5 Questions for Paul Gunning of DDB Chicago

The 4A’s is committed to sharing the insights of ad industry leaders. In this edition of our “5 Questions” series, we speak with Paul Gunning, CEO of DDB Chicago.

What’s the biggest challenge or opportunity facing the ad industry right now?

Conquering the impossible to create good work is the biggest challenge and opportunity in our industry right now. Today, the true test of great talent is the ability to manage the present while at the same time inventing the future. At DDB Chicago, our agency is structured to allow all talent to collaborate and move at the rapid pace business requires, while pushing one another to think differently about the challenges we’re facing and solutions we develop.

What is the single most significant change you need to make in your agency in the next 12 months?

DDB Chicago has had tremendous momentum in the past year and we’ve been looking for the right talent to meet the demands of this growth. In the next year, each of the agency’s core and in-house disciplines will continue to seek out and attract the best talent but ensure that our team is as diverse as the marketplace we serve.

What products/services/unique skills do ad agencies offer that guarantee the industry’s survival for another 100 years?

Creativity is the most powerful force in business—Bill Bernbach said this long ago, and it’s one of, and always will be one of, the guiding principles of DDB. So even in 100 years, agencies may look different or function differently, but they will always be relevant and necessary because creativity will always be at their core, and without creativity, brands lack innovation.

What attributes do you look for in your next generation of leaders/managers?

Talent is extremely important to DDB Chicago, so as I look at the next generation of leaders in the industry, I stress the importance of being capable of making decisions quickly. Today, it’s amazing how much data we have access to, and it helps make informed decisions. But you still need to be able to synthesize that data quickly and use human understanding in order to make business decisions quickly. The people who can move at the pace of business will be the next leaders.

If you weren’t working in advertising, what would you be doing as a career?

If I wasn’t in the industry, I’d probably be a history teacher. I’d like talking about the events and people that have influenced and shaped the present and future.