DDB 'Flexes' To A New Model

After 78 days in office, Wendy Clark, CEO North America at Omnicom’s DDB, is pushing her agency to move to a "good, fast, efficient model" -- quipping that "we don't like the word cheap, Let's use the word efficient."

The shop is starting a new approach, called DDB Flex, to "break down things that make them inefficient," said Clark during a Tuesday session at the 4As conference in Miami. The currency of business is speed. This means switching from "verticals to horizontals."

DDB will bring together "all 12 offices and every ounce of talent" to leverage its cross capabilities and embed clients upfront and early in the process. 

"Agencies don't like working together," says Clark. "But your clients believe your agenda is their agenda. Their goals and ambition. We have to check our agenda at the door." 

There's no way these old models can continue, she says. Agencies and publishers were set up in a different time. These creative shops were established before the Internet and widespread penetration of mobile phones.

"We have to get to a place we can begin and end each others' sentences," says Clark. 

"How people work is as important as what they do in today's marketplace. "We have valued the what over the how," she says. "We have tolerated bad behavior because it produced a good outcome."

The "pink elephant in the room" is the ongoing sexism in the industry. Clark declines to discuss the JWT situation, saying that there are "no winners." That said, "we need to be restless on this discussion and really focused," she says. "We can't allow the conversation where it goes wrong. Leadership has to set the agenda and be willing to be public" about its decisions.

At DDB, Clark has mandated several strategies to ensure "talent is as diverse and inclusive as the marketplace we serve."

It’s new hiring initiative recognizes that "talent has no race, religion, age or sexual orientation." DDB is introducing unconscious bias training that will coach 2,000 employees by the end of the year. The agency is also undergoing an equity study to ensure "our company is a place they can create the best work," says Clark.

There's one major adjustment Clark is making in her new position. The former Coca-Cola marketing vet jokes that her office only stocks Pepsi. "A girl can starve before she can get a Diet Coke." 

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