DDB global CEO Wendy Clark isn’t afraid to put herself out there, and this week she talks openly on the Love This podcast, a series hosted by Beth O’Brien and Joe Carter of Colenso BBDO in New Zealand.
Clark, who spent a lot of her career as a marketer at Coca-Cola and AT&T, reveals she has an alter ego, “Connie Client.” She flips into “Connie” mode very easily, she says, particularly in pitching: “I can tell when the confidence and belief in our work is not there, and if it’s not there, you can’t fake it. You either wholeheartedly, unequivocally believe this is the right thing to do, or you haven’t done enough work yet.”
Connie Client also came out to play during the recent DDB rebranding exercise, she admitted, as she sought to introduce a DDB culture around the world. She also talks about her plan to build and maintain DDB’s reputation for creativity by persistently pushing forward rather than trying to go “from zero to hero.”
“It’s about a series of very logical steps forward, going down a path together that everyone feels confident with. My job internally is to celebrate those small victories every time they push the ball forward. Look at adam&eve. They are the most successful agency in DDB – they move their own bar religiously and they celebrate incremental movements as they go.”
On in-house agencies, Clark is clear that they are not the best creative solution. “Unilever is now reporting that they’ve over-rotated on effectiveness and the creativity is not where it needs to be. That was the same for me at Coke – we could do certain things, but there was work that I would not have taken away from Wieden+Kennedy or Ogilvy or Droga to give to my in-house agencies.”
The podcast is worth a listen. Clark comes across as an empathetic leader who is not afraid to muck in and is keen to champion women, despite having had to step down from the Times Up leadership committee after some controversy around inviting disgraced Droga5 CCO Ted Royer to work on the VW pitch.
Clark, who says the secret of her success is that she’s “talented enough with really good behaviours,” said: “We have to get more comfortable diagnosing how we got where we are if we want other people to join us. As a female leader I really want to help other female leaders. I don’t want to be this one shooting star, this one success story, because if it becomes about one person it’s been a complete waste of effort and energy. I want people around me to say, ‘Gosh, she came in and created a wake that raised many careers.”