Cannes Lions 2019: Tech firms help validate creative practice: Wendy Clark, DDB Worldwide

At Cannes Lions, Wendy Clark, CEO, DDB Worldwide, spoke to exchange4media on how the team in India was becoming an important part of the network, the DDB logo change & more

e4m by Neeta Nair
Updated: Jun 18, 2019 8:28 AM
Wendy Clark

While most people have been talking about technology invasion of the advertising industry at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, 2019, Wendy Clark, the first woman CEO of DDB Worldwide, tells exchange4media why she feels creative agencies don’t face a threat from technology firms and consultancies as such. 


In today’s day and age, agencies often complain about technology firms and consultancies taking away their bread and butter… how can agencies keep themselves relevant?
I do hear these headlines but I don’t know how accurate they are. We are not losing material piece of our business to consultants. In my opinion, consultants actually help validate our practice. They are just a more expansive set of practitioners that you can engage with now. So, I see it as a validation of the importance of creativity if a company like Accenture Interactive wants to make an investment in an ad agency like Droga5. I think that’s actually a very good vote of confidence. I don’t see a dim future for agencies because of them, instead I feel we have a very bright future where we can all practise together. 


At Cannes, which is that one campaign you have seen or heard of, that really made an impact in the last couple of months?
The ‘Project Free Period’ campaign in India has had an incredible impact for the business for Stayfree. It also had a great impact on the society. And I think therefore, you know the users and the consumers of Stayfree had an added benefit when they got the product. It felt like they were helping create a better outcome in our society. I think you can find that intersection doing well, by doing good. It’s a wonderful place to be in for a brand, especially for a Johnson & Johnson.


DDB Mudra has a rather young leadership team with Aditya Kanthy as the CEO and Rahul Mathew heading Creative. Do you feel they have done justice to the agency after experienced hands like Sonal Dabral and Madhukar Kamath (stepped down) left the agency a couple of years ago, which was expected to leave a void?
I have huge confidence in Aditya. He has set a terrific vision in the last year and we really feel that team India is becoming a part of the network much more. We have got offices in Delhi, Bangalore and Bombay, with almost 800 people in India overall, making it a sizeable team. And Aditya is getting his arms around it, getting the vision straight and drawing from the worldwide network which has a whole set of strategic tools now. 


Why did you recently change the DDB logo and what did you mean at that time when you said that great brands have one foot in the past and one in the future?
The reason we went for a logo change for DDB was because we wanted to go back to using the very first logo which DDB had in the past. We saw great inspiration from finding, uncovering, and realizing that. It was a lovely and distinct asset that belonged to DDB. In fact, if you look at some of the best brands in the world i.e. the Cokes and the Nikes and the McDonald’s, you’ll know that the very big brands have a very clear set of distinct assets. So I intend to draw from the past on that. The future, however, is about the new canvases and the power in our platforms. The power of technology to really expand all the way so that we can connect with consumers is incredible. Simply think about what all Artificial Intelligence can do, the engagement level you can achieve in a matter of seconds now. 


Tell us about the big hits and misses for DDB globally as far as winning and losing accounts is concerned?
We were pitching for the US Army account for four years and finally just won. Of course, government accounts are extreme examples, it is not that we necessarily pitch for every account for that long but yes, we have had some very nice opportunities in the past year. We picked up iShares by BlackRock recently. In the UK, we won back Virgin Media, then there was Vodafone in New Zealand. So we are feeling reasonably good about the year so far.


While you won the Volkswagen account in other parts of the world, it was a let down for you as far as their crucial North America business was concerned?
Well, I am not sure if there could have been a scenario where they would have awarded just one agency globally, because we do have their business for the rest of the world. I am not sure if there was a possibility of picking up the business for the whole world because they wanted at least two agencies. But we defended ourselves well. Then in India we picked up the McDonald’s business which was a very big one for the India team because McDonald’s is our second largest client worldwide. We work within 42 countries. So, picking up India too was a big deal. 

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