Merkley CEO Alex Gellert said Mr. Atkins is leaving to pursue work as a consultant and write a second book. "He's clearly one of the preeminent planners in the industry," he said of Mr. Atkins. "He has helped shaped Merkley and its strategic offering to its clients in many ways. I have the highest respect for Douglas and, who knows, maybe in his consulting capacity our paths will cross again."
No. 2 promoted
To succeed Mr. Atkins, Merkley has tapped the agency's brand strategy director, Stacey Lesser, as director-strategic planning. "She's been Douglas's No. 2 for the last couple of years and she was a natural person to elevate," Mr. Gellert said. "Stacey is a wonderful balance of traditional planning and strong quantitative and traditional research skills."
Morgan Shorey, most recently the senior VP-worldwide strategic growth initiatives for Foote Cone & Belding Worldwide, will join Merkley as chief marketing officer, effective immediately. She will be responsible for all marketing operations and succeeds Lou Killeffer, who is stepping down from the position and discussing other options within the agency.
Mr. Gellert told Advertising Age that the transitions are the beginning of a wave of changes for the agency, which handles clients such as Citigroup, Mercedes-Benz and Arby's. "At this point," he offered, "nothing at the agency is a sacred cow. We're going to be looking at our entire strategic process, how we market the agency, our new business process and how we service our clients. I think we're really looking to take Merkley to the next level. This is certainly one step in that direction."