Debbi Vandeven

Debbi is global CCO at VMLY&R, a brand experience agency delivering contemporary, fully integrated work across the connected consumer experience to clients worldwide, including Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Dell, Ford, Intel, Sam’s Club and Wendy’s. She led the successful creative merger of VML and Y&R in 2018, and Geometry in 2020, enabling VMLY&R and VMLY&R Commerce to become one of the top global agencies. With the combination of brand experience, customer experience and commerce the VMLY&R agency network has grown to 13,000 employees in 100+ offices worldwide.

Throughout her career as a creative leader, Debbi has continually fostered a collaborative creative environment that delivers smart and innovative solutions in partnership with clients across the globe. Debbi’s creative philosophy is to focus on the idea, rather than a specific channel or execution, and she encourages teams to approach everything they do from this perspective. It’s this approach that’s at the heart of VMLY&R’s mission to harness creativity, technology and culture to create connected brands that drive value for clients. Debbi’s VMLY&R global creative board includes some of the most talented creative leaders in the world — from North America, Europe, and Latin America to Asia, Africa, and Australia/New Zealand. She works with this leadership team to deliver inspiring work that truly makes an impact wherever and whenever people are.

After graduating from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Debbi started a design business with her husband, Jeff, where she honed her powerful combination of design talent and business acumen. Since joining the agency in 2000, she has helped lead it to Ad Age Agency A-List honors over the past several years and was named the 2020 Ad Age CCO of the Year, as well as being recognized on Adweek’s Creative 100, Ad Age’s “Women to Watch” list, Business Insider’s “30 Most Creative People in Advertising” and a Campaign U.S. Female Frontier Awards 2021 Honoree.

VMLY&R has experienced unprecedented growth and recognition under her leadership, earning accolades from every top international award show, including Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Andy Awards, ADC Awards, Clio Awards, Communication Arts honors, D&AD Awards, Effie Awards, The London International Awards (LIA), One Show, Spikes Asia, and Webby Awards. In 2019, the agency received 31 Cannes Lions, including two coveted Grand Prix in the Glass and Social & Influencer categories, 69 shortlists, and Agency of the Year honors in the Reach and Good tracks.

Debbi has presided over top international juries, including Andys, ADC (2018 jury chair), Ad Age Creativity (2021 work jury chair), Cannes Lions (2020/2021 Social & Influencer jury president and 2018 Entertainment jury president), Clios (2019 Direct & Experiential/Events jury chair and 2016 Digital jury chair), D&AD (2020 Experiential jury president), One Show Interactive, and Spikes Asia (2019 Entertainment & Music jury chair). She’s also graced the main stage at Cannes and the Loeries in Africa/Middle East and led sessions of The One Club Creative Leaders Retreat.

The mother of two talented young women — Kylie and Hallie — Debbi believes it’s vitally important to be a strong supporter of initiatives advancing women in creative leadership and mentoring to help women develop the skills to succeed in today’s industry. She was part of the predominantly female team that created a 2019 Super Bowl spot for Bumble, featuring Serena Williams, which was honored in the Mosaic10, a first-of-its-kind consumer-selected list of the top 10 advertising and multicultural moments of 2019. In addition, Debbi has been a key contributor and supporter of the 3% Movement since its inception — even leading VML to being named one of the first-ever 3% Certified agencies. She was also part of the founding group of female agency leaders who launched TIME’S UP Advertising to address the industry’s pervasive problems with sexual harassment and gender inequality.

In the little spare time she has, Debbi enjoys reading; running; visiting art museums; and traveling the globe with Jeff, Kylie, and Hallie.

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  • Portrait of Debbi Vandeven.
Global Chief Creative Officer