DDB CEO Wendy Clark to Step Down From Time’s Up Leadership Committee After News of Controversial Hire

Advocacy group sees opportunity to emphasize 'mission'

DDB Co-CCO Lisa Topol will take Wendy Clark's place (pictured) on the Time's Up steering committee. DDB
Headshot of Patrick Coffee

Time’s Up Advertising has addressed Adweek’s report that DDB recently hired former Droga5 chief creative officer Ted Royer, who was fired from that agency in February, to work on the Volkswagen pitch. In a statement issued last night, Time’s Up called the resulting controversy an opportunity to “reiterate” its own reason for being.

DDB worldwide CEO Wendy Clark, one of the group’s most visible leaders, also acknowledged making a “mistake” and agreed to step down from the 10-woman Time’s Up steering committee, though she will remain a member of the larger group.

One-hundred eighty female leaders launched the advocacy org this March to address perceived matters of gender inequality and sexual harassment in the agency world.

“Today is a good day to reiterate what it means to uphold and prioritize the Time’s Up Advertising mission,” its members collectively wrote after debating the matter for several hours yesterday.

They continued: “Our mission is to create workplaces that are safe, fair, and dignified for all. Our signatories are accountable to the values of the mission. We hold the women who signed, and their agencies, accountable for a process of change.”

The latter statement appeared to be a reference to DDB.

When contacted by Adweek in September, Clark said there had been “no consideration” to hire Royer, either as a full-time employee or a freelancer working on the pitch. After the story ran yesterday, however, an agency spokesperson confirmed that he had, in fact, been recruited by Clark to assist in the effort.

“This past summer we used Ted Royer as a freelancer on a pitch. While he worked independently, we regret that this freelance engagement caused any concern for any members of our team,” the representative said in a statement. “Our commitment to a safe, fair and dignified workplace for all of our associates is unwavering.”

Droga5 has declined to elaborate on the CCO’s February departure in the ensuing months, and Royer declined to comment when reached via email this week.

Contrary to a report published this morning, Clark will not be leaving Time’s Up entirely. According to a representative who spoke to Adweek, she has only stepped aside from her role on the 10-person steering committee in order to give that opportunity to another colleague.

Others said group leaders engaged in an extended conversation yesterday as to how to proceed after the news broke.

“Regrettably, I fell into a traditional paradigm of business first and given the choice again I would do things differently,” wrote Clark, who co-led one of the first 14 official meetings of the Time’s Up group in New York earlier this year. “That was a mistake. The reckoning for past behavior is not just for survivors of sexual harassment but for the whole industry which needs systemic change.”

“I want to thank Time’s Up for being a moral compass, and supporting both our teams and me, personally, as we work through this defining moment, to ensure that in every way and everything we do our agency is a safe, fair and dignified place to work,” her statement continued. “To best support the critical work of Time’s Up Advertising, Lisa Topol, co-chief creative officer of DDB/NY, will assume my role on the Time’s Up Advertising steering committee during this time.”

DDB hired Topol away from Grey in January. She did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Multiple Time’s Up members and attendees who have spoken to Adweek since the group first announced its formation described the challenges inherent in creating such an organization. Dozens of women who work as freelancers or recently lost their jobs were reportedly informed they could not attend the May event in New York, which was moved to Hammerstein Ballroom at the last moment in order to accommodate hundreds of attendees.

Time’s Up Advertising also met to discuss its next steps following this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.