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Crispin Porter Makes Top Creative Andrew Keller New CEO

Hicks Transitions to Role as Vice Chairman

By Published on .

CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Crispin Porter & Bogusky is entrusting Andrew Keller, top creative and a dozen-year veteran of the shop, to serve as its new CEO. He is now responsible for growing the most valuable shop in parent MDC Partners' network.

Andrew Keller
Andrew Keller
The shift means Jeff Hicks, who has been CEO since 2004, will move to the role of vice chairman. There are other moves at the agency too: Longtime partner Jeff Steinhour becomes president, while the man Mr. Keller has worked alongside for years, and most recently shared the role of co-chief creative officer with, Rob Reilly, will now become CPB's worldwide chief creative officer.

So why does the agency need a new CEO now? According to Chairman Chuck Porter, it's not because other top managers are leaving in the wake of Alex Bogusky's exit this summer.

"We are growing a lot and we need more senior management depth," said Mr. Porter. "A long time ago it was easy for me to run the agency, and then it was easy for me and Alex and then it was easy for me and Alex and Hicks. We were littler then."

Mr. Porter stressed that he's not leaving anytime in "the foreseeable future" and insisted that Mr. Hicks "is not leaving the agency."

Mr. Hicks in his new post will still work with some clients but will also work on joint ventures between the agency and private equity as well as projects for parent MDC.

To the outside world, it was unclear who would be the next leader of Crispin Porter, but top management within apparently made the call sometime ago. "We probably decided about a year ago that Andrew would be the guy," Mr. Porter said, noting Mr. Keller's "unusually astute vision of where the marketing world is going" and to a lesser degree, his management skills.

"There was never any question of us going outside to hire a CEO," Mr. Porter added, noting that the agency has historically promoted talent from within and "so far it's worked pretty goddamn well."

Said Mr. Hicks in a statement: "Chuck was originally our creative director; I took over from him as president and CEO, and it feels right that our new CEO should be a creative."

To be sure, Mr. Keller isn't cut from the same Brooks Brothers suit fabric as many of his peers in CEO posts at other shops in the industry -- the majority of whom came up through account management, planning or operations roles. The creative-to-CEO transition is rare, though there are some prominent examples, such as Wieden & Kennedy CEO Dan Wieden, who among other creative feats wrote Nike's "Just Do It" tagline.

"At the very beginning, I felt like I did something different than what the industry teaches us to do ... I wasn't thinking about my book, I was thinking about how to make the agency the best it could be," said Mr. Keller, who joined Crispin Porter as an art director in 1998 and moved up quickly. "The creative CEO is a good job. I think I'll bring the tools needed."

The new role means Mr. Keller will spend less time, day to day, overseeing ad campaigns for big global clients like Microsoft, Burger King and Kraft. That responsibility will fall largely to Mr. Reilly and others, while Mr. Keller has to focus on CPB's vision and especially its expansion into new global markets -- something of no small importance to CPB's Toronto-based parent and its chief, Miles Nadal.

Already CPB has christened what was sibling agency Zig as CPB Canada and established CPB Europe with its buy of Swedish digital agency Daddy. Next up, it's eyeing Brazil and Asia but hasn't decided where it's next hub will be located.

Mr. Keller said his primary goal for the agency remains the same -- to create the most talked about creative work. Now it simply wants to do so in markets CPB has never touched. "In the near term you won't see radical change. ... You're not going to see us in China next week ... but we're going to be making a lot of hires of people with global experience."

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