Kevin Roddy, who left his post as chief creative officer of Publicis Groupe-backed Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York, last fall, will resurface next week at a smaller agency on the West Coast. Effective April 25, Mr. Roddy is taking over as chairman and chief creative officer at Publicis & Hal Riney, San Francisco.
As part of the move, the local operation of digital network Publicis Modem will now be folded into Hal Riney, a Publicis Worldwide boutique shop, and will report to Mr. Roddy and Hal Riney CEO Kristi VandenBosch. Modem offices elsewhere won't be affected.
"I talked with a lot of companies -- some really great companies that had tremendous interest -- but this appealed to me because of Hal Riney and the heritage of that place, and what it's always stood for," Mr. Roddy told Ad Age.
He is aware of the challenges that come with the job too. "I also realized that Riney in San Francisco is a fraction of what it used to be," he said. "But the opportunity to rebuild that is appealing. When I went to BBH, it needed rebuilding, and I thoroughly enjoyed that."
Mr. Roddy spent time at Publicis Groupe sibling Fallon before his Bartle Bogle stint, and has gotten to know holding company CEO Maurice Levy well. In February, he flew to Paris to discuss with Mr. Levy the possibility of leading Riney's creative, and talks have been going on with Publicis USA head Susan Giannino, to whom he will report, since the beginning of this year.
"Hal was a hard act to follow," Mr. Levy said in an email. "Now, with Kevin, we have the opportunity to reignite Riney around an amazing creative talent, with work that resonates brilliantly today. I am personally thrilled to have Kevin stay with our Groupe family and help us bring Riney to greatness, on today's terms."
"From the day [Mr. Roddy's departure] became public at BBH, I thought, 'Oh my God I want him for this job,'" Ms. Giannino said. "I gave him a few weeks and gave him a call. He's such a thoughtful guy, and at the time he was using the time to explore, and I thought 'Darn, I'm going to have to be patient.'"
She continued: "It turns out, luckily for me, that what Riney represents is in line with the things he wants to do -- the challenges of it, along with the creative history it has. And he's exactly what I was looking for, which is not a creative person who would just be incrementally better than what we had, but a game-changer."
The realignment of Modem with Riney under one roof is something that makes Riney a guinea pig of sorts; if successful, could have implications across the Publicis Worldwide network more broadly.
"The dream we have for Publicis Worldwide is to be both creative-centric and digitally driven," Ms. Giannino said. "It's hard to make that happen overnight for all of Publicis Worldwide, but you can make it happen faster in an operation on the West Coast -- and I'm hoping it becomes a prototype for the kind of agency we want to be."
"We don't have any aspirations to have a Riney office outside of San Francisco right now. I'd love for it to just grow and become the biggest and best agency on the West Coast. And come one, don't you think [Omnicom Group's] Goodby needs a little competition? Let's give them a run for their money."
To get there, Mr. Roddy will need to help the agency boost its new-business track record. The agency's clients include U.S. Cellular, Walmart, Hewlett Packard, Compaq, Paypal and LG. It will also need to attract top-level talent, though he doesn't want to overhaul creative teams immediately. "I'm not going to sweep and bring in my new people," Mr. Roddy said. "I want to take a look at the people there and hopefully work with that. But at the same time we'll need the kind of people who share my vision and want to sign up for that."
Meanwhile, Bartle Bogle has yet to announce a replacement for Mr. Roddy. Its U.S. operation has also been struggling with the loss of several other top executives as well as clients. In October, CEO Simon Sherwood told Ad Age that it was done with a turbulent period. But the first quarter of this year has been problematic as well, with its recent loss of a significant chunk of business when the Ally Bank account left to go to WPP's Grey.