NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The new CEO of Dieste, the largest U.S. Hispanic agency, is Greg Knipp, who joins from rival shop and Omnicom Group sibling LatinWorks. Mr. Knipp has been managing director at LatinWorks since the Cultura agency he ran was merged into the shop in 2008. He was also once Dieste's client, when he was in charge of Hispanic marketing at Frito Lay in the late 1980s, his first assignment in the U.S. Hispanic market between international jobs in Latin America.
Mr. Knipp succeeds Melisa Quinoy, whose departure was announced several weeks ago after almost three years at the Dallas-based agency.
"We have a long history with Greg," said Aldo Quevedo, Dieste's president. "He brings the client perspective, and he's done it all. He's been a media director, a planning director and a CEO. The only thing he hasn't been is a creative director, and I told him this isn't the time to start."
Mr. Knipp, 43, began his career at Leo Burnett, and got an early introduction to Latin America when he was dispatched to Mexico from Chicago to fix a media issue involving Kellogg, one of the agency's clients, and stayed with the Burnett office in Mexico for a year. Back in the U.S., he spent four years at Frito Lay, then went back to Leo Burnett and ran Latin American business for three years.
He returned to the U.S. Hispanic market in 2003 and was president-CEO of Cultura, a small, Texas-based Hispanic shop, for five years. After Cultura was merged into LatinWorks two years ago, he helped manage the transition, keeping clients happy and integrating account management. The unusually smooth post-merger transition, in which not a single client was lost, was one of many factors that helped LatinWorks win Ad Age's Multicultural Agency of the Year award for 2009. For the past year, he's focused on planning, including business strategy and understanding consumers.
"I've had clients ask me about not being Hispanic but being in the Hispanic market," Mr. Knipp said. One of his business-school professors taught him the marketing rule "I know my consumer, and he is not me," he said. "That outside perspective can be really vital to glean real consumer insights for strong marketing programs."
Mr. Knipp won't be the only non-Latino CEO of a Hispanic shop. Alain Groenendaal, who shares a similar background as a former Leo Burnett exec in Latin America, has run both La Comunidad and, for the last two years, Grey's Hispanic agency, Wing.
Dieste, which celebrates its 15th birthday in November, has had three CEOs since 1985, starting with Warren Harmel, a South African, who was succeeded by Ms. Quinoy, who is Puerto Rican, and now Mr. Knipp.
Mr. Knipp said he was ready to run an agency again. Ms. Quinoy has decided that running a business isn't really what she wants to do, she said. She arrived almost three years ago from MTV at a troubled time for Dieste and stabilized and relaunched the agency in a new, more integrated direction. She was named one of Ad Age's Women to Watch in 2008. Now, she said, she's ready to return to focusing on specific brands, drawing on her past experience running package-goods accounts such as Unilever at international agencies before joining MTV.
"It was too much administration as opposed to doing advertising," she said. "I'm better suited to go deeper on a brand or account and have a greater impact that way. I like running a piece of business and being the single point of contact for a brand."
Mr. Knipp has arrived in time for Dieste's big anniversary party on Nov. 12, an event that will be attended by "everyone who worked for the agency in the last 15 years," Mr. Quevedo said. That includes the agency's founders, Tony Dieste and Mr. Harmel, who Mr. Knipp worked with while at Frito Lay, as well as former Dieste staffers that Mr. Quevedo said are flying in from as far away as Argentina.
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