Campbell-Ewald CEO Bill Ludwig To Depart Detroit Agency

Exit Comes Just as Agency Helps Set Up 'Rogue' at Interpublic to Service Global Cadillac Account

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Here's a puzzler: the same week an agency nails a big account, the CEO leaves.

Bill Ludwig, the chairman-CEO at Campbell-Ewald, is stepping down at the Detroit-based shop after more than 30 years, according to executives familiar with the matter. The agency is expected to tap an internal successor in a matter of weeks. The top contender for the spot? Jim Palmer, currently the agency's chief client officer. Various other execs at the agency are expected to be promoted under Mr. Palmer.

Representatives for Campbell-Ewald said only: "The executive team at CE is in place." The agency's parent, Interpublic Group of Cos., said: "It's our policy not to comment on rumors, especially ones that involve individuals or personnel."

Just last week, C-E earned a spot as part of an Intepublic team called Rogue that was appointed global creative agency of record for General Motors' Cadillac. Creative and strategy for the team is being led out of Boston-based Hill Holliday, while account management and digital work is being fielded by C-E. Lowe will execute work across markets globally.

One person close to the pitch said Mr. Ludwig wasn't a part of key meetings with Cadillac during the process. Another executive with knowledge of the pitch said Mr. Ludwig wanted the account to be housed solely within C-E and was resistant to the idea of partnering with sibling agencies at Interpublic to bring Cadillac a team solution.

Mr. Ludwig didn't return requests for comment. It is possible he'll find another home elsewhere within Interpublic, one of the execs said.

But by stepping down as CEO at C-E, he'll relinquish power at the agency where he devoted virtually his entire career. Mr. Ludwig joined the agency as a copywriter in 1982, and his portfolio contains some of the most-recognized work for GM's Chevy brand, including "The Heartbeat of America" and "Like A Rock." Prior to joining C-E, he was with D'Arcy-MacManus Masius. In 1994, he was inducted into the American Advertising Federation Advertising Hall of Achievement, and he's also served as a Cannes juror.

Mr. Ludwig was promoted from chief creative officer to chairman-CEO three years ago, succeeding Tony Hopp when he retired. Mr. Hopp was another longtime staffer, having spent four decades at C-E.

When the agency lost its Chevrolet account in 2010, Mr. Ludwig helped guide the agency through the loss and keep it from going under entirely. More recently, he helped plan the move of C-E's headquarters from its longtime home in Warren, Michigan to downtown Detroit.

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