DDB launches problem solving initiative ‘Shaper’

DDB-SHAPER3DDB Sydney will launch a new business model that looks at “solving human problems” in a way it claims has not yet been seen in Australia.

The model, to be known as Shaper, creates pitches, ideas, products and other business concepts in response to problems in the community, which can then be presented to clients.

The idea is the brainchild of DDB Sydney executive creative director Darwin Tomlinson and strategic planner Ryan Richards who both approached DDB Australia CEO Chris Brown with similar ideas in recent months. Tomlinson said: “I was talking with Chris about my role in the organisation and how I was meant to be fostering innovation within the day-to-day operations. Ryan was also having similar conversations at roughly the same time. Chris saw what was happening and put us together until we figured out what that next innovation could be.”

Taking aspects from various business models around the world including Frog Design, Toms Shoes, Asos and Kickstarter among others, the pair claim they have created a new model.

Richards said: “We wanted to create a labs-type business that is separate to the day-to-day work. While we can solve business problems in our day-to-day life, we look at surrounding communities and the problems we come across. There’s a lot of technologies and smart people who can put their minds to solving those problems.”

Shaper will hold brainstorming sessions including people from the DDB Group, but Richards says there are plans to network with other agencies, websites and individuals across Australia and internationally. He said: “Our next step was figuring out how to make it a working process. Across the DDB group we wanted to pool the assets from our PR, creative, data and everything else, so we came up with the idea to have a monthly call out for community problems across a range of topics, including hobbies, transport and altruistic ventures. We then select a problem with multiple potential solutions that can be fleshed out and hold a four-hour workshop to arrive at solutions.”

Richards cited public transport as one issue a Shaper brainstorming session could, and will, look at.

The first workshop was held in March with a presentable idea well on its way to completion.

Tomlinson said: “The notion of being open is really important to us, and not just open within DDB group. We want to be open to collaboration.

“If you had to say what Shaper is in one sentence, it is ‘bringing a human solution to a human problem’. The way that works is we bring the solutions to a client or potential client instead of them trying to develop the solutions from within.”

Shaper relies on having a low cost model trialling products almost immediately. Tomlinson and Richards said there’s a mindset of “fail fast” and to move on quickly from there.

Brown said the model would be in a state of “constant beta” so it would always be open to change and improvement.

“It will always be in beta mode because it isn’t meant to be locked and loaded and I think it needs to continually evolve and, dare I say it, be shaped. We’ve actually started to use some of the ways we’re working with Shaper in some of our daily work, so that’s exciting to see that connectivity. We’re also looking at forming partnerships and brainstorming with agencies in other countries.”

Cameron Boon

Issue 18This story first appeared in the weekly edition of Encore available for iPad and Android tablets. Visit for a preview of the app or click below to download.


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