According to several ad-industry executives familiar with Mr. Berndt's future plans, the new unit will be a lab for innovation.
Mr. Berndt has been a co-president of the New York office since May, after being promoted from managing director, a post he'd held since 2006. Mr. Berndt, who was just named as an inductee to the AAF Hall of Achievement, has an interesting mix of both creative and account experience. Prior to joining Ogilvy as a copywriter in 1999, he was on the account side, first at Weiden & Kennedy, where he worked on Nike and on Microsoft during its 1995 "Start Me Up" campaign. He then headed to TBWA/Chiat/Day, where he was the account executive on Apple's "Think Different" campaign.
All eyes on Google again
There has been much speculation over the past year whether Google would try to get into the agency business. The new global unit isn't being called an agency, but any unit offering creative consultation and account services could be considered one. Interestingly, Google had been trying to lure more creative talent to the company over the past year, according to ad industry executives familiar with the search giant.
Microsoft, meanwhile, recently bought its way into the agency business with its $6 billion purchase of aQuantive, parent company to agency Avenue A/ Razorfish. When asked whether it would shed the agency after the purchase, Microsoft was adamant that it liked the business.
Mr. Berndt's departure comes as Ogilvy has been trying to bolster its new-business prowess, having recently failed in pitches for Wal-Mart and Sprint Nextel. Mr. Berndt was known to be interviewing executives to take over the agency's new-business effort, according to people familiar with the situation.
An Ogilvy spokeswoman confirmed Mr. Berndt's departure, although he will stay on for a transitional period. She added that Ogilvy will "continue to be led by its strong management team."
A call to Mr. Berndt's office wasn't returned by press time, nor was a request for comment from Google.
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Contributing: Matthew Creamer