I couldn’t be more confident about our prospects in India: Wendy Clark, DDB Worldwide

Wendy Clark, CEO, DDB Worldwide, talks to exchange4media on her visit to India about the importance of the market to the organisation, growing battle for the best talent, DDB Flex model and more

e4m by Srabana Lahiri & Christina Moniz
Updated: Aug 21, 2019 9:35 AM


Wendy Clark

Wendy Clark, CEO, DDB Worldwide is making her second visit to India, a market she insists is very important to the agency. As someone who started out in this industry as a receptionist, Clark has emerged as one of the few women at the CEO position in a creative agency. India is one of the many countries Clark will tour through the next three months.

“We have been working on our global point of view from a strategy and creative perspective that we announced earlier. I am going around the world to key markets to ensure that we are inculcating that strategic point of view, the frameworks, the tools, and then the resulting creativity are all now well underway,” she said.

Here are a few excerpts from a freewheeling chat with Clark.

What opportunities do you see in India right now?
The Indian market is very critical. We have a lot of global relationships that manifest here from McDonald’s to Johnson & Johnson, Volkswagen, Unilever and others. So, on the one hand we have got our global relationships, and then on the other we have got wonderful local partnerships. I was at Star on Monday, and I am going to visit some more clients in Bangalore this week. This will be my first visit to the city. The idea is to meet with clients, get some internal focus, talk about the industry a little bit and just get better insights and understanding about the industry. The more I can build my brand, the better I can be at my job. The India market is very important to us – we have 850 people here. I intend to ensure we continue to grow and progress. Obviously, I don’t need to tell you anything about the potential of this country and the growth that the world sees. My entire position is just to continue the good work that’s been done before and to enhance and accelerate it.

Tell us about DDB Flex, the new operating model that you have created using cross-agency teams based on client needs. What are some of the success stories there?
DDB Flex, more than anything, is a philosophy that is based on a lot of my previous experiences. These are experiences as a client where I felt some amount of frustration that I needed to knit together the agency’s capabilities in a way that works for me, but it wasn’t really readily available in the marketplace. When we talk to our clients, there are three things on their minds, and this is pretty consistent across every client. One is growth, the other speed and agility and the third is efficiency. They want that speed, they want that growth at a great price and efficiently. So, these are the things we are working on. And Flex really sought to take all the capabilities that a particular client needs and put them together in a way that was right for brands and companies, which would yield speed and agility and at an efficient rate and cost. Now across our portfolio of clients, we are demonstrating that we can fluidly connect capabilities with speed and yield efficiency.

You left Coca Cola to join DDB in 2015. You are the best person therefore to tell us how the client-agency equation has evolved in recent times. How have client requirements changed?
In areas where our client-agency relationships have been the best, there is usually the most important element of trust. The brands that are winning at Cannes – how do they and their agencies make that happen? What’s behind that great work is a relationship that is really steeped in trust, something that is not easy to get to. Trust is one of those enduring truths. Certainly, the rise of new capabilities and the availability of data today also facilitate better outcomes. But I still believe where there is trust, there is great work.

You stepped away from Time’s Up Advertising after there was a controversy about hiring former Droga5 CCO Ted Royer, and later admitted your mistake in putting ‘business first’. How big a challenge is finding the right talent in this industry?
I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that there is a talent war at the moment and that we are all sparring for talent a lot of times. The emergence and rise of some digital players like Google and Facebook are creating competition for talent. On the plus side, that’s a positive thing. It is a good thing for talent in general and it makes our industry more attractive.

What is the mandate for Aditya Kanthy, and what are your expectations out of India?
The mandate for Aditya is continue the great legacy that we have here at DDB Mudra but also to make sure that we are ready for the future. That has to do with recruiting the right people and creating the right leadership team. And I have seen him do great things in the last year. Ultimately, what we are going to deliver on is what our clients want from us – new and incremental sources of growth and agility in their communications partners at an efficient price. That is what Aditya will be focused on along with the leadership team that he has recruited here, and I couldn’t be more confident about our prospects in India.

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