"When I was 10 or 11 years old I was reading business magazines, which sounds dorky," said Mr. McMahon, who remembers watching commercial reels and listening to the "Me and My RC" jingle in his living room. "It's one of the ways I really connected with my dad in such a big family," he said.
Those advertising study sessions ultimately led to a marketing career for Mr. McMahon, most recently named president-CEO of Publicis in New York, one of three divisions of Publicis Groupe's Publicis USA agency network.
The appointment of Mr. McMahon, a former general manager of J. Walter Thompson USA, New York, ended a long search by Bob Bloom, chairman-CEO of Publicis USA, to fill the post left by Robert Kantor in 1998.
"We went through a lot of candidates," said Mr. Bloom, noting that of all the candidates seen by Tony DeGregorio, chief creative officer of Publicis in New York and Publicis Groupe Chairman-CEO Maurice Levy, "Doug was the single candidate on which we had unanimity."
When first approached, Mr. McMahon was senior VP-marketing and research for CNBC, and wasn't sure he wanted to join a large agency again. But he decided it was an unusual opportunity to lead a "well-resourced big agency that didn't have a New York office built to the degree they wanted to build it yet." Publicis executives expect Mr. McMahon to construct a flagship-status agency on the foundation Publicis in New York presents today. "In a year, I want to see the transformation realized," Mr. Bloom said.
Publicis New York's marquee clients include Siemens AG (account awarded to the agency in January), L'Oreal, Fuji Photo Film USA, and Club Med. The agency recorded $400 million in billings in 2000. To bring the 125-employee New York shop up to par with Publicis agencies in London and Paris, Mr. McMahon, a Georgetown University graduate, will engage three strategies: create a work space that promotes collaboration, foster a more "transparent," or candid, business style and make the agency more responsive.
With those goals in mind, Mr. McMahon has reworked the midtown Manhattan agency, with shifts designed to get creative minds thinking together. Those changes are largely symbolic, however, since the agency plans to move with sibling companies Publicis Dialog and Optimedia to joint offices this year.
Another change by Mr. McMahon included the appointment of three new executives. He named Jennifer Garr as executive principal and chief marketing officer, Andy Bateman as executive principal and director of brand planning, and John Newall as senior principal and group management supervisor. Like Mr. McMahon, all three were Publicis outsiders who previously held positions at J. Walter Thompson and also worked as marketers.
His strategy fits the philosophy Publicis executives have adopted for the agency network, which is to maintain an entrepreneurial spirit even as the shop grows. "He has drive, a fire in his belly," Mr. Bloom said of Mr. McMahon, who has three children under age 6, "that's balanced because his values are so strong as they relate to his children, wife, parents and siblings. That's the kind of balance and values that Publicis respects and seeks."