In the San Diego-based agency's announcement, Mr. Brien is described as a "strategic consultant, board advisor and angel investor" and someone who "commits time and money to numerous causes related to world health and human rights."
When Mr. Brien exited McCann in November, he took with him a $4.2 million exit package on top of sizable earnings in 2011. His total compensation of $4.8 million made him the company's second-highest-paid executive, behind Chairman-CEO Michael Roth ($13.0 million).
Covario CEO Russ Mann said he expects Mr. Brien to "add tremendous value to our board and our leadership team from day one." He added: "Nick is a pioneer and a thought leader in the progression of the global advertising, media and marketing model to one that's driven by data and analytics. At both Covario and Rio SEO -- our software division -- Nick's insights and experience will be huge assets as we move ahead with our focus on delivering optimal results and ROI to our clients through smarter search and innovative content strategies."
Kim Kadlec, vice president of the global marketing group at Johnson & Johnson, also offered up kind words about her former agency partner. "Nick was an extremely valuable leader of UM at a critical period for the global J&J media business," she stated. "He has played a valuable role in the ongoing transformation of our media offering, focused on delivering our brands the highest levels of strategic innovation and competitive pricing."
Covario has 250 employees and has a presence in Beijing, Chicago, London, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, Sao Paulo, Seattle, Singapore, Tokyo, and Toronto. On the board, Mr. Brien joins Eric Byunn of FTV Capital, Erik Benson of Voyager Capital, and James Wu of Dubilier & Company, as well as Mr. Mann, who is the founder of Covario.
An SEM firm is an interesting place for Mr. Brien to resurface. His background is largely in media; he spent time at IPG Mediabrands and at Publicis Groupe's Arc and Starcom, before being recruited by Interpublic to oversee the tall task of fixing McCann Worldgroup's global operations. Mr. Brien attempted a turnaround for three years before being replaced by insider Harris Diamond. Since taking the reins, Mr. Diamond has made a slew of changes to senior staff while devoting the bulk of his time traveling around the world to spend time with clients. The shop lost its Staples account this week to McGarryBowen, but domestically has been more active -- and successful -- on the new business circuit recently. It won consolidated duties for Chevy and the U.S. Postal Service account.
Whether Mr. Brien laid some of the groundwork for that, or whether it can all be chalked up to Mr. Diamond's influence isn't clear. But adland is watching to see if McCann could finally be having a bit of a moment.