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DDB’s Wendy Clark says the ad agency of the future needs to be flexible



wendy clark
Clark, DDB North America president and CEO.


  • DDB’s Wendy Clark said old-style advertising may be dead, but
    the medium has to evolve.
  • Advertising today needs to adapt to be wherever consumers
    are, she said.
  • Clark said focusing on building bespoke approaches for
    clients is the best way for agencies to survive.

At a time when people are tuning out advertising and agencies are
facing competition from all sides, agencies have to adapt to stay
relevant. To Wendy Clark, the first female global CEO of Omnicom
Group’s DDB, the agency of the future has to be more like
flexible bamboo than unbending oak to survive.

The traditional TV ad that’s pushed out to people whether they
want to see them or not may be dead, but advertising itself is
changing to reflect the broad canvas that it shows up on, Clark
said in a conversation with Business Insider senior reporter
Tanya Dua at Business Insider’s Ignition conference in New York
on Monday.

“The 30-second spots that were in a traditional TV pod — that
idea that we can push a brands’ message in the world and it will
be so — that is dead,” she said. “Everything communicates. That’s
what we have to think about.”

Clark discussed the agency’s answer to this change, creating
bespoke models like DDB Flex, the agency’s new operating model
that creates integrated, cross-agency teams based on clients’
needs and that helped the agency win McDonald’s.

“Siloed companies weren’t working,” she said. “We have to be as
dynamic and fluid and agile and flexible as the marketplace that
represents itself today.”

Is the model working? Well, DDB has signed on other clients like
Volkswagen and Johnson & Johnson, she said.

“The big, leading brands are all looking at these models now,”
she said.

Traditional agencies also are seeing consulting firms encroaching
on the advertising business. Clark said she actually sees the
entrance of those companies in the industry as a sign of the
industry’s health rather than a danger to agencies’ livelihood.
“I don’t regard them as a threat, I regard them as a worthy

Clark also addressed the news last month that DDB
used former Droga5 CCO Ted Royer on a pitch
. Royer and Droga
parted ways earlier this year amid an HR investigation. Last
month, Clark admitted DDB’s using Royer was a “mistake.”

“I don’t lead a perfect organization,” she said on stage. “I
don’t want anyone to think failure is something to be hidden.
It’s generally the case that if you knew then what you know now,
you’d do things differently. But we have to have a learning
culture … and that’s something I’ve faced the agency and talked

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