Industry Profile: DDB managing director, Dion Appel

Sarah Homewood
By Sarah Homewood | 10 May 2016
Dion Appel

Our Industry Insights Profile takes a weekly look at some of the professionals working across the advertising, ad tech, marketing and media sector in Australia. It aims to shed light on the varying roles and companies across the buzzing industry.

Today we head to Melbourne to speak to DDB managing director, Dion Appel.

Duration in current role/time at the company:

Over a year as MD of DDB. Enjoying early success combining a unique background of business specialty with general practice.

In one sentence, how would you describe what the company does?

DDB uses creativity, the most powerful force in business to solve our client partner challenges. I also manage the Lifelounge DDB business which is a segment specialist that utilises trends and insight data to create next generation creative solutions. I co-founded Lifelounge, which was acquired by the DDB Group in April 2015.

In one sentence, what does your role involve?

It’s more like what doesn’t the role involve.

Creativity is required everyday from thinking about a client’s business challenge to delivering a creative solution and all the steps in between. Finding a new and better way of doing things drives everything I do. Creative thinking kind of comes in handy when negotiating with my toughest customers, my three curious and charismatic children.

Within the last six months/year, what stands out as the company’s major milestones?

We have a mantra at DDB that “great things happen when the right people come together.”

So, even though I manage the DDB part of the business, I can draw on expertise from RAPP for data intelligence, Mango for PR, Tribal for technology expertise and so on and this new, seamless way of working has been a major milestone for new and existing clients under the Group leadership of Dave Brown and Darren Spiller.

The work we did on “The Unconventional Oven” campaign for Kidsafe/AAMI is an example of bringing this philosophy to life. It was a project designed to generate awareness and find a more subversive way to keep kids out of parked cars by enlisting Matt Moran to demonstrate that a hot car can effectively operate as an oven.

This campaign married creative thinking from DDB with the PR power of Mango Communications to become the top trending Facebook topic, twice and achieving a phenomenal global reach figure of 57 million people. With this model we can operate like a smaller and more agile agency but with more depth and breadth of expertise.

Best thing about the industry you work in:

Working with amazing people who have the world’s sharpest minds to solve problems strategically and creatively. And, every day is so different.

Previous industry related (ad land/ad tech) companies you have worked at:

I’ve always been entrepreneurial in the creative industry; content publishing, trends, insights and communication businesses. All leveraged technology, solved business problems whilst viewing life from a different angle and having fun doing it.

Career-wise, where do you see yourself in three years time?

In partnership with Fairfax Events at the inaugural AFR Business Summit, I designed, created and co-moderated a panel of marketers from Uber, Etsy, YGAP, Vinomofo to explore the topic of 'Risk Takers and Growth Makers' through the millennial lens.

I’m really excited about leading some cutting edge thinking in this area and I’s like to be doing more events like this in the future. My vision is for DDB to become more known for generating effective, unique and engaging creative solutions based on solid consumer insights and design thinking.

Tell us one thing people at work don’t know about you?

I’m addicted to hairspray. For the non-believers Schwarzkopf is the brand of choice and yes, passing through airport security can get hairy.

Top networking tip:

When at an event with someone important who you really want to meet just think: You are human, so are they, get on with it and introduce yourself.

My favourite restaurant for a business lunch is:

New hood in Cremorne, new rules. Clients love coming to our office and we are spoiled for choice. I had five meals in two days at Baby recently. Better yet, I’m loving being on the river finishing lunch with a walking meetings.

My favourite advert is:

World Industries (US Skate Brand) flew a helicopter over the X Games in the late 90’s and dumped thousands of $1 bills stamped with their logo over the event, filmed the whole thing and cut ads.

My must-have gadget is:

Sadly it’s not a gadget but a phone charger. Can someone please tell me when wireless charging will become an everyday reality?

My favourite TV show is:

It’s actually my 11-year-old son’s favourite shows and I love him for it: Storage Wars & Pawn Stars.

The last book I read:

Raising boys by Steve Biddulph. I’m one of three boys, have two of my own and still have plenty to learn.

I’m also reading the Law of Attraction. My wife went to three bookshops to find it and I’m glad it found me... See what I did there.

My mantra / philosophy is:

“Rules are what the artist breaks; the memorable never emerged from a formula”. Bill Bernbach. That works for me in this role.

I got into advertising/ad tech/marketing because:

It was a perfect storm of selling my sports management and marketing business and not long after proposing to my wife who was working at DDB at the time. I figured, I can do this and formed Lifelounge.

If I wasn't doing this for a living, I'd be:

I actually studied a bachelor of commerce degree majoring in accounting, marketing and human resource management.

So, I’d probably be an accountant, working in an ivory tower, wearing a crappy suit and living a very beige life. Wow, glad that card wasn’t dealt my way, although the skills are useful in my real world.

In five years' time I'll be:


Define your job in one word:


What's your poison:

Vodka when I’m in control. espresso martinis when I’m not.

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