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Most Creative People

Why DDB's U.S. CEO Thinks Diversity Is Key

Wendy Clark, the ad agency's North American CEO, wants her company "to be as diverse and inclusive as the marketplace we represent."

Wendy Clark CEO, DDB North America

[Photo: Daniel Dorsa]

After overseeing some of Coca-Cola’s most progressive and viral marketing campaigns—including last year’s Super Bowl ad on cyberbullying—and turning the beverage company into the top consumer brand on Facebook, Wendy Clark took over as the North American CEO of DDB Worldwide in January. "I’m a student of advertising and I love this industry," she says, "so the opportunity to add my fingerprints to [DDB’s] legacy was too compelling to look away from."

Just two months into the job, Clark stood before hundreds of her colleagues at an ad-industry conference and pressed them to "stay restless" on diversity and inclusion—key issues as she thinks about how to approach her new position. She has already instituted mandatory unconscious-bias training for DDB’s 2,000 employees, and she is bringing in a diversity consultant to conduct a review. "You have to have an environment where people can bring their whole selves to work and do the best work of their lives," she says. "We want to be as diverse and inclusive as the marketplace we represent."

Clark is also tweaking DDB’s creative process. Under a new program called DDB Flex, she is building client-specific groups that tap outside talent. A Flex team might include employees of marketing and media partners such as Google and Spotify—or even people from competing agencies that do work for the client. "We come together as an integrated, collaborative team and lead projects based on shared objectives and success metrics," Clark explains. "That’s the model that we’re going to create."

Best recent development

"Virtual reality. You forget that you’re in a room with other people!"

Worst recent development

"The presidential race. The election cycle has been one of the worst things that as a society we’re living with, day in and day out."

Who’d be on her list of most creative people

"Students. When you spend time with them, you’re blown away by their creativity. They have such great ideas."

Source of inspiration

"Sun Tzu. He said the traits of a successful leader are to be brave, caring, disciplined, smart, and trustworthy: That’s my mantra. To write a book 500 years ago that is relevant today is pretty remarkable."

How she stays productive

"We get infinitely more productive when we have time to think. I do that through exercise. It’s less for physical health and more for my mental capacity to process stuff."

A version of this article appeared in the July/August issue of Fast Company magazine.

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