The Managing Creative Director experienced successful times at DDB but the allure of building something of his own was too good to turn down
When Myles Lord decided to step down from his role as Managing Creative Director of DDB Berlin in July it caused something of a stir in the German industry. Under his creative leadership, the agency had won a whole host of Cannes Lions and other top tier awards at Eurobest, One Show, ADC Germany and ADC Europe. DDB Germany had risen from seventh in the country rankings to second.
But an offer he couldn’t refuse came along. He says that he’d long discussed with his old colleague Alexander Schill about joining Serviceplan Group – Alexander is Group CCO – and that finally the timing was right. He’s joined Serviceplan as Managing Director Creation of Serviceplan Campaign Berlin and has been tasked with expanding this relatively new sector of the Berlin outpost (the Berlin office was originally founded to handle political and corporate communications but has since begun working more on marketing projects). It was this opportunity to build something of his own that appealed to South African Myles.
Intrigued, LBB’s Addison Capper picked his brains on his plans, ambitions and why his time out of work was somewhat like “going back to school”.
LBB> Hey Myles! How is the new job going since you settled in at the beginning of the New Year?
ML> It’s great to be back in the saddle as the say – especially after such a long time away from my desk. I received a very warm welcome at Serviceplan, they really made me feel at home. I also received a great deal of positive feedback on social media for my post about Serviceplan day one
– so it really feels like I have made the right move.
(Below is a crazy long embed code from Instagram)
LBB> What have you been up to in your time off?
ML> After 20 years, many weekends and late nights I finally got a chance to disconnect, wind down and take a bit of a sabbatical. Most of this time was spent with my kids – this is probably the most rewarding thing one can do with one's time. So, I became a full-time dad for a few months, which was amazing. My daughter entered her pre-school year and my son entered junior school grade 1. The funny thing you don't realise is that it becomes like 'back to school' for the parents! You have to keep your eyes on homework, wake up early, make sure all the right things are packed and if your kid is late, *you* are in the shit!
Apart from that I got to do quite a bit of travelling with my family: Morocco, Sri Lanka and Cape Town (where I am originally from). My wife and I were also able to spend time focusing on our NGO in Cape Town. This year we focused on a school in Nyanga Township and an AIDS orphanage in Khayelitsha Township where we did art workshops and fundraising.
LBB> You experienced real triumph at DDB, with the agency becoming the most successful German agency at Cannes last year. What was it about Serviceplan as a whole umbrella that tempted you over?
ML> I am very proud of what we achieved during my time as the Creative Managing Director of DDB Berlin. We did some powerful and successful work, netting 20 Cannes Lions and Grands Prix at Eurobest, ADC, ADC Europe and One Show. When I left, DDB had moved from seventh up to second place in the German national ranking. We had a good run.
A lot of people were surprised by my move, especially at this point – but what attracted me to Serviceplan was the chance to become Managing Partner and build my own agency. The chance to create something of my own, but with the backing of a huge local and international network. I always wanted to start my own agency, but as a foreigner this is quite daunting in the highly competitive German industry. So, this was like taking a leap of faith but with a substantial safety net. I also really liked the idea of working with Alex Yazdi again (Alex was a former colleague from Heimat). What I love about Alex is his infectious positivity, his passion for the work and his love for my hometown Cape Town! So, we already have a great base for a strong partnership.
LBB> You previously worked with Alexander Schill while at Springer & Jacoby - how are you looking forward to the opportunity of working with him again?
ML> Alex Schill was the main reason I made the move. After we left Springer & Jacoby we kept in touch over the years and were always talking about me joining the Serviceplan Group someday. Finally, the time was right on both sides. What I like about Alex is that he is a guy who makes amazing work happen. When you have a pioneering and innovative idea on the table it’s amazing how difficult it can be to bring it to life. Fresh and radical new thoughts make people uneasy and nervous because they are pulled out of the ‘tried and trusted’ comfort zone and into the scary new world of ‘never done before’. You'll see some of the most innovative and daring work come from Serviceplan because of the likes of Alex Schill getting behind it and driving it forward.
LBB> There’s an interesting challenge at Serviceplan Berlin because traditionally the office has been responsible for political and corporate communications. Now it’s expanding its capabilities, meaning that you really have a project to build yourself - was that an inciting factor for you when making the decision to move from DDB?
ML> Absolutely. It’s really exciting to start an agency right now. So many agencies continue to battle with transformation to keep up with the changing needs of their clients. The Goliath agencies out there are also under constant threat from the lean and nimble Davids. It’s a great opportunity to be able to found an agency right now – building something from scratch around clients’ needs – as opposed to looking for clients that can fit the structure and competencies of an already long established outfit.
After 20-something years of the same old routine, the advertising industry needs to change radically. We have seen the biggest exodus of talent to go freelance and we have new competitors from many different disciplines from tech to consulting coming into play to try and win budget. We constantly read pieces saying things like, "the agency of the future might not be an agency". So, it’s a great time to start afresh and apply strategic brand thinking and cut-through creativity to a new industry with all the opportunities of digital age.
LBB> What are your main aims and ambitions for Serviceplan Berlin?
ML> I would like to build an agency that people want to work for and work with; by creating outstanding work that people wished they had done both on the creative side and on the client side.
In terms of creative performance, I would like to make Serviceplan Campaign the most creative and most innovative agency in Berlin. And I would like us to make a big push for the group and help Serviceplan dominate the creative and efficiency rankings.
In terms of the business side I would like to streamline the process so clients get to the bullseye campaign much quicker and creatives get to go home on time.
LBB> Are there any particular clients that you’re excited to get stuck into?
ML> Well our client list already has us working for AOK [German health insurance] and Lange & Söhne [watch brand] and we are a pool agency for BVG [Berlin public transport]. These are fabulous opportunities to do outstanding work and have a lot of fun in the process.
LBB> Will much of your focus be on new business? If so, how do you plan to go about this?
ML> To firmly establish this new company, we will definitely need to put some focus on new business to get new clients that will complement our roster. We are also set up to handle and lead international clients out of Berlin – this has very much been my forte in Germany over the last 14 years.
In terms of strategy, I am a firm believer that a pitch is won creatively by one single slide in the presentation. If we can distil our idea and solution down to one powerful sentence, then we've given it our very best shot.
It’s also great to pitch with all the disciplines and competencies on hand in the Serviceplan House of Communication. In Berlin we have Creative, PR, Content, Digital, Media, Direct and Shopper marketing already in house in partner companies under the Serviceplan umbrella. Add to that extended power and knowledge of the Serviceplan local and international network – we can provide a really strong offering to prospective clients.
LBB> So, new job and new year… what does 2018 hold for you?
ML> I hope a lot of fun and challenging problems to solve. A lot of success for our clients and hopefully a few big new business wins as well. And to continue to put in a lot of family time in between.