Friday, June 22, 2018
  • Thursday, Sep. 7, 2017
CCO Ari Weiss Reflects On Life At DDB
Ari Weiss
7 months into his new role at creative helm of North America, he shares insights into priorities, challenges and lessons learned

Back on February 1, Ari Weiss assumed his current position as chief creative officer of DDB North America. He came over from BBH New York where he spent six years, leading his teams to 24 Cannes Lions, ultimately serving there as CCO.

Under Weiss’ aegis, BBH NY turned out award-winning fare for such clients as AXE, PlayStation, Vaseline, Seamless, UNICEF, Sprite, The Weather Channel and Netflix. For the latter in 2016, Weiss helped launch the political campaign of the fictional presidential candidate Frank Underwood (the star of the Netflix Original Series House of Cards). The campaign debuted during the highest-rated political debate in American history and quickly became the top trending topic on Twitter. It was also recognized at the 2016 Cannes Festival with seven Lions, including one of the festival’s most coveted prizes, the Integrated Grand Prix.
In addition, Weiss penned the line “Greatness Awaits,” winning the PlayStation business and leading the brand to the largest console launch in gaming history. This not only successfully took PlayStation from the number three to the number one brand in the category, but it has helped sell some 50 million-plus units to date. The campaign also received eight Cannes Lions, including Gold for both Cyber and Film--the only campaign to receive that honor in North America at the 2014 festival.

Prior to BBH, Weiss worked at some of the industry’s most respected and award-winning agencies, including: BBDO, Wieden+Kennedy, Goodby, Silverstein and Partners, 180LA and Cliff Freeman & Partners, where he started his career. He has written highly effective and awarded campaigns for such brands as Nike, Sony, FedEx, Guinness, Snickers, DirecTV, Fox Sports, ESPN and The National Basketball Association.
Weiss’ creativity has been recognized by assorted competitions including the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, One Show, D&AD, Andy, Clios, Communication Arts, ADC, Webby, D&AD and Effies.

SHOOT: North American chief creative officer was a newly created role at DDB when you moved into it. Now with seven months or so in your rear-view mirror, how has that role evolved? How would you define it? What aspects of it were surprising or unexpected? What are your priorities now?

Weiss: I can’t believe it’s been seven months. It feels like it’s been either seven days or seven years but seven months doesn’t sound right. To be honest I haven’t really paused to assess how long it’s been or how it’s been going because we haven’t really had time to. Guess this is as good an opportunity as any to do a little reflecting.

Since joining we’ve done some award winning work for McDonald’s, we pitched and won Miller Lite against some stiff creative competition, we hired Toygar Bazarkaya as CCO for We Are Unlimited [McDonald’s creative agency of record], we hired Barry Quinn as our North American head of design, we hired Britt Hayes as our North American head of people, and most recently hired Eric Zuncic from Crispin, Porter & Bogusky to be our North American chief strategic officer. When you list it in one run-on sentence like that it sounds quite exhausting. Exhausting but exciting.

As for my priorities? The wonder and the horror of this job, and any creative job for that matter, is your priorities never change. It’s beautifully simple because all you have to do is make the work better. Simple enough? Sure. But by the very definition of the word better your job is impossible to ever fully complete. It can always be better.

SHOOT: What’s been the biggest takeaway or lessons learned over the past seven months at DDB?

Weiss: I was at my last job for six years and you forget just how comfortable you get when you’ve been somewhere for six years. Comfortable finds you in ruts. They can be good ruts or bad ruts but they are ruts. You develop shortcuts and you stop being quite as resourceful. Once out of the rut you have to think on your feet again. It’s all fresh and it forces you to be more creative. I want to hold onto this feeling as long as humanly possible.

SHOOT:  What are the biggest challenges (creative, business, marketplace) facing agencies like DDB today, and what as CCO are you doing to help meet/address those challenges?

Weiss: I feel like I’m supposed to answer consulting firms, or big data, or shrinking budgets or content partnerships, but to be honest I think today’s challenge is the same as yesterday’s challenge is the same as tomorrow’s challenge and that’s finding the best people. The only way to attract the best people is to create an environment where they can do the best work of their careers. In seven short months we’ve hired Eric, Britt, Barry, and Toygar. Toygar then turned around and hired Max Geraldo. The Miller Lite win for DDB Chicago allowed us to hire Colin Sekilow. Do great work, great clients want to work with you, you get to hire more great people. And repeat.