Danny Devriendt, Managing Director IPG/Dynamic, has always been a free spirit. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, he has regularly worked from his car instead of at home or at the office.
“I have a Land Rover Defender with an office on the roof. I leave in the morning and return home in the evening. Water calms me down, so I prefer to drive to a spot beside the canal or a pond. With an inspiring view, I get a lot of work done.”
Working at Mediabrands fits his life philosophy perfectly: he needs variety and freedom. The contract with his first employer literally stated: “will define job in 6 months”. Since then, that has been Danny’s life motto. “I am always looking for new ways to do my job. Media agencies are no longer what they used to be – centers where you could buy and sell advertising space. Today, we also assist clients on a strategic level: where is the best place to advertise? How do you do that in a way that disturbs the consumer as little as possible? How can you work in a more ecological way?”
This is a new approach to an old market. “Ten years ago, we were among the first to integrate social media into communication plans. Today, we also offer consulting services and we approach our customers with a holistic view.”
In the past, advertising was plain and simple: you could choose from TV, radio or printed ads. With the advent of the digital age, clients have a far wider range of communication channels at their disposal. At the same time, consumers have become more critical. “It is our job and our talent to spread our clients’ messages as smartly and as sustainably as possible through the right channels.”
A culture of values
The advertising world has long been guided by vanity metrics, Danny believes. “Look how many people we reached with this campaign! But what did those people do with it? That is what it’s all about. As a media company, we want to be our clients’ strategic partner by going beyond merely the communication aspect. That means touching upon the identity of a company or an organization.”
Companies must define and propagate a culture of values. “What good is it if a large company spends millions to roll out a new computer system but does not communicate why? The same goes for teleworking: more and more people have to do it, but for many it remains something odd. How do you keep your team members together in such circumstances? How do you continue to communicate your values?” The answer lies in sustainable communication. “You map out an approach, look for the right tone of voice and draw up an internal communication plan. Anyone who fails to map out their identity is doomed to remain on the sidelines.”
I never became an astronaut; but I still look at the stars through my telescope
Trends are the core business of IPG/Dynamic. “Every year, we map out what the societal and technological trends are and how they will affect our clients. The climate is only growing in importance, so we look at how companies and institutions should deal with it. We translate that into a concrete approach. We also do employer branding. If a company has many employees leaving and finds it hard to attract new ones, we investigate why that is and how it can reach out to young people.”
Jump? Why should I?
Danny started his career in journalism. He worked out of Brussels and New York for an American communications company, at which he launched Bluetooth worldwide. “It was a privilege to see how you could link strategic communication to a technological development that has since become the norm.”
At Mediabrands, he saw social media come of age and discovered the will and commitment to expand its consulting services. But there are no highs without lows. “The frustration of every dreamer is that things never go as fast as you’d like them to. By making consulting a separate business unit, we’ve managed to solve that.”
When he came back to Belgium after his international work experiences, Danny noticed that the advertising world here still worked with a pigeonhole approach. “Those divisions are gradually disappearing: communication agencies and creatives are increasingly working together with media companies and event organizers. That brings nothing but advantages. The closer everyone works together, the stronger and more efficient the communication. After all, for the consumer it’s all about a single, integrated experience.”
People give Danny the biggest kick. “At Mediabrands we experience this concretely: we bring the right people together at the right time. The result is a varied group of employees, each with their own input, who are open to new experiences. People who want to and are able to think strategically, and who go the extra mile. People who, when you tell them to jump, first ask why and only then, how high.”
Colleagues call on Danny when they need a different view on things. He helps brainstorm about solutions in a flexible way, he wants to add something, create excitement. “In creative thinking exercises, I like to be the gadfly, the one who thinks outside the box. Challenges motivate me, which is why I like working with young people. Their ideas push my boundaries.”
Danny reads a lot and often tries to speak to experts or attend lectures on subjects he knows nothing about. He is also a young dad to a 7-year-old daughter. “She keeps my mind young. When I come home from work, I sometimes go kayaking with my family. We live near a canal. An hour of paddling in the evening, just the three of us, and then mooring for a picnic is so therapeutic: I can recommend it to everyone. It’s the only time I disconnect.”
As a child, Danny Devriendt wanted to be an astronaut. “I had my path all mapped out: first I would go to cadet school and then join the army to become a pilot.” But at sixteen, his dream fell apart: Danny turned out to be color-blind. He would never be able to fly a plane. To be able to see the planets and the stars, he bought himself a telescope.
“It’s in our house in Normandy, where my wife is from. If I want to look through the viewfinder at night, I first have to set up the telescope in the garden – a ritual I start in the afternoon. Then I light the barbecue and wait for night to fall.”
(This post appeared first on TheCollectivePowerBe)