Global President Pam Hamlin on What Arnold Needs to Do Now

Ms. Hamlin Wants to Refocus on the Shop's Creative Roots

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Pam Hamlin
Pam Hamlin

Last week, on the heels of its Volvo account loss, Arnold promoted Pam Hamlin from president of Arnold, Boston, to global president, replacing global CEO Robert LePlae.

It's an obvious next step for Ms. Hamlin, who has been at the agency for 15 years and is no stranger to the impact of a major loss -- she was promoted to president in Boston in 2006, only a few months after the shop lost decade-long client Volkswagen. She talks to Ad Age about what she's learned from that situation and her vision for the future of Arnold.

Ad Age: Both of your promotions to leadership roles at Arnold came after marquee automotive account losses. How do you move the agency past that kind of loss?

Ms. Hamlin: There are some parallels to the position I was put in in 2006 after Volkswagen, although that was a significant event in the history of agency. One thing I know well having spent 25 years in the business is this business has cycles. If your foundation is strong and vision and strategy are clear and you have the right leadership team around you, you're able to rebound from those downwards cycles. Leadership starts with a passion and love for the business. It's half about having the vision and an aggressive plan on where you want to go and the other half is about getting everyone in the company to believe in it and get behind it and make it happen. It's worked for me in the past, and it's that kind of belief that I'll be sure to employ going forward.

Ad Age: To move forward you have to make some changes. What will you change and focus on now that you're in this big global role?

Ms. Hamlin: There's no question that 2013 was a year marked by transition for us under a different leader, and it's one of the reasons you hear me talking strongly about going back to our creative core and things that made Arnold strong and unique. We will make the most of 2014 by remaining true to the notion that creativity is a business advantage. To be a creative agency positioned well in an evolving industry requires investment in talent and in new capabilities like content, digital and technology. We've established key areas where we believe the industry is going and where we really want to make sure we are best. That will include some leveraging of current talent and the addition of new talent, and ensuring we are organized to be able to deliver thinking that includes content, programmatic media buying and brand experience in the virtual and tangible world.

Ad Age: Are you doing programmatic buying on your own or with Havas Media? Do you see Arnold as moving closer to the other Havas agencies as you do more integrated work, or doing that on your own?

Ms. Hamlin: [Programmatic] is not the primary focus. Our strategy is focused on content and social, and media will be a component. We have all the capabilities under the Arnold roof but we don't have plans to develop full-service media planning and buying. That's where we partner with Havas.

Ad Age: Arnold was once known as a top creative house but has since lost that luster. How do you bring back creativity, and who is charged with that task since Arnold Chief Creative Pete Favat left in September?

Ms. Hamlin: People can get busy and get going on a day-to-day basis. We need to refocus on the importance of creativity within the agency. We're doing a lot internally to highlight that and help people better understand it.

[Pete] made an important and significant life decision to uproot from his home in New England to the West Coast. We had worked closely together for 15 years at Arnold. One of the many things he did well was build a strong creative department. We were in a fortunate position to be able to elevate two proven leaders, Wade Devers who's been at agency for 14 years and Pete Johnson who has been at the agency for two years. Pete brings a strong digital creative capability [from LBi].

Ad Age: What's your take on Publicis-Omnicom and what its effect on the market might mean for smaller holding companies like Havas and agencies like Arnold?

Ms. Hamlin: For a smaller holding company it allows us to leverage what we believe more clients are looking for -- talent that moves together seamlessly. We won't have the distraction that Publicis-Omnicom will have for the next 18 months about organizational change.

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CORRECTION: This story's original headline referred to Pam Hamlin as CEO. Her correct title is Global President.

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