David Sable

Reports from our company leaders


David Sable

Report by David Sable
Global chief executive officer


esist the Usual. The saying comes from Young & Rubicam’s founder, Raymond Rubicam, who was, himself, an unusual leader for his time. As the first creative to found an agency, Rubicam was convinced that it was our job to resist the typical, the expected, on behalf of our clients. As he was fond of saying, “Resist the Usual.”

Jeff Bezos of Amazon has said: “If you’re only going to do the things you know are going to work, you’re going to leave a lot of opportunity on the table.” That might sound like a reckless statement, were it not for another corollary of his – to obsess over customers, not competitors. In fact, we can’t think of a more customer-centric strategy than to Resist the Usual.

Resisting the Usual in 2016 produced great results. With Resist the Usual as our call to action, in 2016 we were named the No.3 Creative Global Network at Cannes, with 99 Lions spanning 26 offices. We were the No.1 agency of the EMEA Effies, No.2 in China’s Effie Awards and No.2 for the Asia Pacific region.

Resisting the Usual is always about people first. That has never been more true than now, when data is prolific and algorithms too often left to do the job that only people can do – apply instincts and insights and historical knowledge to make full and credible analyses.

Resisting the Usual is also finding new ways to apply data. Our Best Countries platform, partnered with US News & World Report and The Wharton School is in its second year. The 2017 data has not only generated new Best Countries rankings – with some surprising results in a volatile year – but also provides a gold mine of insights about nations as brands, useful to governments, businesses and the general public.

And last year saw the key appointment of David Patton, who joined Y&R as the global president, moving from Grey. Based out of our Y&R London office, David is helping to operationally manage our extensive global network. A creative champion, a masterful strategic thinker, we are already feeling his impact and inspiration.

Resist the Usual added up to close to $100 million of new business revenue around the world, including the massive U.S. Census win, major Pfizer brands, as well as JPMorgan Chase, Cirque du Soleil in the US, Chanel, Premier League and, in early 2017, JD Williams in Europe and Xtep in China.

Resist the Usual meant leveraging the full force of our Global Boutique in new ways, for example, creating new work for Dannon Activia that brought the right people to the table from Y&R New York, Buenos Aires and London. It also meant building on our deep partnerships with VML, iconmobile and TAXI.

It meant creating new practices. Howard Courtemanche joined us as the president of a new Health and Wellness practice, which in its first six months scored four wins for over $21 million revenue. Its mission is to Resist The Usual in creating communications for consumers, always pushing for breakthrough solutions. Charter clients include Merck, Galderma, Boehringer Ingleheim, Teva, MD Anderson and Optum. In 2016, our first year, a flurry of additional new clients were won, including BMS, Pfizer OTC, PhRMA, Orexigen and Bayer. And Joe Rivas, who is the global lead on our Dell business, is heading up a Technology & Business practice. It will help clients, current and new, benefit from a shared understanding of the challenges in the sector, as well as from learnings, experience and proprietary tools we have developed. In the first quarter of 2017, we launched a third practice, Y&R Inspire Change, which will focus on helping non-profits, NGO and CSR initiatives, leveraging our deep experience helping companies, hospitals and other organizations, particularly as they face the key challenge of developing a new generation of ‘givers.’

Resist the Usual saw BAV’s fielding approach transition to a digital, online format. Even more important, we explored brand equity and BAV and how it aligns to social equity in the online space, with the objective of building a practice around that understanding.

Resisting the Usual generated a new wave of our Innovation incubator, led by our global director of innovation, Mansi Jayakumar, who was also named this year as one of Forbes magazine’s 30 Under 30 and a Shots Rising Star NYC. The new SparkPlug program has five new start-ups that will take up residence at our global HQ in New York, helping our clients find new ways to engage their customers all the while we help them shape their offering to best do that.

We also Resisted the Usual, by leveraging our HR/Talent experts to help bring new thinking to our clients’ businesses. In the fall, based on our deep relationships with colleges (from which we recruit talent and for our apprenticeship program) we worked with the Navy Partnership to arrange an IdeaHack. Y&R executives, representatives of the Navy and our Navy team, trekked up to Boston for a 48-hour exercise of creating ideas for millennials with Northeastern students in Journalism, Computer Science and Design. It was a win for everyone – new ideas that gave us insights into recruitment targets, and clearly this taste of our business adds to our ability to recruit the best and brightest.

In 2016, we expanded into two new markets – Memphis and Washington, DC – to provide the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Census with the best staffing model that is all about the professionalism, proximity and productivity they need.

Finally, Resist the Usual was about telling great stories. In Asia, we partnered with VICE to create a webcast that showed the renaissance in the Myanmar market, done as an extended eXploring exercise. In London, despite having lost the Marks & Spencer business, we signed off with what was declared the UK’s most beloved holiday campaign this year – ‘Mrs Claus’. In New York, we created a new platform for the newly split Xerox company, ‘Set the Page Free,’ and launched it by reimagining a classic spot, ‘Brother Dominic’ from 40 years ago to show the dramatic changes in Xerox technology. Also in New York, we created a campaign for PhRMA about biomedical research set to Dylan Thomas’ famous poem, ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.’