)

So, what are my learnings?

I’ve learned that mergers are not born in the boardroom, but in the everyday collaborations between teams. I’ve learned that mergers aren’t just about pooling resources and systems together, but more about sparking creativity by mixing up new and varied viewpoints while working on great briefs.

I’ve learned that both our clients are very ambitious, which has not only been matched but amplified by the renewed collective ambition.

I’ve learned that the path to integration actually lies in valuing individual strengths and less in driving a single ideology.

I’ve learned that being the ‘largest’ doesn’t really matter, it’s how we use that scale to make a difference that counts.

I’ve learned that we still won’t be for everyone, and that’s ok, but we’ll always give it our best shot. I’ve also learned that bigger doesn’t mean slower! If anything we are going faster than ever before and more nimble and agile because of more capabilities.

I’ve also learned that having really great agency coffee is a hugely important line item when it comes to mergers too.

I’ve learned that our industry has some serious PTSD from previous mergers and nobody believes us when we say things are going great!

Some recent work from TBWA\Ireland

What looked good on paper in a Madison avenue holding company boardroom, has actually worked out great on the ground here in Blackberry lane . This merger isn’t just about expanding our capabilities; it’s about blending two creative cultures to create something genuinely greater than the sum of its parts. I believe the results have been nothing short of amazing.

One of the standout aspects for me has been the diversity of thought and creativity it has brought to the table. We are always preaching about bringing diversity of thought into the creative process and being forced to do it through this merger by bringing together brilliant minds from different backgrounds, experiences, and specialisms has pushed us to think far differently than ever before. This merger has really been a transformative journey, filled with growth, learning, and lots of genuine excitement from both sides.

Another incredible outcome has been watching our collective ambition come to life, and finding we are aligned with the aspirations of our clients. Since our merger at the beginning of this year, we’ve created some great campaigns and creative work that have benefited from our newfound expanded capabilities. What’s great to see is how we are leveraging the strengths of both original agencies: the strategic insights and creative flair from one side, combined with the ever expanding creative canvas and innovative media from the other.

We launched our first global campaign for Optimum Nutrition in over 100 markets around the world – it was great to see the Taiwanese country manager share our artwork at a baseball match there recently on LinkedIn!

Closer to home we launched a new brand identity and brand campaign for Eir, its biggest in 10 years. For Glenveagh, we launched a new content series of 5 episodes with Dermot Bannon shot in our BOLT studio.

Meanwhile, for the GAA we launched a new campaign for the Football and Hurling Championships and for the Dalata Hotel Group, we officially took over running and performance of all of their social media accounts in January of this year, across Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands and Germany, and relaunched their brands, including Clayton and Maldron Hotels. Not to mention the continuing projects for Tourism Northern Ireland, Dublin Samaritans, Electoral commission, VW, SBCI, Audi and Dublin Simon Community.

It is amazing looking back over the last six months and realising that not only have we managed to merge two great entities and bring clients along with us, more importantly, we have delivered some great creative and some great results on behalf of those clients.

Another great example of our recent work together as a merged entity is for the Irish Traveller culture project where we launched The Mincéirí Archives developed for the National Museum of Ireland, in partnership with representatives from Ireland’s Travelling Community. We wanted to ensure that this project got the attention it deserved, so we pooled our resources and brought in team members who were deeply passionate about the racism experienced by the Irish Traveller community, Ireland’s only indigenous people. This work is a testimony to what we can achieve when we combine our creative forces for a cause we believe in.

But let’s get to the fun part – the agency vibe. I have to say the energy here is contagious. Merging two teams might sound like something out of a holding company handbook, but our approach has been more locally focussed. Because there was no real stepping on one another’s toes, there hasn’t really been an ‘us’ and ‘them’ situation. The atmosphere has been great, morale has been great and the new look TBWA\Ireland feels like a great place to work. It’s been fantastic seeing new friendships forming and creative partnerships blossoming. The Blackbird pub in Rathmines has seen a marked increase in visitors!

Our newly combined team has also embraced the concept of “Disruption®” fully which is all about breaking conventions to create real impact. This mindset has been invigorating for both teams, driving us to disrupt not just our clients’ industries but also our own ways of working. And I guess we are also disrupting the merging convention  too, by actually going really well!

One aspect of the merger that I’m particularly proud of is how it’s given us the ability to offer end-to-end solutions for our clients – this means we have the talent and capabilities to create total brand worlds for our clients – from strategy, creative, production all the way through to social, innovation, media tactics and performance.

Of course, like any significant change, the merger did come with some challenges. Integrating systems, aligning processes, and bringing together different working styles wasn’t always a breeze. But I’m very thankful to all the teams who tackled these challenges head-on and quickly so they are mostly in the rear-view mirror.

We’re just getting started, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for TBWA\Ireland. We’re ready to disrupt, to innovate, and to create the kind of work that not only meets but exceeds our clients’ expectations.

Great minds might think alike but diverse minds change the world. It’s been a real privilege to experience the magic that diverse thinking brings to the Kodak Building and how it makes us all stronger every day.

Deirdre Waldron is CEO of TBWA\Ireland

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