DDB: Harnessing cloud technologies to deliver bespoke advertising solutions
Established back in the 1940s, multinational corporation (MNC) DDB Worldwide has become one of the oldest (and largest) advertising holding companies worldwide. Its strong brand reputation and work with both international brands, such as McDonald’s, Volkswagen, Exxon Mobil and Unilever, and national brands across Asia has enabled the firm to deliver innovative, personalised products and services to its clients on a global scale.
Working in the TV industry for a decade, Regional IT Director Wayne Moy joined DDB with the aim to overhaul the company’s fragmented IT infrastructure. Whilst it remains essential for DDB to adapt to different working cultures as a global enterprise, its operations are also influenced by the emergence of new digital tools and solutions.
“Many companies are moving towards the cloud. A decade ago, people in IT were very hesitant. I was laughed at for putting email on the cloud eight years ago, because people were claiming this to be insecure, but nowadays, if you don’t put your email on the cloud, you will be laughed at,” explains Moy.
“Another area of global focus is IT security. People are increasingly conscious because it's becoming costly for businesses, if their data is breached. IT security may be expensive, but a company’s reputation is priceless. It’s also very difficult to hire people in this particular area, as it’s in high demand and there is a significant skills gap.
“Additionally, there is an opportunity in advertising for artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning,” continues Moy. “Whilst AI solves problems like humans, machine learning is understanding a pattern, which we can apply to how consumers consume products or services.
“Lastly, there are opportunities in big data, which is being used by Google and Facebook. It targets different types of advertising depending on the consumer.”
Upon joining DDB, Moy found that a number of its operations were siloed, particularly within the procurement space. With departments purchasing their own systems to undertake similar functions, Moy worked to standardise DDB’s IT infrastructure and procurement capabilities across its Asia operations with the support of its parent company, Omnicom.
“Standardisation has helped get us gain bigger discounts for procurement, as we’re one big global company when purchasing equipment, services or systems. We also see what is going on in the world in other offices,” comments Moy.
“Our standardisation has also helped our IT teams focus on technical skills. Members are able to be trained faster, reducing issues with compatibility.”
Having moved DDB’s email systems into the cloud, Moy has also migrated its office apps and company data.
“Migrating our global apps to the cloud has enabled global access,” he says. “We don't have to be worried about owning equipment, as it’s in a local data centre. Also, cloud technology helps us with business continuity.
“We’re very flexible and fast to offer services. We have the technical skills because we are limited on standardisation and infrastructure to certain brands.”
Throughout DDB’s cloud transformation, multiple cloud platforms have been implemented to enable the business to utilise both public and private clouds, providing further choice and flexibility to its clients.
Whilst Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has been instrumental to DDB’s infrastructure overhaul, the use of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft’s Office 365, Office Suite, email, and Azure, as well as Adobe, has seen the company’s operations become strengthened throughout the region.
“Clients tend to inform us of the cloud platform they prefer, which could be due to policy compliance or other preferential conditions where they need to use a particular cloud provider,” observes Moy. “If this is not the case, we will choose the platform which could be one where we have the most clients and have increased visibility.”
However, not all applications are placed in DDB’s cloud systems, as downloading large files would become increasingly time-consuming. Large files are still archived to the cloud for backup. Financial and client data is kept locally according to local compliance issues and for financial reporting, which needs to be generated at a rapid pace with minimal delay.
“Our Creative division completes artwork, photography or video. These files are over a gigabyte in size. This group therefore works with these files locally and they are housed locally. It could take an hour to download such files from the cloud,” says Moy.
However, the company’s latest project surrounds its disaster recovery and backup strategy.
Partnering with Veeam, DDB is harnessing its software when taking snapshots of virtual machines (VMs), which also filters into DDB’s business continuity solution.
“VM snapshots are stored locally and they are quickly recovered if needed. We also store a copy of those VMs in the cloud and Veeam supports us in doing that,” says Moy.
“These snapshots can be spun up in the cloud during disaster recovery (DR). If there’s a disaster in the local office, we are able to spin up the VMs in the cloud, where our data is also backed up for quick recovery. The cloud is our DR site. This saves costs in actually creating and maintaining a DR site.”
Complex privacy laws
Whilst Moy remains heavily involved in all projects which require IT operations across DDB’s Asia Pacific division, he acknowledges that the company will face a number of challenges surrounding the increased need for digital security, in order for the business to comply with various governmental privacy laws.
“IT helps the business with all the systems, applications, and infrastructure including the cloud services, and also helps the business units relating to digital services,” he says.
“We have some countries, China for example, where laws dictate that private data cannot be stored outside of the country. We are therefore required to look for internal Chinese providers which will keep the data in China.
“Having a provider within the country helps with the privacy law and also with the speed and robustness of the product that's being marketed,” Moy continues.
“These are all new laws which were not in place 20 years ago – this is on a global scale. In May, the General Data Protection Regulations in the European Union are set to shift, and we have to keep catching up with different laws in different areas. Are we going to move the data out? How are we going to handle this? It's quite a challenge for us.”
Additionally, DDB works with a significant number of financial and insurance companies, which request that the DDB’s IT team complies with the individual internal company data security compliance policies which each company houses,” adding another layer of complexity.
Despite this, DDB’s operations are underpinned by an exceptional workforce. At senior level, weekly meetings with influential management figures from across the business enable the company to discuss key issues which will impact DDB’s operations, both nationally and internationally.
“Everyone's involved, even finance and procurement. We handle issues and talk about projects that are global,” notes Moy.
On the ground, Moy expresses immense pride in his team and observes that it is one of the main drivers behind his long-term tenure at DDB.
“I work with a very good regional team. They are very dedicated to their roles and their work ethic is impeccable. The global IT management team includes great people and it's a pleasure to work with them,” he says.
“I think the most important thing is that we listen to each other. Listening is not enough; we have to respond to what we listen to. This creates respect. We listen to all the issues, we listen to all sides and then we respond. We talk about it. We each give our recommendations on how to handle an issue and we respect each other’s comments or questions. It makes a very good team that collaborates well together.”
DDB is home to many clients and success stories and will continue to look at future areas of growth within the digital space. New technologies will reshape traditional business models, and DDB will need to further adapt the ways in which it supports clients in marketing products and services to remain one of the most prestigious MNC’s in the world.
“The internet of things and machine learning are really two areas that we should tap into,” comments Moy.
“Machine learning is an opportunity that we should invest time in because advertising in the traditional sense is slowly declining. Less people are watching traditional TV. They are watching online media. When they're online we can capture data of what they like and dislike and their viewing habits.
“We can gear towards marketing towards specific people with specific marketing. There are many advertising companies in the world but what differentiates us from the rest is the services or products that we can provide that others do not.”
Moy concludes: “These technologies are opportunities where we can provide services that others do not, and we will take this opportunity to develop new products and services to offer our clients. This differentiates us from the rest of the pack.”