DDB CEO Thinks Agencies Have to Speed Up or Be Left Behind

Wendy Clark says, 'Talk is good, but action is better'

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CANNES, France—"You have to ask yourself, are agencies changing enough to keep up with this changing marketplace?"

DDB Worldwide North American CEO Wendy Clark told Adweek that, as major clients like McDonald's make increasingly strict demands of their advertising partners, all agencies must adapt as quickly as possible or risk being left behind.

"Our models now have to be built for speed. Clients and brands are moving in real-time," she said, adding, "It has to be efficient [but] we can't do that at the cost of great work."

DDB has attempted to balance this contradiction in recent months by introducing a new model called Flex that will allow teams across its 12-office network to collaborate on pieces of business, thereby transcending the sort of multi-agency patchwork that frustrates so many client-side marketers.

Clark is also one of the industry's most passionate advocates for increased diversity in the agency world. Earlier this week, J. Walter Thompson's global chairman and CEO Tamara Ingram told Adweek that the conversation around diversity in advertising will continue for the foreseeable future, and Clark agrees—but she also thinks that most agencies have yet to effectively make the transition from talk to action.

"I don't think we're seeing enough movement and impact," Ingram said. DDB has now begun to institute "unconscious bias training" as well as partnering with a third-party "gender equity" firm that aims to help DDB achieve a more balanced workforce within the next year.

Will the Omnicom network's efforts pay off? Clark's success depends on it.

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.