Coca-Cola marketing executive Wendy Clark's path to Hillary Clinton's presumptive presidential campaign might have started in Texas more than a decade ago.
Ms. Clark -- who recently took a leave for an expected role on Ms. Clinton's campaign -- was in the Lone Star State in the early 2000s where she worked at Austin-based ad agency GSD&M as director-client services. While there, she apparently formed a bond with GSD&M co-founder and Clinton confidant Roy Spence, who is also being mentioned for a potential Clinton campaign role.
Ms. Clark has described Mr. Spence as a mentor and shares his philosophy of "purpose-driven" marketing, signaling that the branding strategy could guide Ms. Clinton's campaign messaging.
Ms. Clark has not responded to email requests for interviews since announcing her leave of absence in early January. In a Jan. 9 internal memo to Coke employees, she said only that she was departing until March 31 for a "passion project" that was a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." Several people who are close to Ms. Clark declined to comment about her potential Clinton role.
But it has been widely speculated that Ms. Clark, a respected brand-marketing strategist who has also worked for AT&T, will help Ms. Clinton shape her campaign message. And she might do so alongside her mentor Mr. Spence.
In a recent blog post, The New York Times published what it called an "informal and wildly incomplete guide to the Clinton 2016 campaign," listing people who might serve on her team. Ms. Clark and Mr. Spence were listed as potential "message makers."
Mr. Spence's ties with Ms. Clinton are well-known and go back decades. As ABCnews.com noted in 2008, she met him while working on George McGovern's unscuccesful 1972 presidential campaign. She considers Mr. Spence as among "the best friends I've ever had," ABC noted, quoting Ms. Clinton's 2003 autobiography, "Living History."
Mr. Spence aided Ms. Clinton during her 2008 presidential run. He was brought aboard a few weeks before Ms. Clinton ran the famous "3 a.m." ad that aired during her hard-fought Democratic primary battle with Barack Obama. The ad set this scene: "There's a phone in the White House, and it's ringing. Something is happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call." (Mr. Spence had original created the ad for the Walter Mondale campaign in 1984.)
Mr. Spence retired as CEO of GSD&M in 2009, but remains chairman. In ad circles he is best known for campaigns such as the "Don't Mess With Texas" anti-litter effort that launched in 1986. In 2008 he formed "The Purpose Institute," whose mission is to "put the power of purpose to work to build some of the most extraordinary brands in the world." In a speech at a 2013 event called "Conscious Capitalism," he described the lofty idea this way: "Play to your strength in the purpose of serving the greater good."
Should Ms. Clinton run, her purpose would be to leverage her strengths as an experienced political pro with a large base of female support, while crafting a message that appeals to a wide swath of Americans tired of politics-as-usual. Ms. Clark, a political outsider who has worked on mass-marketed brands, might bring valuable experience to the table in that endeavor.
Ms. Clark has apparently remained close to Mr. Spence. In a video interview posted on Makers.com she describes him as a "great mentor." The site launched in 2012 as a repository for interviews with groundbreaking women, including Ms. Clinton. The site suggests that Ms. Clark's upbringing was influential, noting that she was a "shy child who moved with her mother from England to Sarasota, Florida" and was "pushed out of her shell by the dramatic continental shift, and believes that's where the 'seed of fearlessness' began to grow."