DDB’s Chicago post commitment to boost the market by millions

DDB Chicago’s commitment to work exclusively with Chicago editors and post houses for its hundreds of national commercials could infuse as much as $10 million into the business-dry industry.

Grant Hill, the agency’s broadcast chief, said the agency has already begun the shift. By April local post houses should be humming with editing jobs that previously had followed production out-of-town, mainly to Los Angeles and Toronto “for primarily creative and monetary reasons,” he said.

Post houses will now have a chance to bid on commercials that had been denied them in the past. His fondest hope, Hill said, “is that the Chicago post community really, really responds in terms of pricing and in terms of creative.”

Hill acknowledges that the decision of DDB Chicago, with more than a billion dollars in billings, will have a dramatic impact “in stimulating the market” — an understatement since the entire market has been declining since 1999 and even earlier since the incursion of Canadian competition.

Hill prefers to call his agency’s seismic change towards local facilities “an evolutionary thing. This is not something we’re publicizing or promoting.

“We just decided that having so many people out of town for such protracted periods of time takes a toll on our staff.” Consolidating work with an easy walk from their offices will help the agency “use its staff more efficiently in tough times.”

DDB’s staff of 25 producers handle an estimated 500 spots; roughly half are original and the other half are versions. Post house revenue could boost business as much as $8.75 million for editing original commercials (based on the $35,000 estimated average per original job), and several more millions for versions.

Optimus’ Tom Duff called the DDB decision “a boon for all of us,” commenting how it would compensate for so much editorial work that has left Chicago since the late ?90s.

Hill said the decision was announced internally last month. “All and every job we will do will be done in Chicago,” he said. A few exceptions could apply, he added. If he finds a compelling enough reason for an exception, “I’ll make that decision,” he said.

The Chicago commitment had “unanimous support among the highest levels of management and the support of the producers to make this happen,” he said.

While Chicago will get the first and foremost nod, Hill said the agency wouldn’t discourage other companies in other cities to open branches in Chicago. He believes local editors have had not a chance to “cross pollinate” with other genres that’s so true of L.A., where editors have close affiliations with A-list directors, and also edit features, music videos and international spots.

In order to assure a wider worldview, the agency also will find ways to link up with L.A. companies for higher-end work.

Not all the editing house owners are as enthusiastic as Duff and Swell’s Dave Mueller, who hopes other agencies will follow DDB’s lead. “If Grant had done this a year ago, he’d be Gov. Hill. He’d have gotten my vote.” Machete’s Luis Landgraf believes the impending business boom will help grow the talent pool.

With a certainty, L.A. houses that enjoyed the largesse of DDB business will open branches here. And that will cut the pie into increasingly smaller slices again, one post operator opined.

Still, Hill sees the opportunities for all concerned “as a new day and a new equation” with a Chicago-first policy enforced through the end of the year. “We hope everyone realizes this is an opportunity to a building block in the future,” he said.