Perspectives: Women In Advertising: Diane Jackson, Chief Production Officer at DDB Chicago.
AdForum: How would you describe the current overall culture at your agency? How would you describe the culture among your female colleagues and what are the differences?
Diane: DDB is fundamentally grounded in the principles of Bill Bernbach, and sixty years later they are still as relevant today as they have always been. For example, you have to be nice to work at DDB.
Wendy Clark, DDB’s North American President and CEO, has been a tremendous inspiration to all that work here. She brings a fresh vision of the modern agency and has set DDB and our clients on a new path. It’s very exciting times here.
Irrespective of gender, DDB has a culture of collaboration. People delight in the success of others and recognize we are stronger as a unit, leveraging skills across multiple disciplines. We have more female creatives than ever before, more planners, account leads etc. We have a diverse culture born out of talented people who want to work and play hard. Everyone is valued at DDB. While the prosperity of an agency ebbs and flows, the culture should always hold true.
AdForum: What do you see as being the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the “glass ceiling” into Sr. Executive level positions? What are some of the challenges that still exist for women in reaching the upper echelon of management?
Diane: I must say that things have cleaned up a lot…meaning that the “boys club” of old does not fly anymore. It’s just not tolerated.
Generally, I believe there to be greater respect for each other irrespective of gender, a stronger work ethic and far less company golf outing “retreats”.
It’s usually in the mid-level positions that women face the challenge of whether to have children and if so, whether to rejoin the work force. Companies offer new parents greater support than ever before and DDB recently made improvements to our family benefits. It’s a very competitive market and some hard choices must be made. As a working mother and a very driven career girl I am proof I guess that it can work.
AdForum: What do you consider the biggest personal achievement in your career that still fills you with the most pride?
Diane: I guess being the first female agency Head of Production to judge at Cannes was a big deal for me. But honestly, the fact that I have advanced other people’s careers has been hugely rewarding. Half a dozen Head of Production positions have been filled by producers I have trained.
AdForum: How do you find the best work-life balance to help you stay productive and creative at work and to help you live a happy, sane life outside of the office?
But seriously, great friends and family, great adventures and escapes, a great team who inspires me to do my best by them, and a few indulgences.
I don’t really believe it’s a “balance”. It’s life as I know it and it all exists together. It’s about harmony and not choosing one thing above another.
AdForum: Was there a job you had at one point, outside of advertising, that prepared you most for success later in life?
Diane: I went through a “I don’t give a shit” phase a year before my entrance exams for university. I hung out with, as my father would say, the “riff raff”. That summer I applied for an internship at the popular local radio station. This was for school credit and so it had to be endorsed by my school tutor, who recognized my hubris and impending academic demise.
To my horror, I was denied the position at Essex Radio, but was placed at a Hobsons and Sons, a manufacturer of uniforms and clothing accoutrements, and would spend six weeks sorting buttons. This proved to be the biggest wakeup call of my life.
I was on a production line eight hours a day picking out the runts, doingmind numbing, repetitive work for minimum wage. The prospect of a future devoid of choices and without creativity was the biggest kick in the pants I needed. I will be forever grateful to Professor Stephen Miller.
AdForum: Can you reflect on a mentor that helped guide you in your career and tell us what made them special?
Diane: Grant Hill, former Executive Director of Production at DDB was the ambassador for creative production and the master of recruiting the best talent in the industry.
I was an EP at DDB and left for four years to become Head of Production at BBDO where I was charged to build a new department. Grant taught me that when hiring new people, look for the skills that you can’t teach, such as charisma, work ethic, passion, curiosity…. the rest would follow. He taught me not to hire “positions,” but rather hire talent and create an environment for them to learn the skills to do the job and support them.
Now as Chief Production Officer at DDB I still rely on the many things I learned from Grant. I find myself asking when faced with a challenge, “What would Grant do?” He demonstrated complete grace under pressure and honestly made everyone feel valued…. because they were.
AdForum: How do you as a successful woman in your industry plan to inspire the next generation of women? In a few words, what advice do you have for women entering the advertising industry?
Diane: I try to live by example. I have never allowed my gender to determine my future, beliving that hard work and a certain amount of risk would ultimately pay off.
Seize every every opportunity, knowing sometimes you will fail.
“A calm sea does not make a skilled sailor.”