How DDB is using its heritage (and Zoom) to amp up employee morale

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DDB Chairman Emeritus Keith Reinhard and DDB North America CEO Wendy Clark at Advertising Week 2016
DDB Chairman Emeritus Keith Reinhard and DDB North America CEO Wendy Clark at Advertising Week 2016

"Motivation Mondays" takes a page from Keith Reinhard's Wednesday memos.

At a time when morale among adland employees is precariously low, one agency is making a strong push to up its employees’ enthusiasm.

Starting this week, DDB North America CEO Wendy Clark kicked off a new program called "Motivation Mondays." Every week, employees from across Canada and the US will tune in live from their laptops or smartphones to participate in this easily hashtagable, hourlong series in which Clark discusses everything from account wins to unconscious bias trainings and then answer staffers’ questions live.

"I'm shamelessly taking a page out of Larry Page and Sergey Brin's weekly Town Hall Meetings with all of Google," Clark said. "I mean, if [they] can figure out in their schedule how to be available to all of Google once a week, I certainly can figure out my schedule, how to be available."

But the weekly meeting isn’t only inspired by the new wave of open communication among the tech industry. It has strong ties to the ad world, and specifically DDB, as well.

Every Wednesday for 20 years, DDB Chairman Emeritus Keith Reinhard would send a memo to the global agency with a single piece of wisdom or insight about advertising, business or life in general.

"This was way before email, but how could we create that feeling that everyone was part of something bigger," Reinhard told Ad Age.

And the messages spread. When Reinhard traveled to DDB offices around the world, he’d see his note attached to bulletin boards—sometimes adorned with penned-in commentary from other employees. "It was an early form of interactive communications," he said.

Clark said that Motivation Mondays are "taking a page out of Keith's book, but using the technology that's available today that can actually make it real-time engagement." DDB is using the platform Zoom to facilitate the live discussions between the lowest and highest rung on the agency’s ladder.

Hundreds of employees—including Reinhard—tuned in to Clark’s first #MM session, asking questions ranging from her biggest surprise since joining the agency to what she was going to be for Halloween. (Clark’s answer? "A mother of three.") Clark hopes the conversations will become truly that—dialogues in which employees aren’t afraid to raise real concerns. "If there are tough questions, I want them," Clark said, noting that a key factor of company leadership is accessibility. "[There’s an expectation that] your quote, unquote virtual door is always open to them, and that you will stand and answer whatever questions they have. You can't sit behind scripted two-sentence press statements or internal statements anymore."

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