Reports from our company leaders


Report by David Sable
Global chief executive officer


s digital took hold, no matter where you were  or what you did in the industry, the conversation became all about DIGITAL FIRST. Then, industry buzz turned to mobile as device and software enabled us to untether and MOBILE FIRST became the password. Next came wearable, and  now virtual reality seems to be following. And no doubt something else is sure to take its place in due time.

Our belief, our mantra – and we’ve spread the word from Davos to Mobile World Congress to DMEXCO – is this:

It’s not digital first, or mobile first or wearable first.


Without the context, without the insight, without understanding basic human need and creating a narrative rooted in deep human truth, no marketing – digital, mobile or otherwise – will ever matter. How could it possibly?

It is important to remember this now, when there are so many incredible innovations like Facebook and Snapchat and YouTube changing the way we communicate and share content. They are all intrinsically filled with possibility, but without filling them with stories, they are merely empty software loops.

Digital, the basis of it all, makes the things we do more efficient and creates new opportunities for engagement. Mobile isn’t about devices, it’s about freedom and empowerment. Virtual reality isn’t about glasses or gizmos, it’s about unleashing imagination.

Being human to the core is what makes today’s innovations and technology so powerful and efficient. It’s what gives brands credibility as global citizens. It’s what resonates and activates. And it’s what makes things go viral.

Last year, for example, our New Zealand office came up with an idea for Burger King to support Peace One Day. It began with an understanding of the burger wars – itself a very human and humorous manifestation of brand loyalty. In an open letter placed in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Miami Herald, Burger King offered an ‘olive branch’ to McDonald’s and suggested that, in the spirit of Peace Day, for one day they join burger forces and create a McWhopper.

A full range of content, digital and otherwise, as well  as online engagement vehicles, events and activation gave people the ability to share, participate, and create struck such a chord that DIY McWhoppers were created, Instagrammed, Snapchatted, posted on Pinterest and Facebook, shared all around the world. Both Peace One Day and Burger King benefited.

Earlier this month, the McWhopper was awarded the GRANDY, the top award at the ANDY awards. Y&R also vwon the top award for Outstanding Public Service with GPY&R Brisbane’s ‘Melanoma Likes Me.’

Creativity is telling the story, innovation is how we share it and technology is how we engage with the story

The most elegant stories are often quite simple. In the Philippines, our agency created a print ad for North Face. Dipped into water, the ad becomes an LED camping light with 24 hours of power, giving someone a pragmatic solution rooted in the brand’s exploring nature.

And in Turkey, we worked with Vodafone to create a Cannes Grand Prix-winning ‘secret campaign’, ‘Between Us’, promoting an app to help women alert trusted friends when they are facing immediate domestic violence. The app has been activated over 100,000 times.

Cannes awarded us 89 Lions last year, including a Grand Prix and a Chimera Lion, placing us as the fourth most-awarded network for the fourth consecutive year. Perhaps even more important, we had more offices across more regions winning Lions than any other agency, a validation of our creative community and our Global Boutique philosophy.

Not unrelated, since 2015, we were named Agency  of the Year in 19 markets, spanning Europe, Asia, Latin America and Australia/New Zealand. And our 42 Effies, won in every region, reflects the depth of our planning community. The strength across our network comes out  of the same Global Boutique philosophy that recognizes  the importance of local strength, while leveraging a global community that shares values, resources, tools and talent.

We promoted Andrew Dimitriou and Phil McDonald  to lead Europe and Australia, respectively. We brought in Ramzy Abou-Ezzedine to lead the Middle East and John Lynn to lead Latin America. Leslie Sims joined Y&R New York as the Chief Creative Officer and Adweek named her one of the Top 10 Creatives doing breakthrough work at agencies. Ken Dowling returned to Y&R after many years to lead the US Navy business won in spring and to launch Y&R Memphis.

We began 2016 with the launch of a new platform at Davos. Best Countries, based on BrandAsset Valuator data and created in partnership with US News & World Report and The Wharton School, gives exceptional insights on nations as brands. News of their countries’ strengths had heads of state, including Justin Trudeau and Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as the German, Swedish, Dutch, Peruvian and Slovenian governments tweeting and quoting their rankings, and even merited a mention on Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show. Going forward, we believe this an important tool not only for governments and tourism agencies, but for companies wanting a new filter for understanding markets around the world. This will be annual and we are already working to expand Best Countries to Best Cities thinking.

At the Y&R companies, we understand that creativity  is telling the story, innovation is how we share it and technology is how we engage with the story. We have talented people in place who know how to leverage these incredible opportunities competitively, and we have a way of working together that drives great creative product and strong business results. We are optimistic that in 2016  we are positioned to help our clients meet today’s market challenges, understand their customers in an unparalleled way, and create compelling stories that are brand- and business-building.