FCB bets on transparency

By Harmeet Singh


When Tyler Turnbull, then-president of FCB Toronto, and Jon Flannery, the CCO, took their respective leadership roles in 2014, they were paired together in a fishbowl — a central spot in the office with a glass wall, but a wall nonetheless.

Shortly after beginning their jobs (Turnbull came from Proximity Canada, where he was president, and Flannery from FCB Chicago, where he was ECP and EVP), they undertook an impromptu staff survey to find out how things were going.

A common response reverberated: "Jon and Ty have a lot of closed-door meetings."

That was a Friday night. By Monday morning, the wall was no more.

The move speaks to what Turnbull — now CEO for FCB in Canada — says has helped this year's Gold Digital Agency of the Year winner be successful: "total transparency."

"I think giving everyone an ongoing update as to the health of the business, the priorities of the business and the overall strategy that we're pursuing — not in a town hall once a year, but consistently — was a big, big change for us," he says.

Transparency helps everyone feel energized and as though they're part of something bigger, Turnbull says. And it's working.

Each year, the FCB network undertakes a comprehensive engagement survey of its 8,000 staff across 109 offices globally, asking questions like whether staff has confidence in CEOs to win new business and if they believe the leaders are aligned with the agency's vision.

Two years ago, the Toronto office's scores were among the lowest. By 2015, it was among the most improved but still in the middle of the pack.

This year, it was at the top.

Regular transparency is now a key tenet of how the agency operates in Canada, holding a half-hour, all-staff meeting every Monday morning to talk about how all things FCB are going.

"If you're serious about creating a great culture, you have to measure it," Turnbull says.

That's not a surprising statement from the leader of a shop that's been vocal about using data and improving work by folding what was once a distinct digital team into its strategy department.

Turnbull was also a member of FCB's global "digital transformation team," a task force developed by global CEO Carter Murray in 2014, shortly after he came into the role.

Among the changes in Canada this year, FCB rebranded its Rivet division to FCB/Six (named for six proprietary customer engagement moments), and expanded that business to Montreal.

The name change was a distinct move to bring the data-focused digital arm under the FCB name and align it more closely with the other offices. It's a collaborative strategy that's been important for Turnbull as the agency grows, picking up new clients such as BMO in 2015.

Some of its work for the bank elevated it to the Gold Digital Agency of the Year win this year. Ahead of the NBA All-Star Game in Toronto in February, for example, it created a remote-controlled talking basketball called the BMO BallStar (see case study on right).

Perhaps another gold star for the agency's cultural shift to an open and collaborative model is that when Flannery left his CCO position in Canada to return to FCB Chicago in September, Turnbull was fully confident in the creative team left in his wake, promoting Nancy Crimi-Lamanna and Jeff Hilts to co-CCOs.

"If you're trying to build the agency you've always wanted to work for, you need to support the people who've made it that agency."