Is Putting Digital Experts in the Top Creative Spot the Right Thing?

News That Ogilvy Plans to Anoint Bastholm Points to Pressure on Shops

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Buried in a Wall Street Journal story today about vacant top-creative posts at major ad agencies -- a comprehensively reported trend by industry press -- was the news that one of the largest global networks in the business, WPP's Ogilvy & Mather, is prepping to name Lars Bastholm, an insider with digital chops, as the chief creative officer of its New York office.

Lars Bastholm
Lars Bastholm
That an agency bearing the name of one of the fathers of advertising, David Ogilvy, plans to put Mr. Bastholm, who joined last year from AKQA, in charge of overseeing both TV campaigns and banner ads is a clear sign of the mounting pressure agencies are feeling when it comes to digital technology changing the way consumers behave and how advertising gets done.

Ogilvy's CEO said as much to the Journal. "'We are dealing with a massive convergence of trends that have been building for some time,' said John Seifert, CEO of Ogilvy North America. 'The youth agenda and technological changes are just so dramatic that you have this extraordinary swing.' Mr. Seifert has spent the past six months searching for a new creative lead for Ogilvy, New York, someone who will likely be named in the next few days. Lars Bastholm, currently chief digital creative officer of Ogilvy North America, will likely be tapped for the post, according to people familiar with the matter."

Ogilvy and Mr. Bastholm wouldn't confirm the appointment to Ad Age, but assuming it's going to happen, the hire points to a burgeoning trend of general-market advertising agencies putting digital experts at the helm of their creative departments.

People familiar with the situation tell Ad Age that WPP's JWT has asked the chief creatives of at least two digital agencies to fill the role that will be left vacant next week by outgoing Chief Creative Officer Ty Montague. It went even a step further when it named its former worldwide digital director, David Eastman, as North American CEO of the shop.

MDC Partners' Kirshenbaum Bond & Senecal Partners in December recruited Marc Lucas from Razorfish as its chief creative, and Kevin Flatt, a former digital guy, was last month tapped as executive creative director of Cramer-Krasselt's flagship Chicago office.

Even Wieden & Kennedy, an agency best known for dramatic, gorgeous TV spots for Nike and Coca-Cola, named Jerome Austria, well known in interactive circles, as executive creative director of Wieden's New York office.

The question in all of this is, Are we experiencing a real shift in the industry and in agencies viewing digital as the only way forward in solving advertising problems? Or is it just cosmetic, meant to convince clients that agencies are old-school no more and "get" digital?

We want to know what you think. Let us know in the comments below.

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