Juan Luis Isaza holds the distinguished positions of Chief Strategy Officer at DDB Latina and Chairman at DDB Mexico. He has been recognized with the prestigious title of "DE&I Person of the Year" for his outstanding contributions. His achievements stand as a testament to his dedicated efforts in driving forward diversity, equity, and inclusion within the dynamic realm of advertising.
Selected by the NYF DE&I Advisory Board, The DE&I Person of the Year" is awarded to an individual who has shown exceptional leadership, dedication, and impact in the realm of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I). This award recognizes someone who has made significant contributions to advancing diversity, promoting equity, and fostering a culture of inclusion within their organization or the broader community.
In November 2020, Juan assumed the role of President at DDB Mexico during a challenging period marked by a reputation crisis His objective was to revolutionize DDB into Mexico's most diverse and inclusive agency.
With a visionary approach aimed at forging new connections between the DDB brand, advertisers, and talent attraction, he undertook a comprehensive restructuring of the agency's management. A significant achievement was his appointment of women to 50% of Vice Presidential roles, a groundbreaking milestone. Additionally, he championed the recruitment of women in the traditionally male-dominated creative department, catalyzing the ascent of female creative directors and paving the way for increased female representation in future talent positions.
In his inaugural year, DDB Mexico achieved its first-ever certification as the Best Place to Work for LGBTQ+ individuals by the Human Rights Campaign.The strong focus on diversity and inclusion initiated a profound transformation within the agency, affecting both its internal dynamics and external interactions. Perhaps more significantly, the agency's creative output was seamlessly infused with a culture of diversity and inclusion.
In this year's NYF Advertising Awards DDB Mexico was awarded 4 coveted Grand Trophies for their creative campaign “Data Tienda” promoting financial inclusivity for women for client Gahr WeCapital. Trophies were bestowed in the following categories:
- AVANT-GARDE/INNOVATIVE: DDB MEXICO SA DE CV “Data Tienda” for Gahr WeCapital
- DIGITAL/MOBILE: DDB MEXICO SA DE CV “Data Tienda” for Gahr WeCapital
- DIRECT: DDB MEXICO SA DE CV “Data Tienda” for Gahr WeCapital
- THE FUTURE NOW: DDB MEXICO SA DE CV “Data Tienda” for Gahr WeCapital
As Juan often says “This is just the beginning; our work does not end with the transformation of our agency. We need to influence the whole advertising industry in Mexico to make it more inclusive and diverse. We need to keep proving that diversity is a precondition for creativity.”
In the interview below New York Festivals spent a few minutes with Juan to delve into his strategy for change, his perspective on building a creative team, and how he realized his goal of prioritizing DE&I. Keep reading for further perspectives from this committed visionary and accomplished champion of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
NYF: As the driving force behind DDB's transformative journey, as President, could you share a bit about your strategic approach you utilized to assemble your team of key leaders to implement positive change?
Juan Luis Isaza: The approach was really simple: talented and nice. This was the philosophy defined by Bill Bernbach when hiring employees for DDB. I got the inspiration from him. So, I consistently emphasize to recruit based on talent, but individuals must also have a positive attitude and good vibe. Otherwise, establishing a thriving work environment becomes impossible. This can be difficult at times, as we often feel tempted to hire only for competence. But competence alone is insufficient if we aim to orchestrate a transformation like the one we wanted in DDB Mexico. The key is placing people and positive attitude first. I know that having this as a priority can be a hard, but it always pays back in the long term.
NYF: How did your team contribute to realizing your visionary goals of fostering Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion within the agency?
Juan Luis Isaza: People in DDB Mexico have witnessed first-hand the benefits of prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion because they have seen the results: the awards we have obtained, industry buzz around our accomplishments, our satisfied clients, and, perhaps most importantly, the positive energy that permeates our day-to-day work. When people can be themselves in the workspace, when they feel they are not judged or limited by their gender, origin, or educational background they are more productive, more passionate and they work much better. That’s why I insist that diversity is a precondition for creativity and for having a truly creative environment.
NYF: Could you share your personal standout accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Juan Luis Isaza: I’m obviously very proud of all the awards DDB Mexico has received in the last two years; some of the most important awards in the history of Mexican and Latin American advertising industry. But I have to say that the one I feel most proud of is having placed DDB Mexico as the office with the best employee engagement of all DDB offices for two years in a row. Having the highest scores on diversity, commitment, intention to stay or recommending DDB Mexico as a great place to work. That’s very satisfying. Having one person that made their gender transition at the agency and hearing their appreciation for our support was priceless.
NYF: How do you skillfully harness creativity and leadership in together to steer your team towards achieving success in the realm of advertising innovation?
Juan Luis Isaza: Leadership is a creative exercise because when managing an agency, you always have limited resources. Time is perhaps the most scare resource. So, you have to get creative on how to create spaces to connect with the talents, listen to them and make sure that they are motivated. Same with clients and the operation itself. The other key factor is empowerment. Having the best people in front of the creative and strategic areas, for the operation, for the finance… and make sure they work well together. I don’t think I’m a leader that comes up with the ideas. I don’t think that is realistic. I see myself more like the one that makes sure that the environment is optimal for facilitating those ideas to emerge. Although, I must confess that I miss a lot getting involved in projects joining as a member of the strategic or the creative teams.