Davy Rennie becomes national managing director of DDB’s Tribal

Interbrand managing director Davy Rennie is making the move across to DDB’s digital arm Tribal as national managing director, Mumbrella can reveal.

The agency was first established in Australia in 1999, just before all DDB digital branches were integrated under the Tribal name. Despite some high-profile clients including McDonald’s, Volkswagen and Westpac, and a 2012 re-launch with Phil Dowgierd and Richard Lloyd at the helm, the agency has not made the same splash in Australia as it has overseas.

Davy Rennie has made the move from Interbrand to become Tribal’s national managing director

Rennie has his work cut out for him bringing Tribal Australia up to the level of recognition of its overseas counterparts. However, Rennie doesn’t see Tribal as unsuccessful. Instead he believes there is just more for them to achieve.

“I think [Tribal Australia] does a really great job at producing assets that tie a knot in multi-channel campaigns. The reason for me joining is to take us out of producing those assets to actually strategically and creatively come up with new ways of delivery and new products and new services that put us on the map the same as London and New York and Singapore are on the map,” he said.

Rennie intends to achieve this by evolving the offering of the agency towards total experience solutions, leading into a consultancy service.

“At Tribal we’ll move from an agency that does UX [user experience], UX design and UI [user interface] design. We’ll move from the production of those assets into an advisory team for our partners that is able to help them shape the right solutions at the right time for the right problem that will shift the needle within their business.

“So instead of just producing assets we’ll be able to strategically advise our partners on the right solutions, look for problems within their business and within their engagement with consumers or with employees or with their partners to actually solve problems with them and not just produce assets.”

The goal of the consultancy structure is not, however, inspired by the success of CHE Proximity, he said. Instead, Rennie referenced big players in the industry including Deloitte Digital, Accenture’s Fjord, EY and McKinsey.

“I don’t look around the agency village and say ‘That’s who I want to be like’, I look much, much wider at the people doing amazing things,” he stated, later adding, “I don’t spend a lot of time envying other people’s work. I spend a lot of time looking at people’s partnerships and thinking ‘How can we do that?’ because there is so much good work out there.”

Rennie was named MD of Interbrand only 10 months ago, and within that time doubled the agency’s revenue and bolstered the client list, with wins including News Corp Australia, Foxtel and LJ Hooker.

Rennie sees the move within the group as an opportunity to continue the collaboration of the wider leadership team and DDB group agencies.

“I think our digital offering left a big opportunity for growth and for improvement. And I’ve been around digital agencies my entire career and I thought, well, it could be fun to take what I’ve learned and continue the collaboration with the amazing leaders and teams from around the business and get into a new offering,” he said.

“The togetherness is something that Nathan [Birch] and I consciously did here at Interbrand, was pull the business back towards DDB Group and that’s something that I think Tribal will do as well is not just be the production arm of it, but be a valued service and valued team within the organisation that can have its own clients and stand on its own two feet but also remains valued to the existing relationships that we have.”

As national MD, Rennie will be integrating the Melbourne and Sydney offices to work as one national business.

“We have some amazing experience design capabilities down in Melbourne and some amazing development capabilities up here in Sydney, now let’s get them in a room and get them to work together because talent isn’t always in one city. I want to break down those barriers and make sure we’ve got the right people in the right place,” Rennie stated.

That will mean upskilling existing staff and focusing on what Rennie calls ‘T-shape’ professionals – those that have a specialty in one area, and a broad understanding of another. He also stated it will not amount to job losses.

He said: “There will be much more reliance on people who can do more than just one job. That won’t mean we’re changing and removing people from the business, it means we’ll be focused on training and upskilling the people we have in the business today.”

When it comes to measuring the success of Tribal, Rennie will look to the culture of the team before financial or client gain.

“The one thing that Marty [O’Halloran] and I spoke about, was what’s going to be most important to me and what’s going to signal success. Now financials obviously is there but that all comes off culture,” he said.

“The global initiative is to focus on culture as an initiative. At Interbrand we focused on culture. We focused on culture as a core strength where we would describe our relationship with one another as a friendship first. Where we can have difficult conversations that aren’t personal, that we still can share a laugh and share experiences together as friends, where we lift each other up as friends and where we rise and fall as friends.”

“That’s what I’m hoping we can do at Tribal as well, where we focus on culture first, a culture of celebration and friendship. A culture where success is organic not forced and where revenue is a result of succeeding together and doing the right thing by each other and by our partners.”

Rennie’s career has progressed quickly, moving from senior designer at Bang Australia to his new position at Tribal in the space of 13 years. In that time he has worked at Reactive, Avanade, Deloitte Digital, WhiteGrey and finally Interbrand, moving up a rung of the ladder at each company.

Rennie credits a number of leaders across his previous employers for the progress of his career, namely executive creative director Tim Kotsiakos and managing director Jason Ross from his time at Reactive.

“They were real sort of guiding lights for me in the industry. If there was anyone I wanted to be like it was Tim, creatively, and was Jason as a leader. Now, they’re fundamentally different people but if I could be a tenth of the leader that those guys were then I’d see that as a success,” he said.


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