Why DDB’s new company banned the phrase ‘merch’

Brands, collaborations, merch: three words that, when put together, will either send shivers down your spine, or will have you flying through checkout to get your hands on a limited edition drop. It seems that Darko Silajdžić, executive group chairman at DDB Prague, falls into the first category. With his recently launched agency DDB Fresh, he’s set on helping “non-fashion brands” put out garments and collections which have innovation, aesthetics, and sustainable principles baked in. It’s a tall order, but one that seems increasingly necessary in a world of brand crossovers that feel throwaway at best, entirely wasteful at worst.

The new agency was born out of DDB Prague, where Silajdžić has spent ten out of his 20 years in advertising. After eight years as CEO of DDB Prague, he became executive group chairman, and now has four agencies and studios under his watch. One of these is the gaming agency DDB For The Win, which the Prague office set up around three years ago, and now spans around 20 markets. With DDB Fresh, however, the idea is to keep operations small for now, and deliver fewer projects with a bigger impact. “So quality over quantity, definitely,” he says.

Just like DDB For The Win, which came about because of the sheer number of gamers in the Prague office’s ranks, DDB Fresh was prompted by the amount of interest and experience in fashion around the agency. And of course, nothing happens in a vacuum: the worlds of advertising and marketing have been cosying up to the fashion industry, and vice versa, for some time. “Fashion is one of the most exciting new horizons for brand marketing globally,” says Silajdžić, noting the surge in big brands getting involved in fashion garments and collaborations. “Yet when we took a deep look at it, we didn’t really find any specialised agencies that only do this – it is usually part of a bigger project and a bigger agency that plugs it in.”

Silajdžić wanted to bring those two worlds even closer together, and that starts with the team itself. At Fresh, talent from the worlds of fashion, innovation, and technology work alongside brand experts and people with an advertising background. If you could anticipate resistance from one side, you might think it would be the fashion world dragging its heels to get into bed with adland. “Actually we have more people who have joined us from the fashion industry than the agency community,” he points out. It’s indicative of the sea change that’s seen the fashion world go from shadowy and exclusive, to a proponent of collaborations and crossovers with the unlikeliest of partners. “People seem excited by the prospect of working with big global brands that we, obviously as one of the biggest networks, have access to,” Silajdžić says.

Darko Silajdžić

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