Marty O’ Halloran: A Passionate and Creative Leader Galvanizing Advertising Network DDB Worldwide

Marty O' Halloran

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Today, leaders directing creative firms are passionate, committed to work, and thoughtful, especially in the advertising industry. Such leaders are accepting and keep a free approach towards every solution. Marty O’ Halloran (Global CEO, DDB Worldwide) leads one of the world’s most famous advertising agencies, DDB with his enthusiasm and welcoming approach.

Inspirational Career Path

Raised in Melbourne, Australia, Marty attended St Kevin’s College where he was introduced to rowing—a sport that continues to shape his leadership approach. During his time at Swinburne University, he competed for Victoria in the 1981 Youth Eight for the Noel Wilkinson Trophy at the Australian Interstate Regatta. He started pursuing his passion in rowing and went on to participate in the bow seat of the Australian men’s heavyweight eight at the 1985 World Rowing Championships in Hazewinkel.

In 1986, Marty began his professional career at DDB Worldwide, previously known as USP Needham, in Melbourne. After moving to Auckland in 1988, he became the New Zealand CEO and later in 2005, he was appointed as Australia and New Zealand Chairman and CEO based at the Sydney agency. In 2008, he moved back to Auckland to supervise the region and remained there until 2021. In 2020, Marty was named Global CEO of DDB Worldwide. Currently, Marty lives in New York and oversees over 10,000 employees across 149 offices worldwide. Additionally, he feels honored to serve as Global CEO of the network where he has gained 30 years of experience in his career.

Exceptional Advertising 

DDB is a full-service advertising agency that provides advertising solutions to some of the major global brands such as McDonald’s, MARS, Volkswagen, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, and Molson Coors.

Dynamic Leader

Being at the helm,Marty provides the vision to the company that will continue to fuel growth across the DDB network in the future. His first task as the leader was to invest his efforts to refresh and the global leadership team with the promotion of Roisin Rooney, Global Chief People Officer, Andrew Little, President & Regional CEO Australia/New Zealand, Ari Weiss as Global Chief Creative Officer and new hires such as Nikki Lamba, Global Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, Donna Tobin, Global Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, along with the addition of Varsha Kaura, Global Business Lead on DDB Worldwide MARS account. This global leadership team comes together often under Marty’s direction to lead the way forward against the global network’s strategic Plan To Win which Marty inspired.

Marty has united DDB’s social network through this shared plan to winwith a focus on sharpeningproprietary tools and initiatives to connect the company’s 149 offices globally that include DDB’s central intelligence platform (The Brain) and a creative ranking tool (The Heart). He believes that improving the diversity of the business is critical to long-term business success. At the helm, Marty had the vision to implement the network’s first-ever Chief of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion role to ensure DE&I initiatives and resources would be strengthened and further implemented globally. DDB’s strategy supports ‘No duplicates’ and recruiting people from diverse backgrounds. Marty also inspired the network’s ‘Unexpected Works’ positioning which highlights the combination of unexpected –AND– effective creativity being the driving force of the business, fueling client growth.

Advocating the Shared Vision

Drawing on my rowing days, I see myself as a coach within our business,” says Marty. As the leader, he motivates, inspires, and connects the team of DBB with a shared vision and higher purpose. “By bringing people together from around the world, we can offer our employees more than they’ve ever imagined and motivate them through unexpected creativity,” adds Marty.

Moreover, being at the company’s forefront, Marty has developed his own strategy to tackle the challenges. He adds, “I’ve found it’s best to approach head-on and I’m known as someone who brings a ‘no bullshit, no assholes’ approach to business” further cementing the network’s “talented and nice” mantra.

Winning over the Challenges

According to Marty, the pandemic forced people to reconsider what matters in life and to be more empathetic toward the people. It encouraged the development of new habits that DDB has incorporated into the business, including working across regions to support the biggest clients with the best talent, no matter where they are in the world. To support the staff, the company prioritized mental health and focused on the company’s employees. It offered mental health training, free counseling, and additional five days of paid leave.

Seizing Global Opportunities

DDB’s team has focused on strengthening its global creative, MarComms, HR, and growth teams to ensure it is leading in the new business and the company’s business seizing the global opportunities. Enunciating how the winning journey helps grow people, Marty adds, “Winning isn’t everything – it’s how we win, and how we feel about the people we’ve worked with to actually get that win.”

For global connectivity, DDB strives to work to remove additional barriers to benefit clients and acquire more opportunities for collaboration. Additionally, many campaigns that have been created by teams comprised of people around the globe have been awarded at Cannes Lions. Marty also notes that gaming is becoming the new internet. New ideas that become popular in the online world are rewarded. With DDB FTW (For The Win), the company has decided to prosper in the gaming industry. DDB FTW is a dedicated esports and gaming-focused agency that has already been working in 14 markets around the world. 

In addition, leveraging creativity with data and technology has resulted in a massive opportunity for DDB. Too many agencies in the industry are using dated and less efficient automated platforms. They deliver a tonnage of messages that can turn the customers away. DDB’s vision is to view technology and data as incredibly exciting tools for great opportunities to unlock unexpected creativity and grow the business rather than considering data and data tools as a threat.

Additionally, DBB taps on its creativity and storytelling ability to initiate more intimate and relevant conversations with users as it is using data. “We’re using some amazing technology that keeps arriving on our doorstep. There’s always something new, and creatively we can do things that we only were dreaming of a couple of years ago,” adds Marty.

Advice to Aspiring Leaders

Marty considers people as the soul of any organization and hence he has focused on investing in people and culture. Throughout his 30 years of career, Marty has committed to the people, product, and profit strategy. He believes investing in people will develop the company’s products, services, and profit.

For aspiring leaders, he suggests staying loyal to the business is advantageous for career development and cites his own example and successful career at DDB. He is a DDB veteran and instead of focusing on trying to get to New York or London, he focused on the task at hand and built the best agency in Australia and New Zealand that are currently recognized as top agencies globally. He is now doing the same on a broader global level as he leads the iconic and creatively famous DDB Worldwide network to even greater heights, focused on people first while driving growth for DDB’s clients with unexpected and highly effective creativity.


Marty O' Halloran

Also Read: The 10 Most Influential Marketing And Advertising Leaders of 2023

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