Darla Price on Mental Health in the Ad Industry

Q&A with Darla Price, President, DDB New York

As some parts of the industry are returning to office, how is DDB approaching the return?  And how much of that decision is based on mental wellbeing of your teams? 

DDB New York and most of our North American offices have returned to the office in three day a week hybrid capacity – ensuring employees have the balance they need. We are also continuing our half-day Fridays and a small, but important daily reminder to take a breath with a calendar hold from one to two PM each day. Each of these actions remind our people to take a beat and clear their heads.

We also acknowledge that we are not returning to old ways and the importance of the flexibility to have a change in scenery that remote work brings. So, across North America, we offer employees the option to work from the location of their choosing for four weeks of the year.

It continues to be very fluid as things ebb and flow in the city. It has been a difficult two years and as a leadership team, we are conscious of all that is going on in the world and how it takes a toll on our people. The most important thing you can do is listen and adapt and repeat.

 

As the pandemic blurred the lines between work and personal life, how would you recommend ensuring balance? 

We try to live and breathe our values every day – at DDB we call this the Four Freedoms. Freedom from Fear, Freedom to Fail, Freedom from Chaos, and Freedom to Be.  As a part of this, one of the things I personally do is to create boundaries and giving our people time back when we can to do the things they love. This has a ripple effect, where others then create their own boundaries. Like making sure I carve out time for family and taking time on Friday to think. This industry is constantly on the move, and it is important to create that space and allow yourself time to be creative!

 

What are some ways in which you prioritize your mental health as an ad executive? 

The biggest Achilles heel in our industry is that we don’t give people enough time back. Money can’t buy time. As an industry, we need to be better at doing this, because it makes for more engaged people and teams.

I also try to keep open lines of communication at all levels. It’s important to check in with direct reports and colleagues to see how they’re doing given all that’s happening in the world.  At DDB, we have a number of resources available to employees from Employee Assistance Programs, to our Equality in Advertising Council that offer open spaces to talk and connect with others.

For myself, I try to make sure to take the time off and actually use vacation days. I carve out at least a couple of days every few months just to reset and refocus, and I also go to one of my favorite places, a mindfulness resort called Miraval which is just a great place to unwind.

 

May is Mental Health Awareness month and as advertising and media professionals, we have the power to shape how mental health/illness is portrayed. How do you recommend we depict a better portrayal, challenge stigma and change the conversation?

We really have to normalize the conversation. Mental health is an illness just like any other illness. And we have to remember that sometimes it is invisible.  It is so important as culture drivers that we empower our people to talk about these things and not hide behind the stigma, because as each person talks about what they’re going through, it helps us all convey an authentic narrative.

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Darla is President of DDB New York. As the first Black President for the NY office, she brings rich global experience that delivers business and culture- driving ideas for clients.

Before her time with DDB, Darla was President and Executive Leader at McCann, Saatchi & Saatchi and Arnold, working with iconic brands such as Microsoft, McDonald’s, Olay, General Mills, and Lockheed Martin.

In addition to her role at DDB NY, Darla is an Executive Coach and believes in maintaining empathy in business to build the future of leadership. She was recently named a 2022 Ad Age Leading Woman, and previously named an Adcolor Change Agent nominee in 2020. Darla is on a mission to change the face of the advertising industry to reflect the awesomely diverse world that we live in.

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