Marketing and agency veteran Wendy Clark will become the global CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN), the company said on Monday. She is the first female CEO of a global agency network.
She will start in September and report into Tim Andree, DAN’s global chairman, who took on the global CEO role after Jerry Buhlmann left the company in November.
Clark joins DAN from DDB, where she has been CEO for the past four years. Before that she was president of sparkling brands and strategic marketing at Coca-Cola and SVP of global advertising at AT&T. She’ll tap into her past as a brand marketer to deliver on what she knows clients need: speed, efficiency and growth.
“What clients want most is integrated, fluid solutions to grow their business,” she said. “That’s what I wanted as a client.”
Clark is, of course, joining DAN amid a global pandemic that’s throwing the economy into a freefall. To weather the storm, she’ll focus on the well-being of Dentsu’s people and clients while staying on top of the data in real time.
“If you don’t create a culture and experience where people want to come to work every day, you don’t have a business,” she said. “That’s the first thing on my mind.”
Beyond talent and client relationships, Clark will focus on running an effective and efficient company. “When we focus on our people and clients, we will drive our own growth and success,” she said.
But with the economy in a tailspin, Clark will have to measure her success beyond Dentsu’s stock price. She’ll look to attracting and retaining talent, pitching and winning new business (virtually) and delivering on what clients need – even if the volume and nature of work changes in the short term.
Marketers are reevaluating their strategies and many are pausing ad spend through Q2, but Clark sees opportunities for brands to stay connected with customers in a difficult time. The key for an agency is knowing a client’s business inside and out and staying on top of the data in real time to help them react appropriately, while maintaining an emotional connection.
“[Consumers] want to hear what companies are doing for their associates, communities and societies,” Clark said. “We have to stay incredibly focused on that and understand how that company can rightly engage if they want to.”
Clark is hoping that by the time she officially starts in her role in September, she’ll be able to meet with her teams and clients in person. If not, she’ll lean into the digital collaboration tools that have been guiding the business world through an unprecedented time.
Beyond the current moment, Clark is smashing a tall glass ceiling as the first female CEO of a holding company, and hopes her role inspires more female leadership in the industry.
“It’s a very important responsibility,” she said. “I don’t want anybody to believe there are limits. If me doing this helps other people see their potential, that will feel massively fulfilling.”