DDB WORLDWIDE CHIEF KEN KAESS DIES IN THE U.S.
Ken Kaess, the President and CEO of DDB Worldwide Communications Group Inc, known for expanding his legendary and award-winning advertising agency into digital and other marketing service sectors, died on March 27 in Westport, CT. He was 51.
The cause was cancer.
Under Mr. Kaess’ leadership, DDB, originally founded as Doyle Dane Bernbach in 1949, became a leader in the new creative revolution, expanding beyond traditional advertising to interactive, direct marketing and retail marketing communications.
“He was the driver behind DDB’s success these last five years and, of course, I will miss him in that role,” said John Wren, CEO of Omnicom Group Inc., DDB’s parent company. “But I also will miss his friendship and positive spirit.”
Active within the industry and the community, Mr. Kaess was committed to bringing greater diversity to the advertising business. He founded the Bill Bernbach Minority Scholarship Fund in 1998 to assist in the development of minority talent in the creative field. He was honored for his commitment to diversity by the New York Urban League which bestowed upon him the Frederick Douglass Award in May 2004. Also a member of the boards of the Ad Council and the American Education Foundation, Mr. Kaess was presented The Hope Award in 2000 by D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education).
In 2002 Mr. Kaess was named Chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies and became the first chairman to serve two consecutive terms. He also was a two-term chairman and founder of Advertising Week, an industry festival that began in New York in 2004.
"Anheuser-Busch extends its deepest condolences and we express our heartfelt sadness to the family, friends and employees of DBB on their tragic loss of Ken Kaess. Ken was a close personal friend, colleague and partner. Ken's humor, humanity and leadership will be missed by the many people he touched," said August A. Busch IV, President of Anheuser-Busch, Inc.
A global network of Omnicom, DDB has long been recognized for creating and producing effective, well-known and award-winning campaigns for clients. Named Global Agency of the Year by both Advertising Age and Adweek magazines in 2003 and again in 2004 by Adweek, DDB and Mr. Kaess have been widely recognized for innovative, creative business solutions for clients’ brands and businesses.
DDB’s creative DNA was prized by Mr. Kaess who actively sought to attract and retain top creative talent from around the world. He was known for his strongly held belief that “People are our asset.”
In January of this year, AdWeek magazine named Tribal DDB Worldwide Interactive Agency of the Year and its individual offices were recognized in local markets around the world from North America to Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific.
“Ken was an inspiration to all of us and he will be sorely missed,” Keith Reinhard, Chairman of DDB Worldwide, said. “Ken was at the top of his game, and in so many ways, he represented the future, not only of our company but of the industry itself. And as many people have said, it’s amazing how someone so nice could get so far, so fast.”
Mr. Kaess was born on July 30, 1954, in Waterbury, CT, and grew up in Watertown, CT. A graduate of the McTernan School, Suffield Academy and Vassar College where he received a B.S. in psychology, Mr. Kaess also was an accomplished pianist who after graduating from college toyed with the idea of becoming a professional rock musician. “When there was no call from an agent, I moved to New York City,” Mr. Kaess once said in an interview with his school magazine.
In New York, he landed his first job at Doyle Dane Bernbach in 1976 as an account executive working on the Mobil account. He went on to become a Vice President at Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor and then Vice President of Children’s Programming at New World Entertainment where he was responsible for the Emmy award winning “Muppet Babies.” In 1990 he returned to DDB as President of DDB Entertainment in Los Angeles and in 1992 became President of DDB Los Angeles. In 1994 he became President of the agency’s flagship New York office and was promoted to President of DDB US in 1997. In 1998 he was named President of DDB North America and in 1999 he was appointed President of DDB Worldwide and Chairman of its Worldwide Operating Committee. In January 2001 he assumed the additional position of CEO of DDB Worldwide.
Mr. Kaess is survived by his former wife, Heidi Kaess and their two children, Courtney and Christopher; his father, Dr. Kenneth Richard Kaess, Sr. of Redding, CT; a sister, Karen Clark of Greenwich, CT; and brother Karl Kaess of Wilton, CT.
Contributions can be made to:
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
1275 York Avenue, New York, NY, 10021.
Builders Beyond Borders
8 Willard Road, Norwalk, CT, 06851.
A Memorial Service will be held in Manhattan at a date to be announced.
Contact: Pat Sloan 212-415-2109