Many Americans may not know who Wendy Clark is, but chances are they’re familiar with some of her work: “Avis…We try harder.” “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” And of course, “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.” Each of these indelible marketing slogans came from the respected ad firm DDB, where Clark is Global President and CEO. “It is about becoming part of culture,” she tells iHeartMedia’s Bob Pittman in the CEO’s latest “Math & Magic: Stories from the Frontiers of Marketing” podcast.
“What people don’t want is wrapping paper. They don’t want a veneer. They want to know truly who you are.”
Her philosophy is rooted in the belief that connecting with the consumer through advertising must be earned. “Advertising ultimately is an uninvited guest, that we have to become invited,” she explains. “So, we have to find something interesting to say and we have to say it in an interesting way, and I think then you get deserved attention from people.”
For a campaign to become part of pop culture requires mass advertising to cut through. On the podcast, Clark contends that “mass reach and mass engagement” are important to the big brands DDB counts as clients, along with one-to-one marketing on narrower platforms. But every brand is different and so is their preferred media mix. Clark recounts a recent dinner meeting with the chief marketing officer of one of her clients. “He was telling me radio is his No. 1 platform, it’s most effective for his business,” Clark recalls. “This CMO was suggesting that he’s probably over-weighted on digital. I think there has been a little bit of a rush to do that. And there's little bit of crowding now and it’s harder and harder to break through.”
Clark, who joined DDB North America as President and CEO in early 2016, also has experience on the brand side of marketing. She earlier headed strategic marketing at Coca-Cola North America. From her vantage point, she has seen how clients and agencies have moved from reviewing their media plans once a quarter to almost constantly. “We’re looking at our clients’ media investments every day. So much of this is measurable, there’s real-time performance, there's data, there’s cultural conversations that are happening that you don’t anticipate that you then suddenly want to shift money and get behind and start to fuel a little more. The media scene is very dynamic right now as opposed to static, which is a fantastic advantage for us as marketers.”
In 2018, Clark became the first woman to serve in a global chief executive role at an Omnicom creative network and she’s used her perch to create a more diverse workplace. “We've put women into roles,” she offers. “Our CFO in the U.S. is a woman, our CCO in New York is a woman. We just installed a new head of New York as a woman. So, every step, I want to be asked about the evidence to this rhetoric that again, I think it's very easy to talk about this topic now. I think it's much harder to evidence it and I think we should get into an evidence-based discussion. That's how we're going to make the change.”
On the podcast, Clark also discusses why the best creative campaigns can only come out of trust; and how her experiences at AT&T, Coca-Cola, and even her early stint as a shift manager at McDonald’s have made her the leader she is today. Listen to the podcast HERE.