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Intelligence Briefs

DDB reveals McDonald's special sauce recipe

Industry Contributor

Rosie Baker
Group Communications Director - GroupM

5 August 2019 3min read

Bigger ideas, hotter work and juicer briefs stem from the best clients working with the best agencies. But what is the real secret sauce to delivering such work and how can the balance of short and long term goals truly be reached? McDonald's and DDB outlined the recipe for success at Advertising Week APAC.


Key points

  • McDonald’s and DDB have been working together for 45 years
  • Strength of relationship enables better blend of long-term brand building and short term results - marketing director Jo Feeney
  • DDB managing director of strategy and innovation Leif Stromnes says agency and client work as one team
  • DDB has access to McDonald’s daily results and sales data
  • Have developed “rules of engagement” for how they treat each other and behave to harmonise relationship 


My Takeout

Banning the c-word ('client'), acting as one team, sharing data, incentives and pressure to perform are notable ingredients in a relationship now spanning 45 years. 

Though that tenure is exceptional, lessons can be learned. 

Those on the agency side know they are in the service business - that is the reality, but in the most effective, long lasting relationships, that isn't how they are treated. The beauty in a long term relationship is the trust and understanding that comes with the partnership. They are two-way dialogues. How can any client expect trust and good work if the agency is dangled on a string, with the threat of a review from day one?

Banning the word client may appear a shallow metric, but it goes much deeper than semantics and builds the structure of ‘one team’ beyond lip service and into behaviours.

“We are absolutely one team and that is how we treat each other. We aren’t one of those who hands over a brief on a Friday night at 5pm and says 'see you later we’re off and we want something by Monday'. That happens in the world of marketing but that is fundamentally not how we operate,” said marketing director Jo Feeney.

Every Wednesday the whole of McDonald’s marketing team, which is about 50-60 people, is in the DDB offices. Described by DBB managing director of strategy and innovation Leif Stromnes  as “moving day”, he said having that rhythm, that discipline and opportunity to engage and talk about projects in the flow, every week, is crucial.

In an era where first party data is coveted and data compliance fears sky high, it's notable that McDonald’s is willing to open up its backend revenue and sales system to its agency partner. Having access to the direct sales data in the way described is a rarity, but the agency is treated as an equal, in the wins and failures.

“When you are at the coalface with sales targets and licensees phoning you directly asking why sales are not tracking well, you bond very quickly and you do from trusting relationships at that coalface ... We are responsible for their sales and we are getting incentivised and pressured to perform as McDonald’s are - that is the ultimate cauldron of trust,” said Stromnes.

The long-standing relationship also enables long-term brand building while also working to deliver short-term performance, without skewing the balance, something Feeney describes as a constant tension.

The benefits of having a lengthy and historical relationship between agency and client are clear - but that's not to say longer is always better. 

A new agency, like a new romantic relationship, comes with excitement, energy and new ideas. For an agency, winning a new client always comes with the potential of a long-term relationship that flourishes and grows into the kind of relationship DDB and McDonald's talked about at Advertising Week APAC - and it doesn't always have to take 45 years to get there!  

Both sides, agency and client, have to work at, and invest in, building trust and keeping the momentum of a new relationship going and growing stronger together.

Let’s go. What do you think?

Industry Contributor

Rosie Baker
Group Communications Director - GroupM

Rosie is Group Communications Director of GroupM Australia, the leading global media investment management company serving as the parent to WPP media agencies including Mindshare, MediaCom, Wavemaker and Essence as well the programmatic digital platform Xaxis and addressable TV business Finecast.

At GroupM Rosie is responsible for Internal and External Communications, PR and Marketing and focussed on raising the profile of GroupM, its work and its people.