REEL WOMEN: DDB Creative Director Carolyn Bergen

Carolyn Bergen
Carolyn Bergen

Editor’s Note: They are leaders. They are inspirational. They are mentors. They are visionaries. They are, quite frankly, badasses. They are our 2022 REEL WOMEN. During Women’s History Month, you will be able to meet these incredible personalities in Advertising, Entertainment, Media and Production. Women like Carolyn Bergen are making “Herstory.”

A passionate, proven creative leader and writer, Carolyn is a prolific yet pithy Storyteller with a solid record of new business wins, brand reinventions and strategically-executed big ideas. Having worked at Chicago agencies like DDB, FCB and Leo Burnett, her expertise and discipline has helped her build big brand, omnichannel, multi-platform campaigns.

Being in on the initial stages of start-ups like McGarry Bowen O’Keefe, Reinhard and Paul, and High Dive, Carolyn is well-versed in the rigor and commitment of creating a culture from the ground up.

A strategic thinker, problem solver, insight uncoverer, culture cultivator, client whisperer and activation activator, Carolyn has produced campaigns for clients big and not-so-big; from Gatorade to Gulf Oil to Disney Parks to Westin Hotels. While she has won a slew of new business pitches, awards and accolades, winning the hearts and minds of consumers is what truly makes her go “Mmmm”.

When not directing creative, Carolyn can be found writing songs, reading The New Yorker, or air-drumming along with her idol, Dave Grohl.

Let’s meet Carolyn!

What’s your origin story?
I am a descendant of French nobles who were forced to flee under the cover of night during the revolution. It is this inescapable ancestral DNA, coursing through my veins, that fuels my unbridled passion for intrigue, expensive perfume and elaborately frosted cake. And of course, advertising.

How did you get into Advertising?
Funny you should ask. A man who ran an ad agency saw my resume on a desk that he should not have been looking at. He committed my phone number to memory and later called to offer an interview- never divulging how he found me until I accepted the opportunity to meet him, and then the job. So it was kind of random, yet serendipitous, all at once.

Who were your mentors?
One of my co-workers at the aforementioned (yet not actually mentioned) ad agency, Steve Levitan (who would go on to create the show Modern Family) actually taught me how to put a portfolio together, which helped launch my career.

Judith Werme, who was the greatest presenter of all time. Bob Scarpelli, who understood the concept of trending before it was even, well, trending. And Linda Yellin, for teaching me to negotiate everything.

While there will be others, what do you consider your biggest achievement to date?
My biggest achievement to date is/are my two incredibly kind and decent children (and there will be no others). Besides them, I feel my biggest “achievement” was creating a mammography awareness campaign that resonated so well, Patricia Arquette offered to be in it, gratis. I ended up receiving emails from complete strangers who had found me online, in order to…wait for it…thank me.

Seriously. Several women admitted to making an appointment for the procedure simply after seeing the PSA. These voicemails and emails were exponentially more meaningful than the Effie the campaign eventually won.


ALSO READ: See who else is on the Reel Women List


What drives you to create?
Boredom. A Mortgage. Cake.

What shows are doing the best job of portraying strong women on TV?
Due to the pandemic I’ve been able to catch up on shows I hadn’t had time to watch before- like How to Get Away With Murder- Viola Davis plays a strong yet flawed and powerfully brilliant woman. I also love Susie in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, even more than Mrs. Maisel- as Susie has all the best lines…and delivery.  Reign is my current obsession-it’s the story of Mary, Queen of Scots, who was basically a badass.

Coffee, Lunch or Happy Hour. Name a famous woman you would like to attend each function with.

Coffee – Wanda Sykes. I don’t think there’s a funnier woman in stand-up.

Lunch – Taylor Swift. Ok, don’t judge. She has put herself out there over and over again. Her vulnerability is a strength all its own. Plus, she’s a brilliant storyteller and musician.

Happy Hour – Shonda Rhimes. Speak softly and carry a big body of work that reshapes the way Americans watch series TV. Impressive is merely an understatement.

What is the biggest challenge to women in your industry?
The fact that we’re defined as women first, professionals second. And we still don’t have each other’s backs. It’s getting better but women have a long way to go before we finally see each other as sisters, not rivals.

What is your kryptonite?
Office politics. Boring and tedious, they are toxic and fiercely unproductive.

When you’re not creating, what do you do in your off time?
Create other things…like, I started a homemade frosting company during the pandemic. I write fictional non-fiction. And unpopular pop songs. I bake for families who are food insecure through an agency called Fight2Feed. I avoid people who approach me on the street holding clipboards. The usual stuff.

Predict your future! Where are you in 5 years?
Working remotely from a Château on the Riviera, reinventing a brand, a business or just myself 😉


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