JWT New York Appoints Canadian Leader Brent Choi as Chief Creative Officer

More Turnover in Leadership Ranks as Adam Kerj Departs

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Brent Choi, chief creative officer, JWT New York and Toronto
Brent Choi, chief creative officer, JWT New York and Toronto

After multiple turnovers in the post since 2010, JWT New York has appointed another chief creative officer. Brent Choi, CCO and chief integration officer of JWT Canada, will expand his duties to become chief creative of both the New York and Toronto offices. Mr. Choi will divide his time between the two shops.

The move coincides with the departure of Adam Kerj, former chief creative officer of 360i who became JWT CCO last October. Mr. Kerj has left the agency for personal reasons.

Mr. Choi is a celebrated Canadian creative who along with President-CEO Susan Kim-Kirkland helped turn the agency's Canadian offices into a network high performers, with new-business wins including Burger King Canada, Air Canada and Grand Marnier. The agency's other clients include Tim Hortons and Walmart. As New York CCO, Mr. Choi will also add the office's clients Macy's, Johnson & Johnson, Puma and the recently won Kellogg's Special K to his responsibilities. He will report to Worldwide CCO Matt Eastwood.

As for what Mr. Choi hopes to bring to the post, it's a mind-set he has pushed in Canada -- to "be brave with every opportunity" and believe in the power of taking risks. That's telling from someone with Mr. Choi's unconventional background. He has a degree from one of the top Canadian business schools, Ivey, with no formal art or copywriter training. "I think that business school in a very relevant way has helped me to succeed because I understand my clients' point of view, the finance roles. All the marketing and operational stuff comes natural to me," he said. However, "I'm a perpetual student, and that's one of the things that I try to instill on people around me, to continue to have that unwavering student mind-set."

Mr. Choi is the fifth person to occupy the New York CCO role since 2010. Following Ty Montague's departure from in 2010 to start his own agency, Co: Collective, JWT N.Y. has seen heavy turnover in its creative ranks, namely the CCO post. Former RedScout CCO Peter Nicholson took the role in 2010; in January 2012 the agency named a pair of execs as co-CCOs --former CP&B Creative Ryan Kutscher and ECD Matt McDonald. Both departed the agency in 2013, and Mr. Kerj joined last fall after the position was vacant for nearly a year.

Within that time, the company also saw changes in its more senior creative ranks, with the departure of North American CCO Jeff Benjamin and President-Chief Integration Officer Mike Geiger last year.

In promoting from within the agency the shop is hoping to stabilize the New York creative leadership.

"For quite awhile, I've wanted Brent to take on a larger role within the agency," said Worldwide CCO Matt Eastwood. "And by coming from inside the network he is set up for success in a different way. Brent knows our culture, our people and he has strong business partners in Lynn Power in New York and Susan Kim-Kirkland in Canada. Given his familiarity with J. Walter Thompson, our clients, and the work, this move not only felt right, but made the most business sense."

"Brent excels at transformation," Mr. Eastwood added. "He knows how to solve tough business problems with creative solutions -- traits that are crucial for this kind of role. More importantly, Brent is fully invested in the business and in J. Walter Thompson. He's made it known from day one that he wants to help the agency live up to its pioneering legacy with innovative, integrated, award-winning work. We've seen this in his turnaround of J. Walter Thompson Canada and know he will do the same in New York. More importantly -- people love Brent. He has an ability to attract some of the best talent in the industry and has a personality that captivates all of those around him. We know he will be the perfect fit, and can't wait for him to get started in New York."

Mr. Choi has overseen a diverse body of work showcasing integrated and digital expertise. Among the agency's notable efforts since his arrival was a campaign for Tim Hortons, which featured a stunt that threw coffee drinkers into utter darkness, to promote the company's new Dark Roast offering. The film became the No. 1 YouTube video in Canada the August of its launch and resulted into sold-out Dark Roast at Tim Hortons across the country. Another effort for Mazda, the "Mazda Massive Test Drive Cinema Experience," turned a cinema ad into an in-seat test drive for moviegoers, who were able to control cars on screen with their mobile phones as part of an immersive racing experience.

Prior to JWT, he was CCO at Cundari, where his work included an innovative app for the Hospital for Sick Kids Toronto, which gave kids an innovative way to track and record their pain by recruiting them into a "pain squad." Creativity named it one of the top 10 interactive/integrated campaigns of 2012.

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