- 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 competitor.”
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 about.”
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