In August, DDB Canada announced that Eve Remillard-Larose would be the agency’s new CEO. While any c-suite change is big news, this was especially significant, given the fact that Eve had spent the past 16 years at Sid Lee. However, as an avid lover of challenge, and someone with a desire to unlock business transformation and growth, Eve was enticed by the chance to help ‘give glory’ back to DDB on the Canadian market.
Bringing a strong sense of commitment, tenacity and intelligence, Eve has been in the business since 2003 - and in that time, partnered with a wide range of organisations ranging from start-ups to global multinationals with the hope of elevating their brand experience. Equally important to her is the need for diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and since joining, Eve has worked hard to bring and pursue a strong and positive culture at DDB Canada.
Speaking to LBB’s Addison Capper and Josh Neufeldt, Eve discusses what compelled her to join, her main aims and ambitions, and why being an account manager taught her valuable skills she applies to her job today.
LBB> You were with Sid Lee for 16 years! What tempted you to join DDB?
Eve> Sid Lee's a big part of who I am, and I feel really privileged to have been there. Something I love is building new things and getting new challenges, and I feel like the beauty of Sid Lee was that I basically changed jobs every two years.
Similarly, this love of building and challenges contributed to why I joined DDB. When I met Justin [Thomas-Copeland, North America CEO and president], we just really connected. It was shared values and shared ambition. Specifically, I'm such a strong believer that at the end of the day, what we do is all about people - because we're not going to have a good creative product if we don't have the people to do it. Being able to share my ambitions and this vision of creativity was, and is, really important.
The challenge and the opportunity in Canada is really to revitalise DDB and to make sure it's an active participant in the market. This is a great building mandate and opportunity - which is what I love to do. It's that perfect combination of people with whom I share values and ambition, and an opportunity to build and bring, or 'give glory' back to DDB in the Canadian market.
LBB> Stepping into your new role at DDB, what are your main aims and ambitions? Does a lot need changing or is it more about steadily steering the ship?
Eve> There's a lot of good things going on in the market, and a lot of different parts of DDB in the Canadian market, but I think there's a real opportunity to build on that foundation. We have access to data like nobody else (in the Canadian market) through Track DDB, and data can really inspire new creative ideas and solutions - providing connected experiences along the consumer journey. As such, this is a big transformation for the DDB that people know today, which is, I think, often associated with those very big, iconic, legacy campaigns. We're moving to more data-inspired creativity which shows up unexpectedly across the journey.
I also think we have a great opportunity to transform how we partner with our clients. I think we need to be closer allies to them and we need to make sure that their success, both commercially and professionally, is at the heart of our thinking when we come up with creativity. We need to make sure that it’s connected to the business. All these things are contributing to our transformation. We’re evolving the way we're working and we’re shifting the market's perception on what we deliver.
LBB> There's a lot said about the ‘talent war’ right now, but in the announcement about your joining DDB, you seemed to flip that conversation and sounded pretty upbeat about the talent market. Why is that? What are your general thoughts on and how are you approaching both current and new talent at DDB Canada?
Eve> I love what we do, I'm passionate about it, and I think that’s very important. It’s a tough industry, and you have to be passionate about what we do. I think at heart, I'm just a strong believer that there's other people like me - and I've met them. They're here, they're at other agencies, they're trying to enter the market.
The employer/employee relationship is super interesting right now. I like listening to the 'Diary of a CEO' podcast, and there was one episode I listened to with Simon Sinek where they were talking about just that. This resonated for me, because we often see this relationship as a transactional and binary one, where the employee says, ‘I want this’ and the employer either says ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Instead, I think it should be approached more like a conversation - something like, 'where are you at in your life?' or 'what are you looking for?'. I also think we need to be more honest with each other on our ambitions and how we’re feeling. I want to be able to have an evolving conversation with our employees.
Building on this, I think that from the employee standpoint, it’s important for them to be able to say, 'here's where we’re at’ or 'here's what I'm looking for'. Let's just be honest and keep it as an ongoing conversation instead of a 'yes' or 'no'. I think we must get out of that binary, and just have those conversations and focus on our ambition. I believe that if you're excited about the ambition and like what we're building together, you'll want to jump in and just be dedicated and passionate about the task. It's not for everybody, but I think by doing that, you can build a solid team.
LBB> You've worked in Canada for much of your career - what are your thoughts on the local advertising industry of 2022? And how has it evolved over your career?
Eve> I think it's really strong, and I think it's always been strong. I'm excited for DDB to play a bigger role within the industry and lead the charge into where it's going to go, while also making sure we're part of training the next generation. There are a lot of veterans within this industry that came through the DDB school. They worked at DDB during their younger years and now they've started their own shops and they're doing well. So I think we have a big role to play, and honestly, I think it's part of our responsibility as members of the industry. But regardless, I think the local industry is vibrant, and I think there's lots of good work that comes out of here. Yes, through the years the medium has changed, but at the end of the day, the core of what we do - finding those creative insights and showing up in unexpected ways to convince consumers to do something or think something or feel something - that hasn't changed.
LBB> How did you end up working in advertising? Was it a bit of an accident, or something that you kind of more pointedly tried to do?
Eve> I think it was serendipity. I remember being young and having high school classes where they were like 'you can do an ad campaign' and I'd be like 'oh, that's fun, let me try to be a copywriter’. But then I realised I maybe wasn’t so good at it. At any rate, I ended up going to business school, and outside of that I did a competition where one of the judges was a VP at FCB. Right after that competition, she came to see me and said that they had an internship, so I applied. I got the internship and that was that. So, while this is an industry I love, I can't say that from a very young age I was like, ‘oh, I've discovered my dream career path!'.
LBB> Before becoming CEO, you came up through account management. What lessons did you learn as an accounts manager, and how do they impact your style of leadership now?
Eve> I think a great account manager is two things. First, I think they're strategic - so really thinking about and getting to understand the client's business and how to make them win. This is really helpful as a CEO, because you can apply that same sense of strategy to your own business. The other thing is being a great orchestrator. You have all these different pieces to manage, which is similar to what I do today. As CEO, I have all these different departments and divisions and teams, so how do I make sure that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts?
Another big thing I learned from being an account manager was the importance of being willing to figure things out. Back then, I was saying yes to everything. If I didn’t know how to do something or we’d never done something before, I’d try to figure it out. I think it helped build up my resiliency. While you sometimes get the good news, it's mostly problems that float up when you’re a leader. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but it just builds that resiliency which I find super useful here.
LBB> In general, what are your big plans for DDB in the coming future? Please share!
Eve> I want to make big strides in building shared culture. Like I said, there's a lot of good things happening within DDB Canada, but they're very independent of one another - so building that shared culture is really important. Also, I want to put creativity at the heart of all our conversations. If we do this, I think it's going to help culture. Our team will understand the type of creativity we aspire to, and where the bar is. Hopefully this will allow our team to get out of their comfort zones - enabling them to create things that have never been done before, and which they can be very confident about. All of that is tied to culture and people!
Finally, I believe that if you have the right culture and the right people, then it's going to show in our pitches. Our own clients are going to feel it and it's going to help the business. But we need to start there.