Staff Reporters
Nov 18, 2020

40 Under 40 2020: James Blair, Tribal Worldwide

Credited by his bosses for turning DDB NZ into a world-class power in digital and social, James Blair comfortably wears a multitude of hats and wins accolades from clients who see him as an extension of their teams.

40 Under 40 2020: James Blair, Tribal Worldwide
Top-tier talent transforming APAC media and marcomms 

James Blair

Managing partner
Tribal Worldwide
New Zealand

James Blair has proven so instrumental to DDB's success in New Zealand that the company keeps offering him new roles to take advantage of his talent and ambition. So it is that Blair now wears five different leadership hats: He's lead business partner, new business lead, digital lead, and head of social for DDB, as well as managing partner of Tribal. 

According to his supervisors, Blair has transformed DDB's digital and social offering from "limited and lagging" to "world-class and market-leading". This in turn has led to multiple Agency of the Year wins in the digital and social agency categories, a several-fold increase in digital revenue and headcount growth from five to more than 45 in Blair's department.

All of the above also led DDB to stand Tribal up as a standalone offering in the market, with Blair in the lead. Even though 2020 hasn't been a great year to launch an agency (or anything), Tribal under Blair has doubled-up on DDB's revenue expectations, grown headcount by 7x, scored 100% on pitches and welcomed L’Oreal and Samsung as clients. During lockdown, Blair secured work in the healthcare sector, developing and launching a mobile platform called Bettr to allow patients of Tamaki Health to see physicians remotely. Meanwhile, the agency is set to launch a proprietary micro-influencer platform in early 2021, with two large retail brands on board. 

One happy client praises Blair for showing "the same enthusiasm and passion for our brand as our employees" and says he's like "an extension of our team in a different office". Echoing this, another client says Blair was not only "the deciding factor" in choosing the agency but is also an "integral cog in our wider business team that we rely on and trust implicitly".

Blair spent time with Publicis Mojo, Shine and TBWA on his way to joining DDB in 2013. A colleague reports that the idiom, "It's nice to be important, but important to be nice" feels like it was written specifically for Blair, who is as passionate about building more diverse pathways into the industry as he is about winning pitches. He speaks widely on topics like strategy and creative craft and has for the last five years supported the Auckland University Business Masters degree as a guest speaker and coach. Tribal has initiated a formal equal opportunity policy to ensure it evaluates candidates from across a wider diversity spectrum.

Top-tier talent transforming APAC media and marcomms 


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